As we told everyone last month, NYRA has been working with the ACLU and the National Coalition Against Censorship on an amicus brief in support of the First Amendment right of youth to play video games. The US Supreme Court could take away that right this year, and we are intent on stopping them. Click here to read NYRA’s amicus brief.
Over the past 25 years, video gaming has grown from a tiny pastime to an important part of our lives (97% of teens play video games; 67% of American households do). But a few state lawmakers who feel that anything new to them is dangerous have gone overboard. California is trying to enforce a 2004 ban on the sale of “violent” video games to everyone under 18 years of age.
A diverse group of media and civil liberties organizations agree that this law is not just immoral and impractical—it’s also censorship that violates our fundamental First Amendment rights. The law was struck down twice by lower courts, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (himself no stranger to violent video games and movies) has decided to press this case all the way to the Supreme Court. The law never went into effect. Now the Supreme Court will determine its legality, potentially paving the way for similar radical measures across the country.
NYRA joined the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Coalition Against Censorship in submitting our views to the court—complete with comments from this blog! For perhaps the first time in history, thanks to the help of NYRA members, the Supreme Court will read Internet comments from people like “SoulRiser” before deciding a case. You can download our in-depth, 37-page brief here. Ten Attorneys General from other states, along with a multitude of scientists, media associations and civil liberties groups, have written to the Supreme Court as well.
You know what makes this case unreal? Most likely, none of the justices on the Supreme Court or the lawyers on either side of the argument have ever touched a video game. All they’ve heard about video and computer games are the old stereotypes that games are weird, rare or harmful! Nothing could be more insulting to young people, or further from the truth.
Everyone involved in deciding the future of youth rights—and America’s giant gaming industry—is about to do so without even knowing what video games are. Or at least they were until NYRA got involved. Thanks to the voices of over 100 gamers on our blog, NYRA was able to get their views before the eyes of the US Supreme Court. The real experts in this case aren’t lawyers or judges, the real experts are gamers and young people. NYRA brought this expertise to bear in this case and we are thrilled with how it turned out. Once again, please download our newly released amicus brief.
Here is the excerpt from the brief which includes quotes from gamers on the NYRA blog:
One of the amici, the National Youth Rights Association, asked readers of its website to comment on the value of video games and violent video games in particular. Schwarzenegger v Gamers – Help Us Fight Back, national youth rights association (August 11, 2010, 2:11 p.m.), http://blog.youthrights.org/2010/08/11/schwarzenegger_v_gamers_help_us_fight_back/#comments. The range of “value” seen by those who played the games while minors and are still playing them is impressive. Many of the contributors saw important political components to the games. The game Halo, for example, was described as involving enemies who are trying to destroy humans as a result of extreme religious beliefs. Success is achieved, in part, by learning teamwork. Ethical problems are raised by one of the enemy who sees the error of his ways and cooperates with humans. Narella, Comment to Schwarzenegger v Gamers, supra (Aug. 12, 2010, 5:16 p.m.).6 One contributor described a portion of ModernWarfare 2 in which a soldier is asked by his commander to perform a horrible act. When he follows the order, the result is that he dies and war ensues, raising questions about following unjust orders. Adam, Comment to Schwarzenegger v Gamers, supra (Aug. 13, 2010, 12:02 p.m.). Another commentator defends the Grand Theft Auto games because they “Paint a brutal picture of street crime, gang violence, and drug abuse. Prominently feature corrupt politicians and law enforcement officials. Include parody and political commentary, particularly on the radio stations. Among the subjects that are criticized on the radio [heard in the game]: right-wing media, left-wing media, militarism, celebrity role models, Scientology, poverty, journalistic integrity, counter-terrorism measures, youth crime, immigration, homosexuality and heteronormativity, and more.” Mikkel Paulson, Comment to Schwarzenegger v Gamers, supra (Aug. 13, 2010, 9:37 p.m.).
Independent of content, contributors noted that, as one put it, “many strategy games (like Starcraft) are intellectually stimulating like chess. You have to develop strategies to beat your opponent, counter your opponent’s strategies and occasionally recover from your own screw ups. You do this all on the fly too. It’s a mental exercise really.” Matt, Comment to Schwarzenegger v Gamers, supra (Aug. 12, 2010, 2:45 p.m.). Other contributors movingly asserted that they found a socially useful outlet for violent thoughts by playing such games. See Alexx Souter, Comment to Schwarzenegger v Gamers, supra (Aug. 15, 2010, 1:21 a.m.); SoulRiser, Comment to Schwarzenegger v Gamers, supra (Aug. 13, 2010, 2:29 p.m.).
Download the brief here. This is a tremendous achievement and victory for NYRA, young people and gamers everywhere. Oral argument is coming up on November 2, stay tuned to this blog for news about our rally!