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Salon on Video Games and Free Speech 283

EyesWideOpen writes: "There is an article at Salon that covers a U.S. District Judge's ruling that computer games don't deserve First Amendment protection. The ruling is in response to The Interactive Digital Software Association's request for the dismissal of an ordinance that requires parental consent before children under 17 can buy or play violent or sexually explicit video games. From the Salon article: 'From his ruling, [US District Judge] Limbaugh appears to believe that no amount of contextual information, or additional narrative, in a game is enough to make it a work of art or expression worthy of the name 'free speech.'' The judge's deliberations were based in part on his review of four games: 'Fear Effect,' 'Doom,' 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Resident Evil'."
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Salon on Video Games and Free Speech

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  • first amendment (Score:3, Informative)

    by dirvish ( 574948 ) <dirvish&foundnews,com> on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:33PM (#3472885) Homepage Journal
    You can deny access of violent games to underage people without violating the first amendment can't you?
    • Re:first amendment (Score:2, Informative)

      by Aexia ( 517457 )
      Stores, like movies theatres, may deny access to minors. However, laws cannot mandate that they do so.

      Unfortunately, we're living in Amerikkka these days. Computer games? They're just funny pictures on a screen!

      And the judge's choice of games is particularly laughable. It's like judging the artistic content of the entire movie industry by the "standards" of Payback, Debbie Does Dallas and Armageddon.
      • Sure, laws can prohibit that stores deny access to minors! Car dealerships are prohibited from selling cars to persons under 18 (no right to contract), and gun dealers sure as heck can't just sell Glocks to any 13-year-old that walks in the door. We prohibit stores from engaging in transactions with minors all the time.
        • Gah? Car dealerships can sell cars to anyone, AFAIK. They just don't WANT to because they can't enforce the contract against minors to the degree that they'd want to. (the minor can return the car for a refund, less wear and tear at any time prior to his majority, IIRC)

          I seem to recall a lot of minors in high school owning cars. Typically having to pay cash up front because no one wants to do business with them otherwise, but buying them all the same.
      • I would really prefer that there was no law, but as it is minors really don't have any rights and denying them access to some video games probably doesn't violate any laws.

        I disagree completely with the judge's ruling that video games don't deserve first amendment protection...that is ridiculous. Video games are unquestionably "a work of art or expression worthy of the name 'free speech.'".
    • Re:first amendment (Score:4, Informative)

      by Sodium Attack ( 194559 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:43PM (#3473424)
      It's amazing how many people make the following error:
      Observation: Minors do not enjoy the full rights that adults have.
      Non sequitur: Therefore, minors have no rights at all.
      Just FYI, in March 2001 the 7th U.S. Circut Court of Appeals ruled that the government could not deny access to violent video games to minors without violating the First Amendment [].
    • Even setting aside the 7th Circuit Court's ruling that explicitly addressed this issue, there is a very high hurdle that must be cleared before any form of expression can be restricted. IANAL, so I don't have the exact wording, but the expression ("speech") must be either:
      1. Obscene, or
      2. Posing a "clear and present" danger

      Judge Limbaugh simply stepped around the hurdle by declaring that video games aren't "speech".
    • No. But you can deny arbitrary materials to minors (for their own good) without violating the probably legal interpretation of the first amendment.

      The first amendment says you can't restrict free speech. It doesn't say anything about minors. That was added by the preachers and the lawyers.

  • nice picks (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kunta Kinte ( 323399 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:35PM (#3472904) Journal
    'Fear Effect,' 'Doom,' 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Resident Evil'.

    with that list I'm suprised he didn't make video games illegal.

    • I know you were joking but still, there are games with "something to say". Unfortunately I can only think of 1 right now but maybe someone can reply with more.

      Deus ex - remember the part where the Chinese guy is comparing the Chinese political system to the American one? The whole game is actually very political and anti-government. I could see a game like that being censored for it's politcal message.

  • Game selection (Score:4, Interesting)

    by delphin42 ( 556929 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:36PM (#3472912) Homepage
    Who picked the games for the court to review? Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil? How about Final Fantasy X (or just about any other RPG)? Black and White and Medal of Honor were mentioned in the review, but there are tons of games with a lot more content than Mortal Kombat.
    • From the looks of it, a rather narrow cross-section of games were taken in order to ensure a victory. If you just selected pornographic movies and "Slaughterhouse", presented them before a judge and asked, "Should these be protected as free speech as guaranteed by the first amendment?" the judge would most likely respond negatively since they have very little redeeming qualities.

      However, if you also placed movies like "Schindler's List" or any other movie that obviously does contain content that is easily recognized as protected speech in the sampling as well, the judge would be compelled to answer affirmatively.

      This seems to be case that was decided on too narrow a sampling to be applied broadly without impeding on the usage of first amendment rights. It wont set a precedent by being upheld on appeal (as long as the defense doesn't screw the pooch).
    • At least read the slashdot tagline! ordinance that requires parental consent before children under 17 can buy or play violent or sexually explicit video games...

      Final Fantasy whatever is neither violent nor sexually explicit. Neither is Black and White. Nor Myst. Nor Civilization. Nor any of the other games that were mentioned to defend "video games" as protected speech.

      Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Resident Evil are famous games for their violence. And they're also all three lacking in *speech*. They're great marvels of techonlogy (for their times) and gameplay (for even now, in some ways), but they're not necessarily worthy of judicial protection.

      The ruling isn't saying "all games aren't speech." It's saying "game's aren't always protected speech."

      Heck, I mean--NO form of expression is always protected speech. If I slander someone in a song, I'm still civilly / criminally liable. If I write a novel that's sexually evocative, I'm still regulated as porn.

      I for one and quite happy with "mature" video games being regulated as "adult content." Especially when the law rests on the permission of the parents, who in my day were the ones actually purchasing the games anyway.
      • Planescape: Torment.

        Violent, RPG, TONS of plot, a work of art, sexual situations... that would be good.

      • Final Fantasy whatever is neither violent nor sexually explicit. Neither is Black and White. Nor Myst. Nor Civilization. Nor any of the other games that were mentioned to defend "video games" as protected speech.

        Final Fantasy isn't violent? Last time I checked, and I've been playing the series since FF6 (US) first came out, your objective is to kill. Kill. Kill. At first it might seem like an innocent journey into a cave, but you suddenly find your screen twirling into oblivion as battle music begins playing.

        THEN THE KILLING STARTS. In all of my playing, I've been forced to fight little girls (Relm), old men (Strago), mothers and royalty (Queen Alexandra), octupi (Octos), bumblebees (FF4/J), young female ninjas (Yuffie), dogs (Red XIII), etc. How can you say that Final Fantasy is not a bloody, murderous game?

