I'm currently playing through the game Shadows of the Damned, a pleasant, comical trip through a demon-infested hell. Bodies line the walls for décor, mighty undead tell penis jokes, and minions explode like watermelons at a Gallagher live show. And yes, by mentioning Gallagher, I've dated myself by about 15 years.
But, regardless of how many might feel about a boss character stroking his rocket launcher (and the pun being firmly intended), it's done and it's out there, the result of two grand game designers bringing their twisted visions together. It's violent and absurd, and they had every right to make it. Come Monday, that could change.
The current battle began in the state of California, with Democratic Senator Leland Yee attempting to pass a law prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors. As in other states, it was shot down based on free speech protection. Contrary to popular belief, theaters are not required by any statute to keep kids out of R-rated films. They do so under their own discretion, much like video game stores working in tandem with the ESRB rating system. Passing a law in similar terms for video games would mean they become the only regulated mainstream entertainment product.
However, unlike those other politicians who walked away, Lee fought back, bringing the case up before the highest court in the land last year. If things go as planned, we'll know Monday what the results were when the Supreme Court makes its own call on whether such a law is constitutional.
Regardless of the outcome, it will be the last gasp of a battle that has raged for nearly 20 years since the advent of Mortal Kombat's head-ripping fatality moves. Now passe, Mortal Kombat sparked outrage from all comers, while kids flocked to arcades to see the latest death-dealing maneuver. Before that, there was a brief scuffle with Exidy's Death Race in the early '80s, parents lambasting the stick figure murder that was the height of technology.
The law comes under the guise of being "for the children," because for any politician, it's a win-win. There's nothing wrong with keeping Shadows of the Damned out of the hands of kids, but believing government intervention is more powerful than parental supervision is naive, insulting to parents even. Regardless of the SCOTUS decision, Lee looks like a champion in the eyes of older voters who likely do not understand the gaming industry, or other laws regarding entertainment. People who grew up gaming just groan and wonder how much this whole mess has cost while slapping that copy of Grand Theft Auto out of their kids' hands.
UPDATE: In a landslide 7-2 vote, the highest court in the land ruled that video games are protected speech and cannot be federally regulated. The Electronic Consumers Association released a brief statement after the announcement of the decision, stating, "We had hoped that we would see this decision, and it's been a long time coming." Yes, yes it has. More to come as additional reactions to the landmark decision come in.