Censorship in Videogames
Let's face it; as the videogame industry continues to rapidly expand and become an ever-greater recognized medium, uneducated parents and politicians will continue to blindly blame games as the cause of the world's many problems. Typically, this is also the case for the music industry, which tends to attract similar controversy with genres such as Rock, and more recently, Rap and Hip-hop. Providentially, the videogame industry has been able to go untargeted for the simple fact that it always maintained a somewhat innocuous ambiance about it.
However, now that the industry has grown into this USD 17 billion a year market and furthermore, seen an increase in the average age of the gamer, the tides have changed and the innocence that the videogames industry once held has transformed into a battle ground for politicians and lawyers. As a result, this brings us to the topic of videogame censorship.
Censorship could either be good or bad, depending on which side you are on. In the case of videogames, censorship is not necessarily a favored notion for those within the industry, for the simple fact that their career is soley based on the freedom of creative art. Even you, the fans, are affected by what happens on the censorship front as it fundamentally limits what you are allowed to enjoy. As a result, censorship is typically fought against by videogame fans and companies alike; however, there are others out there who believe that a strong regulation of videogames is needed in order for society to progress to greater principles. How much of this will we see in the future? Who and what are protecting videogames? Finally, how do other countries outside of the United States handle videogame censorship? All is now answered.
Videogames are Free Speech:
In particular, the primary reason why the United States Government has been unable to craft a strong grip on the videogame industry is because of the idea that videogames in the United States are classified as “Free Speech”. Thus because of the free speech protection, the government cannot place a ban of any sort on videogames. Grand Theft Auto IV, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Resistance 2, are all free speech practices by their respective developers and publishers. For the government to say that Konami cannot develop a game such as Metal Gear Solid 4 is to say that you or I are not allowed to wear particular brands of clothes or drive certain cars. It is because of the insight of free speech that the videogame industry has not been crumbled by the government.
Since only a small amount can be done to have any lasting impact on this market, many politicians are grouping together to think of creative ways to damage the industry. In Wisconsin, Senator Jon Erpenbach proposed a 1% sales tax on videogames and consoles to fund rehabilitation programs for juvenile delinquents. In New Mexico, the “Leave No Child Inside Act” proposes a 1% excise tax on videogames, consoles, and TVs to fund outdoor education programs for children. The Bill is currently before the House Business & Industry Committee.
US Government v. Videogames:
The videogame industry and the United States Government have had a nice diminutive history between one another. I would like to describe it as a Tweety Bird vs. Sylvester the Cat or Road Runner vs. the Coyote type relationship where one is constantly trying to take down the other but always seems to fail. This analogy is essentially the videogames industry vs. the US Government. It must be noted that whenever a family values group, parents, or the government has tried to attack the industry, the courts has almost always ruled in favor of the videogames market. This is why I brought up the cartoon examples, because for the most part, Sylvester and the Coyote never really got what they wanted, despite their greatest efforts. Just how long is this immunity going to last? With this year being an election year, all the candidates will try to impress various sides of the coin with their stance on regulation of videogame content. Some are decidedly more lenient than others, but no matter what their stance is, this year’s election holds a ... (continued on next page)