      • >The ruling isn't saying "all games aren't speech." It's saying "game's aren't always protected speech."

        Actually, as far as I can tell, that's EXACTLY what it is saying. Games are never speech. I don't think anyone would have a program with the second statement.

        'From his ruling, [US District Judge] Limbaugh appears to believe that no amount of contextual information, or additional narrative, in a game is enough to make it a work of art or expression worthy of the name 'free speech.''

        I can't seem to find the actual text of the ruling though, so who knows.

        Regulation or ratings or whatever is a different issue. It just happened that this judgement came in response to an issue of regulation. Regulaee it like movies are done now -- great. No problem with that. Don't regulate it based entirely on the idea that games are never ever to be considered under the first amendment.

        And the article mentioned a lot of violent games. Medal of Honor, Max Payne (MEGA violent), Deus Ex, etc. Of those only Deus Ex is really the shit though -- good game.

      • Just for the record, has anyone here seen any 'sexually explicit' computer games??? I've yet to see one, 'cept for that Sega game where the anime bimbos in crotch-high boots do mega-split-roundhouse-kicks.

        • Virtual Valerie 2, where you manuver your mouse to play with nipples and clit of a girl while sometime controlling a dildo or a weird 3 orafice pentrating machien so that you can get her to cum enough times that you are let onto the secret "dick up her ass" level.

          I've seen worse as well. Mostly hentai based games. And of course there's the million and one strip pokers (some pretty good and free if you have a Java enabled browser).

          Still, let's face it. You don't have to say something meaningful nor do you have to be smut free to be expressing something. Even if a game is pure entertainment, people saying "it isn't speech" are basically saying "it should be okay for the government to decide how we are entertained." Well, Larry Flint went to the Supreme Court to show that naked women on paper is protected speech, so why not naked women on a computer screen. Why isn't "Doom" speech. Not everything I say is a deep treasie on the state of the world. The government can't tell me that I can't talk about how cool having a flamethrower-rocketpack-mech suit would be.

          On the flip side, I think that games should be like movies and not sold to minors if it's graphic/sexually explicit enough. For the parents that want their kids to have the games, they should be allowed to buy the games for them. I like how movies work, despite how some people would prefer to police their children 24/7.
      • Not so much a problem you need the permission of the parents, but more like is Walmart supposed to keep signed release forms with their game dockets now?
      • Since you proclaimed your christianity and specifically asked if it was a problem, I will reply on-topic that I do have a problem with that. Christianity as an organized force has been responsible for as much murder, rape and general carnage as Hitler, Mao, you name the bad guy. Yes, I do have a problem with your fucking religion.
        • I'll make no bones about Christianity supporting war. War is a horrible, nasty thing--and sometimes, it's appropriate.

          For example, the only 100% sure way to get someone to stop their crimes is to kill them. The only way to stop a rapist is to make it very, very unpleasant for them. War is just the use of this on a scale when you have no higher temporal power to appeal to (and, still, the UN doens't count.)

          Oh, wait--you said "organized force." Or, more aptly, the Church. Read some of my other posts--I repsect the Church for doing good works, but any body that says "I am right" is going to suffer the Istarian fault to some degree.

          That includes the Catholics, the Presbeterians (my wife's one of 'em), and the Free Software Foundation.
    • Re:Game selection (Score:2, Insightful)

      by sketerpot ( 454020 )
      And how about the super nintendo game "evo"? It is based loosely on the theory of evolution. What if some creationists decided that it was a bad influence on kids and said, "Well, since this game isn't covered by the first amendment, let's ban it!"
  • If this judge had reviewed, say, System Shock 2, or even Half-Life, he might have had a higher opinion of computer gaming. Heck, even Starcraft would have gone a long way towards convincing the judge that games can be as legitimate a story-telling format as any book, and should be entitled to the same rights. So where did he get the idea to review these specific games?
    • ...that games can be as legitimate a story-telling format as any book

      How true this is!
      Honestly, take a "choose your own adventure" book to the extreme, change the medium, and you have video games.
    • So where did he get the idea to review these specific games?

      The four games were on a tape of excerpts submitted by the county of St. Louis(which passed the law). So it's likely all redeeming elements were excised so as to make the games appear as horrible as possible.

      I think it's highly questionable he "reviewed" or briefly played the games at all. He couldn't even get the names of the games correctly. "Resident of Evil Creek"? It'd almost be laughable if this wasn't such an important issue.
      • The county gave him those games because those are the games they want to censor.

        And frankly, this ruling isn't all that important. It's certain not to last more than a few years in today's political climate.

        It should, however, be a wake-up call to game developers. How about less gratuitous violence and more plot? How about more social commentary?
  • The Judge's first name was Rush?
    • Actuall, the judge is Rush's brother, I believe. The Limbaughs have been a prominent family in Missouri for some time. It's where Rush spent his early years, on the dole, divorcing wives.

      Gee, I consider Rush's show offensive and without social merit--does that mean Rush has no First Amendment rights, too?
    • nope, but they are cousins. seriously.
    • Re:Let me guess.. (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kheldarstl ( 543640 )
      No Actually Stephen, Rush's uncle

      And to quote from the above website...

      "Rush's uncle, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Sr. is a federal judge appointed by Ronald Reagan and his first cousin, Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. sits on the Missouri Supreme Court."
      The Judge in this article is Stephen Limbaugh Sr.

  • Beyond IF, this title [] alone should be able to shoot down insane rulings like this one.

  • Perhaps the judge merely meant/intended by law that games should not explicitly get free speech protection just because they are games. The 4 games listed are pretty thin on plot, storyline and certain types of artistry. The artistry that is shown isn't speech so much as trademarkable/copyrightable "feel" and characters.

    He also might believe simply that the speech of games is irrelevant to *his case*. After all, people are free to film porn, but are not free to display it on network TV (in america) or even sell it to minors (in america).

    IMO I hope this is struck down with great prejudice by higher courts, as IMO the above mentioned limiting vs minors does as much harm as help and it would be foolish to carry that to more genres.
  • Lack of Knowledge (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Apreche ( 239272 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:44PM (#3472975) Homepage Journal
    removes your right to judge. I mean seriously. If you aren't an expert or at least very knowledgeable about literature you really don't have a right to say which books are better than others. I'm not saying that you don't have the right to an opinion and a right to voice that opinion. What I'm saying is that if you aren't knowledgeable about something, then your judgement isn't valid.
    This is why we are having such trouble with laws regarding software, video games, etc. The lawyers, judges, and other people with the power to make decisions aren't knowledgeable enough to make well informed decisions. I mean you got a guy who play 4 very violent games with an extreme lack of plot and then decided games weren't art. Try getting a judge who's played games since he was 2. Someone who knows. When people who were alive before computers retire and the next generation comes into power I'm sure we wont have these stupid problems anymore, because people with power to decide will be more knowledgeable.

