Gaming Protected by the First Amendment? (

By:James Stevenson
Date: Sunday, May 12, 2002

Perhaps you missed the piece of news (I was on vacation) that hit Yahoo almost three weeks ago. The story was overlooked, but it definitely shouldn't have been. In St. Louis, a law has been passed that limits minors' access to violent or sexually explicit videogames without parental consent.

I don't have many problems with the law except for the concept of moving violent arcade games into an "adult room." But the industry did have a problem, and the Interactive Digital Software Association stepped in to fight the law. The IDSA went to court and lost... but not only did it lose, the IDSA did a poor enough job with the case that the judge set a major precedent that could be a considerable blow to the industry.

Senior U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh said in his ruling that he reviewed four different video games and found "no conveyance of ideas, expression, or anything else that could possibly amount to speech. The court finds that videogames have more in common with board games and sports than they do with motion pictures."

Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Wait a second!? Videogames convey no ideas? Expressions? Or anything that could amount to speech? What games did the IDSA let this guy play? MORTAL KOMBAT, DOOM, and DUKE NUKEM? Where is FINAL FANTASY VI??? That game dealt with so many different issues it wasn't funny: teen pregnancy, suicide, lost love, loyalty, etc. Any FINAL FANTASY game would have easily swayed the judge. Heck, the METAL GEAR SOLID games both have distinct messages about our society! How could the IDSA lawyers not show a game with a deep story? They seriously dropped the ball here.

The biggest problem is that with this ruling videogames are not protected under the first amendment. Games can be censored, games can be banned. They essentially have no artistic merit... period. Games are much more than this though; any RPG-player, or anyone that has picked up one of Miyamoto's masterpieces knows that games affect you, they dive in and can leave lasting impressions.

Videogames are not just a simple board game that is played mindlessly and never remembered. They're more than just a blood-soaked affair and about having fast fingers. Videogames become part of us, we identify with them no one will ever forget the characters, events and stories in FINAL FANTASY VI, SUPER MARIO 64, THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME, or METAL GEAR SOLID. Videogames are more related to motion pictures than any other form of interactive media out there and this is by far the biggest potential setback the industry has seen in years. Something must be corrected soon.


DEAD OR ALIVE 3 has sold one million copies worldwide, once again proving that graphics do sell games... THQ will make games based on the Pixar movie franchises... It is rumored that the Xbox and Playstation 2 will be dropped in price to $199.99 at the Electronic Entertainment Expo; an upcoming Wal-Mart ad for May 26th had the Xbox at this new price... SILENT HILL 3 has been announced for this fiscal year along with a new CONTRA game for Playstation 2... After a school shooting in Germany, the government there is attempting to ban violent videogames... GameCube sales have been very brisk in Europe, with over 50,000 units sold in one day in the U.K... Sega has signed ESPN to use its broadcasting style in Sega Sports games... 3DO has announced it will publish games for the Nintendo GameCube... Capcom's E3 showing is said to be second only to Nintendo's - that booth will be packed.



While it is a slow week due to the upcoming E3 tradeshow, LucasArts is releasing the Xbox version of STAR WARS JEDI STARFIGHTER to coincide with the release of ATTACK OF THE CLONES. If you haven't had a chance to play the PS2 version, the Xbox version may give you a little more bang for your buck.

Gamers' Thumb is our weekly Videogame column.