There is a case going through the Supreme Court over in the USA at the moment which could drastically change how games are both made, and sold on the other side of the Atlantic. It is an issue which has caused Insomniac Games boss Ted Price to express his concerns over what would happen if the law is allowed to be passed.
The law originated in California and has been passed to the Supreme Court for review. If passed, retailers would no longer be able to sell ‘violent video games’ to children.
In the UK it is illegal to sell age restricted products such as DVDs and games to people younger than the age rating, the ratings they get are decided by independent bodies like the BBFC and PEGI. On the other hand, if this law is passed it will mean that ESRB ratings could be ignored and allow, in Ted Price’s words, “completely arbitrary and vague definitions to describe what is allowed and isn’t allowed.”
This could lead to a dangerous situation whereby games are restricted to ‘Adults Only’ areas in stores, something which would cause grave damage to many developers. Ted feels that Insomniac would have to self-censor the games they create in order to keep the company in business. This wouldn’t just impact upon Insomniac, AAA titles like Call of Duty, Medal of Honour and Grand Theft Auto, to name a few, would feel the full force of this law.
The developers defence lies with the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which guarantees the freedom of expression of creative industries. If the Californian law is upheld by the Supreme Court it will lead to dangerous situation whereby those who wish to censor other forms of entertainment such as TV, films and even books will have precedent to support their arguments.
The decision that the Supreme Court will take will have far reaching consequences, and if the law is deemed legal the games industry in the US would have to undergo a radical change, and not one for the better. I am a strong opponent to censorship, whether it is in China or in video games in America. I sincerely hope the First Amendment and the video games industry win through.