I remember the insanity surrounding the “Hot Coffee” scandal, where a lame sex-based mini-game had been disabled from a Grand Theft Auto game but not deleted entirely, and gamers found a way to manipulate the program to re-activate the content. Oh, the uproar! Oh the sudden surge in legislation by politicians looking to capitalize on the scandal to score “family values” points.
And oh, the chilling effect these bills and laws would have had on the industry! Especially on indies, had the laws gained traction.
Now, I’m personally a socially conservative person. I’m a religious guy. I have issues with some of the content in many games. But I don’t consider my mindset to be a political viewpoint, because I feel most of the time it is none of the government’s business. While there are certainly exceptions, in general I feel that this is the role of religion (and philosophy), not the state, brought about by persuasion rather than compulsion. And the ham-handed rules set forth by the attempts at videogame legislation by politicians who didn’t have a clue what they were attempting to regulate universally did for more “collateral damage” than any effect on the games they were specifically targeting.
So I am thrilled by this ruling. Does this mean video games are in the clear? The war is over? A lot of folks are skeptical, and I acknowledge that some people aren’t going to rest until they’ve castrated the medium. Defenders need to remain vigilant. But I think time is on our side.New media and styles inevitably come under attack, and the onslaught against video games is in direct proportion to its growth as a medium. But the longer they survive, the more the culture becomes acclimated to it. I think that most politicians will consider the cost of trying to fight or bypass the Supreme Court decision. As the Nintendo Generation becomes parents and politically active, video games become a harder and harder target. And more of our elected officials have been gamers themselves.
I hope that this decision will have a ripple effect in many other nations. But for here in the U.S., this feels like an incredibly substantial victory, and one less thing to worry about as a gamer or game developer.