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Video Games Declared Free Speech by US Supreme Court June 27, 2011

Posted by Maniac in Editorials, Game News.

I may be a gaming journalist, but I’m a gamer first, I’ve been a gamer all of my life, and as a gamer I have to say that today is the proudest day I’ve ever had as a gamer, and in the United States, gamers everywhere have a good reason to celebrate.

We, as gamers, have had to endure so much for the past twenty years.  Angry ignorant parents, politicians who simply just want easy votes, and a media who was more than happy to endorse either of what those groups say as law.

For years, individual states, fed by these false prophets, have tried and tried to regulate what we love and restrict access to what everyone agrees is fantasy entertainment simply to make themselves look better to a public who would listen to them, even though these restrictions were clearly illegal since they were a clear violation of the highest laws of the land.  Every time these states were sued by various organizations, and in many cases these organizations were endorsed by other organizations which had nothing to do with gaming at all, but were champions of free speech.  Every state law was struck down, and it cost each state which passed these laws thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to cover legal expenses of fighting them.

But you couldn’t tell any of that to Yee of California or it’s Governor.  They were going to take their illegal law as far as they possibly could, to the highest court of the land, which, while it must protect the Constitution of the United States, has the ability to interpret it however they want and vote by majority decision.

Before he died, George Carlin did an interview about when he championed free speech decades earlier, and while his act about the “Seven Dirty Words” was clearly protected by the first amendment and won on a lower level, the Supreme Court didn’t agree and banned the use of the curse words on radio and broadcast television.  In the years since the decision has been made, the banned words have not been changed, and those policies are still in place.  Thankfully it hasn’t been updated to censor the use of those words online, which is one of many reasons I’m happy to be working in this new media outlet.

The cases were laid out months earlier.  Both sides were questioned heavily by the judges, and as I read the transcripts of the legal banter between the judges and the lawyers involved, I could get the sense that the judges actually knew what they were talking about.  They asked clear cut questions like, “Would you censor Grimm’s Fairy Tales?”  They also knew that their own staff played these games that these lawyers argued were bad (like Mortal Kombat) and I believe having known the people that played video games were just that, people, saw no connection between violent behavior and violent video games that the lawyers were arguing.

Well today, the decision was reached.  The California law was struck down by the highest court.  More than that, it sets a CLEAR legal precedent that laws like it are not acceptable in any other state that might have been interested in drafting it (or re-drafting it).

The best part about this is that this was NOT a partisan issue at all.  Both parties from the left and the right had people who both agreed and disagreed with the law.  One of the original proponents of tough government restrictions on video games was Senator Lieberman of CT (formerly D, now I) and one of the major opponents of this particular bill was conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, who argued that this was just another form of government restriction, and those were unacceptable to him in every way.  The proponents of the bill in California included Leland Yee (D) and The Govenator (R).

So grab your games, gamers, and you enjoy them.  Enjoy them.  We’ve earned that right.

UPDATE:  Apparently losing on every single level has not humbled Leland Yee and he has continued to express his disappointment about this decision to the media.  Since he has been quoted in almost every media outlet already, I have decided not to reprint his quote here, and instead print my own counterquote that I encourage all media outlets who have been quoting Yee to please place right next to it, and I offer this for no charge at all.

The quote was spoken yesterday by my father.  My father is not a gamer, nor has he played a video game since the original NES version of Tetris was released.  When I told him about the court’s decision, he had these words for Yee.

I’m sure your parents worked very hard to get you all the freedom and opportunities that this country has provided you, and you have spent your entire career trying to take those rights and freedoms away from everyone else.

-Maniac’s Dad



1. jkler - June 29, 2011

Preach on, Brother.

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