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Violent games are free speech

American kids have constitutional right to amputation, decapitation, mutilation and maiming

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Last year the American city of Indianapolis introduced a new law which required arcade owners to keep their most violent and sexually explicit games seperate from other machines, and to clearly label them as suitable for adults only. Any under-age children wanting to play one of these marked games would need parental consent. Bizarrely though an American court ruled that the law was unconstitutional on the grounds that kids have a First Amendment right to play these games. We're not quite sure how playing Mortal Kombat can be interpreted as free speech or freedom of expression, but there you go - America is weird like that. Indianapolis then took the case to the US Supreme Court, arguing that the earlier ruling against them meant that "a seven-year-old boy has a constitutional right to play hard-core, graphically violent video games in an arcade without his parents' consent". Clearly this is a ridiculous situation, but apparently America's top judges don't see it that way. Yesterday they upheld the appeals court decision without giving any explanation as to why, forcing Indianapolis to go back to the drawing board. This means that American kids now have a confirmed Constitutional right to play games featuring graphic violence, which the city of Indianapolis had defined as including "'amputation, decapitation, dismemberment, bloodshed, mutilation, maiming" and other wholesome activities appropriate for young children. The arcade gaming industry had fought Indianapolis on the basis that their games deserved the same First Amendment protection that books and movies currently enjoy, accusing the city of "content-based censorship". This is pretty stupid when you stop to think about it though, as the law wasn't banning violent games, or even stopping children from playing them. It was simply putting the decision back into the hands of parents by insisting that anybody under the age of 18 had parental consent to play violent and sexually explicit arcade games, either by having a parent there to supervise them and decide which games they could play or by giving the arcade's staff a blanket consent form and abandoning the children to play anything they wanted. Sadly though it seems that in America you can win any court case, however ridiculous your position may be, simply by screaming "First Amendment". Which makes it unlikely that we will see the legal enforcement of age ratings on computer and console games in America any time soon either...

Source - Reuters

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