    I would also like to see if this judge would make the same decision after playing through Final Fantasy 6 or Chrono Trigger.
    • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:15PM (#3473200) Journal
      Lack of Knowledge removes your right to judge.
      No, lack of knowledge removes your competency to judge, but the right to judge is endowed by the person who appoints judges. In the case of federal judges, that person is the President, who traditionally decides based on the official recommendations of the American Bar Association. Bush broke this tradition, so we have no idea who influences his appointments (Enron? MS? Some other campaign contributor?). Is it any wonder the Senate has refused to confirm 100 of Bush's federal judiciary appointments?

      This post is not off-topic -- I'm pointing out that there is no divine moral right to judge, the right is assigned by one of the most conveniently priced-to-own men in America.

    • I heartily disagree. Judges cannot be expected to be experts on everything.

      What indicates your lack of competency as a judge is refusal to take into account the opinions of those who do know. For example, a judge might not believe that code is expressive based on the opinion of a teenager from Norway, but when the likes of Andrew Appel and Dave Touretzky concur...

      • I heartily disagree. Judges cannot be expected to be experts on everything.

        However, you can, at the state level at least, have one judge who is an expert on 3 or 4 things. Maybe have a judge that knows about IT, copyright, and trademarking. Have another that knows a lot about automotive systems, personal property, and medical systems. If you have a problem with your ISP, it gets routed to the IT judge. If you have a problem with excessive exaust noise on your car, the automotive judge.

        A better aproach would be having a registered comment period once a lawsuit was filed. You get sued because of something on your web site. The complaint gets published on a Kuro5hin like site under Tech/Web. People in the area covered by the suit who are working in the tech industry can then post comments and rate the validity of the suit. If the suit is deemed invalid by your peers, then it would never survive a jury trial. Therefore, it would be a waste of money for the suit to proceed.

        The access list for the site could be based on the *.us domains. You bring a suit in California state court, everyone in * can comment on the suit. If it involves violation of the building codes, then people who register as working in the construction industry would be able to comment.

    • The lawyers, judges, and other people with the power to make decisions aren't knowledgeable enough to make well informed decisions.

      I agree with your point, however, you've got to admit it is hard to find someone who is qualified to judge/try/defend technology cases. As you say, most judges and lawyers are not familiar enough with the details. At the same time, most tech people are completely unqualified to handle any sort of complicated legal matter.

      When people who were alive before computers retire and the next generation comes into power I'm sure we wont have these stupid problems anymore, because people with power to decide will be more knowledgeable.

      I'm sure we'll have a new set of problems by then which our generation won't understand. Think of these old uninformed judges as brakes that help ease society's technology growing pains. If a ruling is truly unfair,hopefully it will be overturned a few years down the road.
    • Relevant quote (Score:3, Interesting)

      Excellent points. Your post reminds me of John Perry Barlow's words accompanying his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace [], in response to the Communications Decency Act of '96 -

      This bill was enacted upon us by people who haven't the slightest idea who
      we are or where our conversation is being conducted. It is, as my good
      friend and Wired Editor Louis Rossetto put it, as though "the illiterate
      could tell you what to read." [source] []

      Holds true here as well, I'd say. As does Barlow's response -

      Well, fuck them.

      (Emphasis mine!)

    • No way. Reality: lack of knowledge removes your right to make a decision yourself with no external help.

      Which is what happened. This guy said to the game manufacturer, "I don't know enough about computer games to say whether they have plot and depth. Find me some computer games which you think have depth, and explain to me why they have depth, and I'll make a decision based on that." So the dumb asses went and dug out the four LEAST depth-full games and went and showed them to him, and he quite rightly said, "Those games suck. You lose." This is ENTIRELY the fault of the manufacturer.

      The judge can ONLY make decisions based on what he's told in court. In fact, if he has a deep interest in the subject under trial, he MUST NOT judge the case and must recuse himself, in the same way that a judge with a deep interest in environmental issues must recuse himself from a dispute between Greenpeace and Exxon, for instance. If he didn't, the appeal court would toss the case out in 5 minutes flat. The judge must be impartial, and that means forcing each side to make their case.

      We will still have this happening in the future, for the same reason that we still have film classifications. The difference will be that the games manufacturers will start doing as the film industry does, submitting copies to the classification board for comments and reworking/editting accordingly. When the games manufacturers get their fingers out of their asses and realise that game classification is going to happen and they need to think about how to target their games, this'll stop being an issue.

  • It was "Resident of Evil Creek". Get it right.
  • by shawnmelliott ( 515892 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:48PM (#3473006) Journal
    I personally believe the judge was fair and informed. This can be seen by his
    A. Wrong use of 2 of the titles
    "Mortal Combat" and "Resident of Evil Creek"
    B. Only looked at 4 titles.

    The judge didn't play the games. He was shown video clips ( More likely to be the gory ones such as a MK Fatality ) and of the games he did see all 4 were basically the Gory ones in the industry. He didn't see Final Fantasy. He didn't see Metal of Honor. He didn't see any of the other more robust and story/plot/idealistic driven games.

    This is similar to judging all movies value as Free Speech based on
    Nightmare on Elm St.
    Friday the 13th
    Texas Chainsaw Massacre

    Anybody can see how ridiculous a judgement based on such a small set of evidence is. However, I do believe that the Gaming industry should have done a better job. Why didn't he see anything else?!? Why did he only see the "plots" of specific games and not a showing of those games themselves including cut-scenes. gameplay and the likes?
    • regardless (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Steveftoth ( 78419 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:23PM (#3473249) Homepage
      Not playing a video game is like reading a book based on a movie. You only get the idea and it's not the same thing, sometimes radically different.

      Video gamimg is the first automated warm medium, where the player (or audience) is part of the feedback that creates the show. Movies, TV, and playing music on a CD are cold mediums, where the audience has no/little effect on the entertainment. (though some would argue that the audience is the entertainment at plays/concerts) Story telling (esp. with small children), books, stand up comics ( esp. in small clubs) are warm, where the audience takes part in the performance.

