Brown VS EMA: The Battle For The Interactive Medium

The place where history was made for the video game industry

Yeah it’s been a few days since all the big news stations and internet reporting sites went over the whole Brown VS EMA case but the student who is going to be in the video game industry in the near future should give some two cents on the matter right? (An un-biased two cents at that!) So let’s start from a beginning, say the laws that were trying to pass here in California that would prohibit the sale of “Violent mature video games” to minors. While Swartzenegger was still in office he tried to impose this legislation in 2007 and got shot down, then again in 2010 which was one of the catalysts that caused Leland Yee to appeal to the Supreme Court to prohibit the sale of M rated games to people under 18. Now for those who caught my quotation marks for a certain set of words will catch on to how careful I’m going to be within this post because I do have strong personal feelings on this topic, I won’t let it overshadow what is the truth. Continuing, the hearing of Brown vs. EMA was a compelling and interesting one even for the Supreme Justices who were very involved through the entire case. When Zackery P. Morazzini went up to speak on behalf of the Californian Government, he was bombarded with questions regarding the credibility of his claims that violent video games altered the minds of children in an aggressive way. For example, when Morazzini used the word “Violent Delinquent Video Games”, Supreme Court Justice Scalia interrupted by asking “What’s a deviant, violent videogame? As opposed to what? A normal violent videogame?” It was a call out to his “concrete” logic which continued to get questioned throughout his time at the podium. It was almost as if the Justices had already known that California had no real research or evidence to back up its claims. The hearing continued and the defendants representing the Video Game Industry (Entertainment Merchants Association) was up to speak. The attorney that spoke was Paul Smith and was very concise and to the point with his words to the Supreme Court where every word was not to defend video games as righteous but as a new medium that was misunderstood. Taking all of what both sides said, the court’s decision was a 7-2 vote against the laws favor and was thrown out. Now it was to not many people surprise that the ruling ended up this way since all the other states in the US that had tried to impose similar laws were rejected from those court systems as well. Some found it almost ridiculous that the Supreme Court even let this go through the trials but necessary to put all questions to whether video games should be regulated to rest.

As a future video game developer, it was difficult to comprehend logically why any person would challenge entertainment mediums that have regulations on them already. I mean what does the movie industry have the MPAA for? They get to include the bloodiest, sexist, racist and biased in some of their motion pictures that all get R ratings that children are not allowed to see and is regulated at every movie theater, yet the ESRB who slaps M ratings on every game that has similar qualities to R rated films gets blasted for not being a better system.  It’s not like retailers don’t stop kids from buying these games because they do or they will get into major trouble. Most of the time its parents who buy these violent games for their children without first looking at what they are spending their money on so why are the developers, publishers and regulators being put on blast when the parents are the ones that get children the material in the first place? Some say the reason is to uphold family values, or to make sure that children aren’t corrupted by violence and evil ways. If that was the case, how come it can’t start with simply not exposing your child to such entertainment (i.e. not buying your child the latest God of War title)? This whole debacle has proven two things: 1. New entertainment mediums get misunderstood all the time and will be called out on until it’s around for quite some time. The same thing happened to movies back when they first started showing it on the big screen and in some ways it’s still happening. And 2. It’s not just one sides fault that an entertainment medium is in question for being regulator or restricted to a certain age group. Yes, parents need to be more vigilant in what they buy their kids, but the developers need to let the ESRB know that unless they do a better job at letting the rating system known these kinds of things will not stop happening. It would be as simple as requiring all retailers that sell video games have the full ratings chart visible in the front of the store just like the MPAA does for movie theatres. I hope that things will get better for our industry in terms of respect from the community. It will be tough since video games are still fairly new but hey, movies stopped being complained about after around 50-60 years after it being created. Pong was released in 1972 and its 2011…39 years have passed! So if movies got accepted in about half a century, we’ve got around 10 more years to go! (I hope you can imagine the bittersweet look had when I typed that…)

Till next time!

-Davain M.

Picture courtesy of hdwallpapers.in

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