June 27th, 2018 will mark the seventh anniversary of the US Supreme Court's decision in Brown(originally Schwarzenegger) v. Entertainment Merchants Association(EMA) & Entertainment Software Association(ESA). A quick reminder of what SCOTUS led by the late Justice Antonin Scalia ruled and made the law of the land in the United States:
-Video games are free speech under the First Amendment
-Video games can NOT be treated differently than any other form of entertainment like movies, TV, or music under the Fourteenth Amendment
-Fake "violent" content in all forms of entertainment is exempt from US obscenity laws, thus can NOT be treated the same as sexual content
-People under 18 have a First Amendment right to view free speech with or without parental permission as long as the material in question is not judged to be obscene
In previous Brown v. EMA anniversary posts, I posted about:
- how the video game industry left it up to the gaming community in debating fake "violent" video games against the news media & the so-called parent advocacy groups, leaving us gamers high & dry in the process (Two part post in 2013)
- how the gaming community started fighting amongst ourselves during Gamergate (2015)
- how the ship sailed on legislation against fake "violent" video games because of the SCOTUS decision, the entertainment industry having the video game industry's back, fake "violent" content in entertainment not being the major issue it once was, politicians having bigger issues to worry about, & the virtual impossibility of overturning a SCOTUS decision or amending the US Constitution (Two part post in 2016)
- how the mainstream corporate legacy tabloid trash news media shifted its focus away from fake "violent" video games and towards the internet and especially YouTube because they've become the bigger threat to the media conglomerates' bottom line (Last year)
I've probably mentioned before that GamePolitics.com founder Dennis McCauley once posted a theory he had about the media's coverage of mass shootings and its relationship to video games. The theory is that if a mass shooter turns out to be younger than 30 years old, the more likely the news media and the politicians will scapegoat fake "violent" video games. Even though the average age of a person playing video games is currently around 35 years old.
After two major school shootings about three months apart earlier this year(the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day and the shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas around the Houston/Galveston area on May 18th), that theory has come to pass. Politicians are starting to try to make fake "violent" video games an issue again, though the hysteria is being pushed much more by people on the right wing than by people on the left wing. Even then, the conservative far right are still trying to shift the false blame for mass shootings away from the guns that the far left have been equally falsely blaming.
Since the shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas last October that killed 58 people and wounded over 500(becoming the largest mass shooting ever in the United States) and the shooting at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas a month later, the far left & Z-list Hollywood celebrities have ratcheted up their false blame of guns to include falsely blaming the National Rifle Association, the largest lobbyist for gun rights in the US. Not to mention TV shows like Arrow and Supergirl have done episodes that were nothing more than pushing anti-gun propaganda.
And since the Parkland shooting, the far left have been hiding behind five scumbag students of Stoneman Douglas(calling any of those five "survivors" is an insult to the students and teachers that had to actually dodge bullets that day)*. acting no different than the Parents Television Council when they hide behind children to justify censorship of the entertainment media. I don't really see a difference between the five Parkland students and the Westboro Baptist Church. Then again, I don't see much of a difference between scumbag Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players kneeling during the playing of the US National Anthem and the Westboro Baptist Church's protests at the funerals of fallen US soldiers. But getting back on track, all both sides are really doing is nothing more than shifting the blame away from the shooters themselves.
Granted, the conservatives, the NRA, and even President Trump(hypocrite that he is with his ties to WWE) weren't just falsely blaming fake "violent" video games, they were trying to falsely blame everything other than the shooters. This was very apparent after the Santa Fe school shooting. New NRA chairman Oliver North blamed Ritalin(which is medication prescribed to younger children to treat attention deficit/hyper-activity disorders). In an appearance on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolos 2 days after the Santa Fe school shooting, Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick blamed abortion along with the usual scapegoats, making the claim that people no longer have any respect for life itself. Several conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro were blaming the news media by arguing that cable news channels were creating copycats with their coverage of mass shootings(the Santa Fe shooter allegedly studied the Columbine shooting in particular), which I've mentioned several times before starting with Roger Ebert claiming in his review of the movie Elephant that he made that same argument the day after Columbine in an interview with NBC Nightly News that producers wouldn't use because it didn't fit the narrative they wanted to push(even though Ebert & his movie reviewing partner Gene Siskel hated slasher movies like the Friday the 13th series to the point of calling for boycotts of the original Friday the 13th movie and being critical of star Betsy Palmer over her appearance in the movie). A crazy Tennessee congresswoman named Diane Black even tried to falsely blame pornography and made the asinine statement that porn was sold in every grocery store. Last time I checked, Wal-Mart didn't sell Playboy(which isn't really porn to begin with), Penthouse, or Hustler. Wait, was she talking about Cosmopolitian, Vogue, or GQ? Or even Soaps in Depth(the last soap opera magazine in existence)?
Wonder what conservatives would say if a school shooter claimed that the Bible made them shoot up their school? The Bible does have violent content in it. The conservatives(especially if they're Christian) are quick to whine about how fake "violent" video games, movies, and television shows "glorify" violence, yet they worship an organized religion that arguably just as much "glorifies" the brutal torture, death, & resurrection of its eponymous savior.
What these so-called conservatives fail to realize is that if it is not fair to falsely blame guns and the NRA for mass shootings, then it is equally not fair to falsely blame fake "violent" video games and movies for those same mass shootings. While I support the 2nd Amendment like these conservatives, I don't believe that the 2nd Amendment trumps the 1st Amendment in any way(pun completely intended). I don't believe that we should be sacrificing our 1st Amendment rights at the altar of the 2nd Amendment.