      Video gaming being as young as it is, and having such a high cost to entry for new games has created a culture where everyone goes for the largest market, throwing aside everything but the almighty dollar. Even the Salon article admints that the Sims almost didn't get made, which goes to show how single minded these game publishers are. $$$$$

      So far, I've seem many comments about people comparing these games to RPGs, but what about the true classics, like Pac-Man, Tetris, Galaga, Bust-a-Move, etc. These games are like poetry compared to the monstrous volumes that are required to encompass most RPGs. Games like Golden Axe where the whole point is to destroy the tyrant who has usurped the power from the king in the region.

      Some of the best examples of games and conveyance of ideas come from old Sierra games, especially the Lesiure Suit Larry series. That series was nothing but satire, pure and simple. The game was solving the most insane puzzles to advance the almost non-existant plot, but the items you got and the way they were described picked on a multitude of facets of american culture.

      Unfortunatly, most games teach that might = right and you must be the strongest most powerful (Insert stereotype here) in the world. And that concludes their message. It's the games like Ultima, B&W, every Sim game ever that show us new ways of thinking, since in many cases we must change the way we think about a problem in order to solve it in the world of the game.
      • I think we're missing the point here. If the state law says that below a certain age you can't purchace games of certain content below the age of 18 the case isn't a free speech case.

        Well it is, but not really. The Court has held over and over again that the state has a compelling interest to regulate the symbolic speech of minors (voting with their wallets so to speek).

        Because of this precident, the case is effectivly an interstate commerce case. That makes it a great deal more clear cut and simple.

        Fundamentaly the same laws that prevent your 8 year old brother from buying a Penthouse prevent him from buying Quake III.

        If this guy had ruled that it was illegal to sell Quake III in his state, period, that would be a free speech case.

        In short I don't think that this case is as great a setback as this list seems to think it is. By overreacting to this I think the geek community (for lack of a better phrase) only demonstrates its poor grasp of our legal system and what it was intended to do.
    • According to the article, "A tape with excerpts of these games was ... submitted to the court by the county [of St. Louis] as part of the record," Lowenstein says. The IDSA legal team countered the tape with scripts to video games, he says, that emphasized plot and story lines aimed at proving that games qualified as speech. But, with the ... 7th Circuit Court's favorable decision ..., "It was frankly inconceivable that this issue was in question." (Messages left with Limbaugh's office, asking if his honor had actually played any of these games, or if he had considered reviewing other games, were not returned by press time.) Since he misspelled two of the games' names, it's quite possible he did nothing other than watch the video provided.

      In other words, the judge chose to simply ignore a large amount of the evidence. This, of course, makes it very likely that the decision will be quickly overturned; and it's very likely that the judge knew that when he drafted his decision.

      So, why did he make the ruling? He's simply grandstanding. After all, he's appointed for life, and nobody's about to mount a recall election just because he said that little kiddies can't play guts-n-gore games...
  • The level design, the method of expression, the ambience portrayed, the textures that make it realistic. The levels in say... Doom, are akin to sculpture. Each one is the product of creative process.

    That makes it art, and therefore freely expressable.

    However... limiting access to kids under 17... we already limit alcohol, cigarettes, porno mags, music, voting, etc. If anything, sometimes this is warranted. Most kids could get their parents to buy one of those games, anyway.
  • Maybe we can finally get frogger banned now. All those cars trying to kill a poor innocent frog. No child should be exposed to that.
  • What the fuck (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WeaselGod ( 145056 )
    Maybe we should judge all mediums by some of the worst representations.

    Maybe movies shouldn't be protected because all of those actions thrillers just have violence.

    Maybe books shouldn't be protected because all those romance novels are just softcore porn.

    Maybe music shouldn't be protected because all that gangster rap just talks about killing cops.

    What the hell is wrong with people. Sure there are games that have no decent content, but there are also games like black and white, sim city, etc that actually have redeeming value. I don't think most games should be banned from kids, regardless, or more precisely because of their content. If I didn't have video games to vent my frustration with when I was younger I might have vented in a far more destructive manner. Give me the violent games, god knows the sims aren't going to keep me from being frustrated with the stupidity of this judge.
  • The article mentions that he made his decision after playing 4 games. I can see why he thinks the way he does.

    I offer this as an example of what probably happened to him while he was playing.

    JudgeLimbaugh: Hello kids, I am a federal district judge. I'm just playing...

    JudgeLimbaugh was shot in the head by TEH_CS_MASTAR with M4A1

    JudgeLimbaugh: Sorry, can we just pause the game for a second so you all can help me with...

    JudgeLimbaugh was slapped by hahaUsukk (admin)
    JudgeLimbaugh was slapped by hahaUsukk (admin)
    JudgeLimbaugh was slapped by hahaUsukk (admin)
    JudgeLimbaugh was slapped by hahaUsukk (admin)
    JudgeLimbaugh was slapped by hahaUsukk (admin)
    JudgeLimbaugh was slapped by hahaUsukk (admin)

    JudgeLimbaugh: Anyway, as I was saying...I am trying to decide whether free speech should...

    Jenny17F: d00d i duncare abut free speach, do u got ne free beer? im only 14 so...thxd00d!!11

    JudgeLimbaugh: Do these games have ANY artistic value whatsoever?

    iaml33t: articistic value? no but i fukked mona lisa once!1111

    Jenny17F: d00d relly? thats cool. UR THE MAN1111111
  • I'd agree that most games are not speech. But come on, just because they AREN'T doesn't mean they can't be. Just the other day I was in a game store and I found a game that tells Bible stories and stuff. It's some kind of first-person-shooter or something, where the character has to make moral decisions and fight the good fight against the evil, fallen angels. You can't tell me that THAT game is not speech.
  • So kids can't buy or play over-17-rated games without a parent's permission?

    My response: Click.

    So I can't use a peice of software without first reading and agreeing to the EULA?

    My response: Click.

    Sure, I'll warrant I'm over 17 to get into a nudie site. Click. As it happens, I *am* over 17, but really the question becomes, *how do they know?*

    I mean, that's beside the more primary question of "why should they care."

    Judgements like this are a load of horse-hockey, made, ironically, in order to present a political/ethical/whateverical statement. Just like the first amendment allows us regular folk to do.

    It's a question that will escalate up the ranks, probably ending up with some bullshit congressional hearing or other, in which it is decided that all people over 18 with children will be implanted with authorization chips that activate the software. It'll be part of signing the baby out of the newborn wing of the hospital - just sign this birth certificate - by the way, you may feel some initial discomfort.

    Ironically, the under-17 crowd that has children, such as you might find in just about any broken-down central urban district (and, here's the scary bit, *elsewhere too*), will be utterly helpless coming from either direction. Fortunately, they don't count, and the program to discourage voting proceeds according to schedule. Activate phase 3.

    And it doesn't help at all that the judge has a name like Limbaugh. Like *that's* not a dead giveaway.

    Great googley-moogley.
  • Since when did the creative angle have anything to do with first amendment protection? The SC has long deemed it appropriate for limits to be placed on movies, television and radio. Why not video games?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe we should judge all mediums by some of the worst representations.

    Maybe movies shouldn't be protected because all of those actions thrillers just have violence.

    Maybe books shouldn't be protected because all those romance novels are just softcore porn.

    Maybe music shouldn't be protected because all that gangster rap just talks about killing cops.

    What the hell is wrong with people. Sure there are games that have no decent content, but there are also games like black and white, sim city, etc that actually have redeeming value. I don't think most games should be banned from kids, regardless, or more precisely because of their content. If I didn't have video games to vent my frustration with when I was younger I might have vented in a far more destructive manner. Give me the violent games, god knows the sims aren't going to keep me from being frustrated with the stupidity of this judge.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    • Maybe music shouldn't be protected because all that gangster rap just talks about killing cops.

      Maybe this is a troll, but i'll bite.

      This line stands out from all your other examples, because this is precisely why certain rap should be protected.
  • So do we also think all ages should be able to watch R-rated movies?
    • I don't think the government or anyone besides the parents should have any say in whether they do or not. So to answer your question depending on just what the circumstances are yes yes I do. In other cases no they should not. But the government should get the *hell* out of the choice. :)
    • cthrall asked: "So do we also think all ages should be able to watch R-rated movies?"

      I don't think there should be state-regulated age limits on viewing R-rated movies; I don't think people should take seriously the pat and often misguided rating that some industry group happens to apply to a particular movie. It's just lazy thinking. (Some movies branded with a big fat R are perfectly fine IMO for children old enough to reason, whether or not 365 days have passed since they were legally eligible to drive in most parts of the U.S. Speaking of which, those driving-age laws ...) Where are the alternate rating services, so that ratings could be used as tools of choice rather than denial? Now if a *theater* wants to cut out a portion of their paying audience to satisfy their own (serious, or just smarmy) sense of morality, Fine -- their decision to make.

      That doesn't mean that children should be encouraged or required to watch a particular movie no matter what it's rated. I thought the (PG-13) Indiana Jones & Temple of Doom was pretty gruesome. Similarly, games should be up to the household mores and rules that a particular child lives within. If a 14-year-old has a job at which she works to save money so she can play at being a tank commander because she likes to provide alternate endings to historical battles ... great. Her call. There are a lot of games I think are at best morally ambiguous no matter *what* age the player, but it isn't (and shouldn't be) my right to declare them verboten to anyone else.

    • Movie ratings are always used as a marketing/sales tool instead of as an honest attempt to evaluate the content.

      When a new movie is produced, they often shoot extra footage that's graphic in nature, and then only cut the minimum number of scenes necessary to move up a rating. For example, they know "sex sells", but they also know than an X rating means relatively few people will ever view a film in the theater. In the past, they pushed, prodded, and bent every rule they could to keep the R rating but get away with every little sexually provocative scene they could pack in. Finally, they decided this wasn't good enough so the NC-17 rating was born.

      This is also why the PG-13 rating came about. They wanted to show material that just wouldn't cut it under the definition of PG, but the R rating would leave out all the 15 and 16 year olds who might, in fact, be the prime audience for the type of film they're producing.

      Considering the fine lines between ratings these days, and the fact that many times - it's more mentally disturbing and frightening to imply something than to show it outright, I don't think theaters should waste any more time trying to police who gets to see an R rated movie.
  • Now all we need is a law prohibiting minors from using any variant of Windows. After all, it has been established that Windows is written and distrubted in violation of antitrust laws. And if video games aren't "speech," an operating system sure isn't.
  • I don't understand.

    How can it be considered "free speech," if it's copyrighted? I don't get how the software companies can hide behind the first amendment to produce the game, but then discard this argument after we purchase the game. If I were to say that MY rights to do what I want with the software are being infringed by THEIR copyrights, they would say that the game ISN'T free speech. Somebody explain this apparent hypocrisy to me please.

    I brought this up before... []

    • Sure (Score:4, Informative)

      Somebody explain this apparent hypocrisy to me please.

      There's a difference between copyright and free speech. In fact, they're about as related as capitalism and matricarchy.

      "Free Speech" is the idea that the government cannot made a law keeping you from communicating something. There are a few limits on it ("you can't shout fire in a crowded theather"), but absent a very good reason, the government can't stop you from communicating whatever you want.

      (From "this sucks" to "let's be communist" to "all commies must die.")

      "Copyright" is a different beast altogether. It's the government recognizing the right of someone who works to create a thing that's very easily copied (like a book or a poem) to gain fiscal benefit from people using this thing. It's the government outlining how long the creator of a protected work gets total control over who gets to make copies. (When that time's up, it goes into the "public doman," which anyone can make copies of.)

      This part is the core of copyright protection, and it's what Microsoft & the rest offer you in exchange for you agreeing to their EULA.

      The hariy part about copyright comes when you take only a little bit of someone's work, add your own into it, and make a new work. This is what's called a "derivitive work," and it's the legal basis behind the GPL. Since you're making a copy of PART of someone's work, you're breaking the copyright law ("infringement.") But since someone made something new, THEY have a copyright on it to. In this situation, both parties need to agree to do anything with teh second work--or they need to go to a judge, who decides if a work is or is not "derivitive."

      An exception to this is "Fair Use," which is a few specific exceptions (Journalism, Academia, and Parody) wherin the infringement isn't punishable.

      SO, let's say that I write a novel. (I am, btw. Just about done, too.) My novel is Copyrighted. Because of Free Speech, the government cannot come down and lock me in jail because the main characters rebel against their government and break the law. My copyright means that if you want you very own copy of my novel, you need to convince me (ordinarilly by buying it from a publiher) to let you do it.

      If you like my fantasy world a lot, and you write your own "fanfic", you need my permission to do anything at all with it, including post it on the web, and especially including selling your own copies. You've infringed by copying my setting.

      If you decide to write a review of my novel for your school paper (or local paper), you can quote a small bit of it for journalistic use and I can't say a darn thing, because of Fair Use. Unless you quote an entire chapter every week, in which case I can probably get a judge to rule that you're not really being journalistic.

      One more thing--I'm not a lawyer. Please, please, PLEASE don't do anything and then come back and say "well, this guy on Slashdot said it was OK." IANAL, and dispensing legal advice when you're not can get you busted. (I was merely sharing my understanding of the law.)
  • by guttentag ( 313541 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @05:59PM (#3473089) Journal
    The judge's deliberations were based in part on his review of four games: 'Fear Effect,' 'Doom,' 'Mortal Kombat' and 'Resident Evil'."
    That's a very specific subset of the computer game industry. Mortal Kombat may not have any political statements to make, but many other games do. Take Grand Theft Auto 3: it may be a very violent game, but it works a lot of social and political criticism into the commercials.

    "My Zaibatsu Monstrosity can even cross rivers! So far I've only hit a few puddles in the parking lot, but it's good to know that it's there. Besides, I'm a mom, not a conservationist."

    It touches on gun control, child labor and other issues that companies or political action committees would rather not have pumped into the ears of teenage consumers.

    Could Ford pull GTA3 off the shelves by claiming it unfairly portrays its Explorer line? Could the NRA block the release of GTA4 by complaining it doesn't like the game's portrayal of gun owners?

    How far does this go? What about games like Sim City? Could the mayor of a major city sue EA for defamation of character (by teaching people that his style of city-management doesn't work)?

    • The important thing about this case is that the judge is saving the children.

      Ford, the NRA, mayors, etc. suing won't save the children. If the children aren't in danger, then you keep your free speech rights. If children might be hurt in any way, perceived or truthfully, then the judge always finds a way around first amendment rights.
  • I fail to see how anyone could claim that something like the the Final Fantasy Series (The newer ones moreso than the original) could be seen as less artistic than film.
  • I think all this hooplah over video game violence is a reflection of the quality of parenting here in the USA.
  • Not only is there a storyline which could possibly have warranted the "art" tag but I think it would have affected the outcome of the decision alone!

    Just a few seconds of drug-taking, whore-mongering and cop-slaughtering could have given it a different spin...

    Judge: "Now, what are you doing there?"

    Player: "Well, this is a prostitute getting in my car. See how my cash is going down, now? Once she finishes her business and gets out of the car again, I'm going to bludgeon her with a bat and take my money back. Cool, huh???"
  • Does anyone have any contact info for the judge so we can tell him what we think?
  • It is possible to make the argument that the 'plot' and 'characters' in video games are only there to sell which is really just a board game: Push the right keys in the right order at the right time, and you win.

    Just because you take some free speech -- and I'm not just talking music, artwork and gore; I mean also the written word such as in interactive fiction -- and add a push-the-button interface, it does not undermine the aspects of the work that make it free speech in the first place.

    Perhaps this judge would like to try playing through 'Curses.' Judge Limbaugh, can you read and write?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Keep in mind that this is the same bonehead who declared junk faxes legal [].

    Yep, relative of Rush Limbaugh.
    • Personally, I fail to see the big deal about junk faxes. It seems like almost an outdated issue.

      For starters, the fax machine itself is obsolete technology. It keeps getting used today only because scanners aren't standard equipment with PCs, and people are too lazy to learn how to scan a document and send it via email. At the very least, fax machines should only be used to send data. Received documents should be handled by computer. Why waste paper printing out everything that's sent to you, plus deal with the privacy risks? (Anyone can walk by, pick up the fax and read it? At least your email goes directly to your own inbox.)

      Even these facts notwithstanding, if you're going to outlaw mass sending of faxes, it would seem you'd also have to outlaw all "cold calling" telemarketing. It's essentially the same thing, other than in one case it's done by voice, and in the other, by screeching tones. I don't think we're really ready to take that step.
  • my experience (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ankou ( 261125 )
    I had an interesting experience at Wal-Mart the other day buying a new game. I am surprised with Wal-Mart's zero tolerance for adult lyric music and movies and yet right there in the PlayStation 2 bin i was (pleasantly) shocked that they had Grand Theft Auto 3. I picked it up and went to the checkout center and was actually made to show 2 forms of ID for my age. I mean I am 23 and I haven't been check for my age buying cigarettes for about 5 years now and was amazed that I was carded for a frickin videogame. I personally agree that there should be some kind of rating system for parents to determine what kinds of games they can buy their children and I don't know how "art" argument could possibly hold any water.
  • Copyright? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sterno ( 16320 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:22PM (#3473245) Homepage
    For the record, despite the substantial quality of the articles in playboy, it is none the less illegal to sell it to a minor. Now, I think this judge is being a little silly saying that video games are not expression, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the ordinance is a problem.

    When forbidding access to things that are protected by the first amendment, like Playboy, there are certain requirements about it being the least burdensome approach to restriction, etc. If the court believes that there is a relevant social interest in preventing minor access to violent video games, then all this ruling determines is how they are allowed to go about preventing this access.

    Personally I think that if this gets appealed it will get thrown back in the judge's face. He'll have to accept that it is a first amendment protected form of expression. Then he'll likely proceed to rule that the ban is okay anyhow, and then the court can review the issues of it being least restrictive, etc.
  • The time for a counterstrike is now.

    Supreme LAAAAAAAAAN Party!
  • [T]he Court simply did not find the 'extensive plot and character development' referred to by the plaintiffs in the games it viewed

    Someone should donate Everquest so the Judge can play it. I bet in three months he will be out of courts. Wearing black rags with a sword in his hands, and shouting "l00t!".

    Than we can talk if it doesn't help to develop a character...
  • Of course (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lightspawn ( 155347 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:37PM (#3473374) Homepage
    Remember, free speech only applies to existing media - any new media has to earn the right for free speech.

    This is, I believe, because new industries don't own any legislative assets like senators or judges, by the very virtue of their newness.

  • by Deagol ( 323173 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:44PM (#3473429) Homepage
    I was stuck at home, sick, a couple of weeks ago. Out of sheer boredom, I ended up watching some VH1 movie about how Tipper Gore led the charge that resulted in the "Parental Advisory" labels on music. To it's credit, it enlightened me to a battle I never knew had been fought -- and I'm a hair shy of being 30.

    Anyway, this law (the video games thing), along with past issues of "censorship" in the form of government-coerced industry self-policing got me thinking.

    The logic seems to be this:

    Some material is harmful to minors (I can buy that)

    Custodians of said minors are not competant enough to police the material themselves (I cannot accept this)

    Legislate morality into the industry, rather than trust parents (I think this simply bites)

    It got me thinking... If a parent (an "adult", mind you) can't be trusted to read a lyric, listen to an album, or watch a movie to determine if the material is right for their own kids (and this is easy stuff -- "yup, there's 4 scenes containing bush in Porky's, so Little Johnny can't rent it"), how the bloody hell can these same adults be expected to abide by the terms of a 20-page legalese-ridden EULA!!!

    I mean, there's gotta be some precedent here, right? If a legal adult can't be trusted to interpret the dumbed-down lyrics/music/visuals of modern-day mass media, there's just no way in hell they can handle a EULA! Release the attack litigators!

    I say if we adults are deemed too dumb to spot a tit in a movie or hear a naughty word in Prince's latest single, then other laws should reflect that. They shouldn't have it both ways.

    And I'd much rather have the labeling laws (and similar nonsense) repealed than to have new laws passed to protect us from EULA's.

    Back on topic, I have kids, and I know there's some disturbing stuff out there in theaters, in music, and on the internet. No, I'd rather my 6-year-old daughter not see porn pics on the internet or my 3-year-old son watch some guy get his spine ripped out in a video game, but, dammit, all these restrictions on content diminish what I can access now and what they can access as adults. This is what I ultimately object to. Because labels make it easy for suppliers to throttle the supply (i.e., Wal Mart will not carry "Parental Advisory" labeled music), which makes the content providers (artists) either change their creations or they're not accessible with equal footing to those who do. And that, my friends, is where this slippery slope goes. I don't think there's any real happy ground in between.

    Umm... &lt looks at post&gt sorry for the rant...

    • Seriously, could you watch every movie and show, listen to every song, play through every game, and generally monitor every bit of media that pervades your childrens life? It's easy now, but wait until they are older and Barney goes out of style. (Not that I would let a child watch that shit). Of course not.

      Example: Let's say Spider-Man had no rating - how would you know that it's ok to take an 8 year old to see it? Would you go first, watch it, decide it's ok, and then go again with your kid? That's time and money wasted when the movie is more than appropriate for children, by any reasonable standard.

      I agree with you - Wal Mart and Blockbuster and anyone else that filters products based on labels are wrong, but is it the fault of the rating system? I don't shop in either place anymore (for more reasons than censorship).

      The problem I have is when a label is too brief. I like movie ratings as they give the reason for the rating (ie/ language, mild nudity, gory violence, cartoon violence, Saddam with a dildo, etc). That allows someone to make a reasonable decision about what their children should watch. Look at CD labels - explicit lyrics - I would let a 12 year old listen to a song that contains a few swear words (especially if it's saying something vaguely intelligent ala Rage Against the Machine), but not music that suggests skull-fucking a dead prostitute is an enjoyable pastime. The label doesn't tell me what is so explicit about the lyrics, and my standards probably differ from the standards they use.

      If anything, all labels should do is inform the parent of the potentially offensive content of the media and stop the child from buying it on his or her own in extreme cases. As long as it is strictly a guide, I don't see the problem.

      If anything, ratings should be intentionally descriptive - This CD contains lyrics that propose that God is hypocritical and may offend SUV driving suburbanite scum that cling to their vague notions of spirituality out of fear and ignorance - or something like that :)

  • by VValdo ( 10446 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @06:44PM (#3473433)

    1. What is the relation between "free speech" and "copyright"? If a game is not free speech, can it still be copyrighted? According to this [], "any original expression that is fixed in a tangible form" can be copyrighted.

    2. Could a saved game-- which maybe would be considered a "performance" -- be considered free speech? I mean, if I play some 3d shooting game and kill only the politicians, isn't the saved game a kind of performance art?

    3. What about hacked ROM [] games? Some of these must fall under "parody", no?

    4. Surely games written by recognized literary greats, such as Douglas Adam's "Beaurocracy" is not only legitimate expression but social satire?

    5. How do you draw the line between straight fiction, a choose-your-own-adventure book, and an Infocom interactive adventure?

    6. If you printed out an Infocom game's text replacing the user's typed instructions with "Turn to page 7 to do xxxx" and published it as a book, would the video game suddenly become speech?

    Maybe Dave Touretsky needs to set up another gallery [].

    • agreed (Score:2, Funny)

      by redtoade ( 51167 )

      do you know how frustrating it is to post the same opinion before you (twice actually), and not have anyone read it?

      I brought this up before... []

      and above in this very thread also []

      The moderation system is just so frustrating these days...
    • Didn't the lawyers for the game makers even ask the judge to consider interactive fiction? There could be risque interactive fiction which the judge might personally want to suppress yet would be violating the bill of rights if he did so. Take for example Infocom's 'Leather Goddesses of Phobos', though it was actually very tame. But maybe the lawyers thought the case was cut and dried so they didn't bother to search for clear examples.
  • STOP!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coupland ( 160334 ) <[dchase] [at] []> on Monday May 06, 2002 @07:08PM (#3473598) Journal
    Ok here go all my karma points, at least they'll be well-burned. This is getting ridiculous -- I'm all for free speech but does no one read these articles? This is about selling games like Doom and Resident Evil to kids without parental supervision. Even "protected" media like film still require some sort of parental guidance. I adore violent games and think cursing and shooting are damn-right funny. But that's MY OPINION! I see no reason to say "damn the parents, kids know better" when it comes to violence, sex, murder, war, and other situations glorified by games. NO RESPONSIBLE GAMER would argue otherwise. So you play your violent games and I'll play my violent games but don't be such holier-than-thou dicks as to suggest parents shouldn't be allowed to decide if their children should or shouldn't play games that depict graphic murder. Ignorant jerks...
    • I don't have that much of a problem with the statute. It's the side effects of the ruling that bother me. If video games don't warrant first amendment protection then the government can stop anyone buying them. So you won't be playing your violent video games and I won't be playing mine because some fuckwit judge says it's OK to censor them.
    • Even "protected" media like film still require some sort of parental guidance.

      That's a common misconception. Enforcement of MPAA ratings is, in most instances, a voluntary measure by movie theaters. In some regions laws have been passed enforcing MPAA ratings by law, but every time they've been challenged, such laws have been struck down as unconstitutional. Some areas still have such laws in force, but only because no one has challenged them.

      I see no reason to say "damn the parents, kids know better" when it comes to violence, sex, murder, war, and other situations glorified by games.

      No one is suggesting that parents shouldn't control what video games their kids play. But I find it funny that you put it that way, because to me, it seems that the government is saying, "damn the parents, the government knows better." With laws such as this one, even if I decided that such-and-such a video game is suitable for my 16-year-old child to play, the government says she can't.

      I'll play my violent games but don't be such holier-than-thou dicks as to suggest parents shouldn't be allowed to decide if their children should or shouldn't play games that depict graphic murder

      The law in question suggests exactly that.

  • by detritus. ( 46421 ) on Monday May 06, 2002 @07:25PM (#3473702)
    I have been involved in local youth-rights related issues in the past, some pertaining to local businesses barring individuals under a certain age from entering their stores without an adult, or after certain hours (well before curfew). Section Section 37.2302 [] of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976, states:

    Sec. 302. Except where permitted by law, a person shall not: (a) Deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status.

    Being that rating systems like the ESRB and MPAA are not government-mandated, and that many movie theaters and department stores have barred individuals under 17 from viewing/purchasing "M" rated games or viewing "R" rated movies, it is arguable that the practice is illegal in Michigan. The only exception I could see to this rule is if it was a private club. I do know other states have similar laws concerning age, but Michigan does have a model policy that has proven effective in challenging local businesses. I have pondered the possibility of challenging movie theaters and retail stores, many of which voluntarially enacted policies barring minors based on the content ratings, but it obviously would cause some strong opposition and fighting teams of corporate lawyers.
  • The Games We Play (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MBCook ( 132727 ) <> on Monday May 06, 2002 @09:26PM (#3474332) Homepage
    I think I speek for many in saying that I can fully understand his ruling in regards to Doom and Mortal Kombat. That said, I'm suprised with RE, as that game definatly has a story. As for the fourth, I've never played it and don't know anything about it. But like many of you, I think that he needed to review a few other games. Here is a list I think would have been much better:

    • First, let's keep the initial 4
    • Final Fantasy VII (I'm sorry, but I still think VII is the best one, the rest were great to, but as the stories go, I love VII)
    • A sim game (SimCity, a Sid Meyer, just not SimGolf, i've had so many problems with that game, but that's a different topic)
    • Something like Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
    • A game like Pikmin (for example, Pikmin)
    • Grand Theft Auto III (it's import to get a fair sample)
    • A puzzle game, maybe Aqua Aqua
    • Maybe something like JSRF

    I should mention my stance, I guess. Yes video games have freedom of expression and are most definatly works of art (although I still could see otherwise for Mortal Kombat), I support limiting minors from violent games. I thought that State of Emergency was fun, but if I had a 10 year, I would NOT want him to be able to walk into a store and just buy it.

  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <> on Tuesday May 07, 2002 @01:33AM (#3475519) Homepage Journal
    From the Salon article:

    How significant is the ruling? The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit has already ruled, in a separate case involving a similar ordinance, that games are indeed speech. According to Lee Tien, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Limbaugh's ruling doesn't possess sufficient legal kung fu to take down the higher court's decision.

    "Technically," says Tien, "no other court is bound by [Limbaugh's] decision, unlike the decision by the 7th Circuit, which binds many district courts in that circuit."

    At least for now. "But if it is appealed and upheld," adds Tien, "then you'll have a decision of equal weight to [the 7th Circuit's ruling]."

    So basically Limbaugh made a ruling that went contrary to a higher court's ruling. It applies only to his district, and will only acquire any serious legal weight if the appeal is upheld.

    I sincerely hope that the IDSA learns from this initial bout with Limbaugh and brings to bear many of the arguments you all have been putting up here on Slashdot, when they appeal.

  • From the article:

    In The Sims, there are no discrete conditions for "winning" or "losing" the game; the only goal is what you choose to do with your Sims, and the narratives you construct for them -- which vary wildly from player to player. (This is sometimes referred to in the industry as a "sandbox" game, and it's also a strong aspect to Black & White.)

    Actually, Maxis (makers of SimCity, Earth, etc., etc., etc., Robosport, The Sims itself I think) originally used the term "software toy". Since AFAIK SimCity was the first highly successful game that allowed you to play noncompetetively (not even competing against a computer), I think Maxis deserves to have their term used.

    The mention of B&W is noteworthy... Peter Molyneaux, originally of Bullfrog Productions, Ltd., has ALWAYS gone with a bit of the software toy flavor. In both Dungeon Keepers 1 and 2 you were able to continue playing after you'd beaten a level, just for fun and play, with no goals or enemies to deal with. I whiled away many happy hours in college trying to see how much gold I could mine (my DK1 record - 6.2 million. Top that!)


  • The issue here is not artistic expression or game publishers' freedom of speech. The publisher is not being prevented in any way from publishing the games. The law is just trying to regulate access by minors, and guess what, that's not an issue of the rights of the minors either, it's an issue of the rights of their parents.

    Kids really have very few legal rights, but they also have very few legal responsibilities. They also have very few people in their lives who see them as anything other than faucets plugged into bank accounts. Along with feeding, clothing and sheltering their kids, part of a parent's job is to shield them from candy-waving marketers who know that kids with low self-esteem will buy lots more stuff. Until you get to a certain age your parents are supposed to outsmart these PhD psychologists, usually with little help from the government.

    The cutoff point between childhood and adulthood may be ridiculously arbitrary and inappropriate in some cases, but at some point you suddenly do get the basic human rights our founding fathers fought for, like lawsuits, credit card debt, and unrestricted access to cigarettes and video games. Until then your parents get to call the shots. There's nothing draconian about it, it's just their job.
  • While I'm not fully aware of the history of comics, I do know there was once upon a time that they weren't conisidered fully considered "art". You can read "Understanding Comics" (Scott McCloud) or "Sequential Art" (Will Eisner) and watch them moan about how it's come a long way, but they don't still garner the same respect.

    While I haven't been reading comics since Krazy Kat, it seemed to me that once upon a time comics were violent and simple, kind of like video games. In an effort to get parents not so worried about thier kids reading them, they established the "Comic Book Code Authority" or something (I'm doing this all from memory, bear with me!) and it basically was huge self imposed censorship board. And Wal-mart was not going to sell your comic without the stamp of approval they would give.

    While we don't have all that, you can still understand the point: comics, at one point (and even now) were considered debase and not "art". Now, no one can deny that some comics are incredible works of art (finding examples are left as an exercise for the reader, because they no doubt will not be the same examples as mine) although there are still comics getting in trouble for being "obscene".

    Personally, I think video games are going to follow a similar path. I can point at "Zork" and say "art!" or if you say that's not a video game, then I point at "Battlegirl" (awesome game for the mac) or "Escape Velocity Overdrive" and say "art!"

    Remember, kiddies, send your spare bills to the Comic Book Legal Defense fund [], and when the Video Game Legal Defense fund comes into existance, let me know. Some poor kid who makes a nifty-cool game in his basement is going to get sued for offending sensibilities and causing violence in the wrong town.

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do. -- R. A. Heinlein