As I've mentioned before, it has been pointed out that older people, especially Baby Boomers, were more likely to believe that bullshit theory of fake "violent" media 'causing' real-world violence than younger people do, especially people that grew up playing video games like Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. However, the news media focuses more on those older people(the median age of the average viewer of a cable news channel like Fox News, CNN, & MSNBC is over 60 years old), while the entertainment industry focuses more on younger audiences with more disposable income, specifically in the 18-to-49 year old range. Even though, as I've also pointed out before, younger people are shifting away from television towards the internet and YouTube.
Even with President Trump and the US Department of Education's committee on school safety trying to falsely blame fake "violent" video games for the recent school shootings, what exactly are they expecting to accomplish? The US Supreme Court basically slammed the door on any attempt at legislation and as I've pointed out recently, if Trump thinks the US Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage was "settled law" in his eyes, then the US Supreme Court's decision that fake "violent" video games are protected free speech under the 1st & 14th Amendments is also settled law.
I even think the US Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. EMA would strike down any attempts to tax fake "violent" video games like some idiot politician in Rhode Island suggested after the Parkland shooting(it isn't the first time some blistering idiots have suggested such a "sin tax" and probably won't be the last). Legislation that would attempt to impose such a tax on fake "violent" video games violates the 1st Amendment as it is based on both the perceived "violent" content of the game and what the government defines as "violence" and not the sale of the game(which is already being taxed through regular federal, state, and local sales taxes), and it also violates the 14th Amendment as it only targets video games and not movies, TV show box sets, music, or even books(especially the Bible and the Quran).
Recently, Valve pulled a game called Active Shooter from Steam, although it wasn't necessarily because of the content of the game in question, but because the guy offering the game was known to be a troll.
The game drew controversy and media attention because the game was about a fictional school shooting and kind of like multiplayer games where you could choose to play either as standard military or as a terrorist, in this game, you could choose to play as the SWAT team or as the school shooter.
My take on this subject is simple. First, Steam should never have pulled the game off the platform to begin with. Just because something is in poor taste does not mean that it shouldn't exist. I've pointed out before that any publicity is good publicity even if it is bad publicity. I said numerous times before that if Jack Thompson didn't complain about Bully so much and call it a "Columbine simulator" when there was no information about the game at the time(and when there was, it turned out that there were no guns in the game other than one that fired potatoes and the game itself was really nothing more than a modern-day version of Dennis The Menace), it probably wouldn't have sold as well as it did and probably wouldn't have gotten a re-release called "Scholarship Edition" a few years later.
Second, how are video games expected to mature as an entertainment medium and as high art(video games are already a form of art to begin with) if certain subject matter is forbidden of the industry? We need to quit acting like video games are somehow only for kids when adults play video games just as much or even more than people under 18 do. YouTuber Liana Kerzner pointed out in videos after the Parkland shooting that were critical of President Trump's stance on video games that more adult women play video games today than teenage boys do. Because it's getting close to 50 years since Pong's commercial release, more people have grown up playing video games over the last three generations and I think it's safe to assume that parents are buying the games just as much for them as they are for their own children.
Lastly, if a TV show, whether they're older shows like One Tree Hill or NUMB3RS or current shows like Chicago PD, Blue Bloods, Hawaii Five-0, or Riverdale**, can use a school shooting as a plotline for an episode, then a video game should be able to do the same.
The people that did the most whining about the Active Shooter game are the same people that have profitted or are currently profitting off the deaths of their loved ones in school shootings or other mass shootings(for example, Columbine victim Rachel Scott's family had a religious movie made about her). I find that to be more reprehensible than a fake "violent" video game exploring a school shooting.
Although this started before the two major school shootings, an idiot politician in Hawaii made news in recent months by pushing for legislation against lootboxes in video games because people complained about them in the game Star Wars Battlefront 2.
A lootbox is basically a package you get that contains random items(gee, it sounds almost like it's no different than opening a treasure chest in a role playing game). What makes this issue different from the idiot politicians whining about the fake "violent" content in video games is that this particular idiot from Hawaii is trying to claim that buying a lootbox is somehow a form of "gambling".
Recently, WVUE Fox 8 in New Orleans did a story about the lootboxes, and a law professor at Tulane University basically made the same argument I made to Razorfist on Twitter when he posted a video about Belgium passing a law against lootboxes. If buying a lootbox in a video game is "gambling", then so is buying a pack of baseball cards. You know you're getting baseball cards, but you don't know which players you're getting in that pack. Buying a bag of Starburst is also "gambling". You know you're getting Starburst, but you don't know how many pieces there are in the bag or how many pieces of each of the four flavors is in that bag. Maybe there's more cherry Starburst in the bag than strawberry Starburst, maybe there's more lemon Starburst than orange Starburst.
In fact, anything you do in life is a gamble. When you cook a meal, you're gambling that the ingredients you use are fresh and that you're cooking the meal at the right temperture. When you drive a car whether it's to work, school, a dinner date, a movie theater, or even the grocery store, you're gambling that the car doesn't break down or that you don't get hit by another car(especially when distracted driving has become a bigger issue than driving under influence of drugs or alcohol***).
Hell, going to school is now a gamble since you don't know if one of your classmates or an outsider will snap one day and turn your school into the next Columbine or the next Sandy Hook. But that's now become the new normal. I think it's fair to say that school shootings are now part and parcel of living a free society if idiots like London mayor Sadiq Khan and French President Emmanuel Macron expect us to believe that Islamic terrorism is part and parcel of living in a free society(which in itself is highly ironic on Khan's part since the United Kingdom has become a totalitarian police state in the last several years as British law enforcement & British politicians care way too much about what British citizens say on social media than about either the Muslim rape gangs roaming British streets because the officers & politicians are afraid of looking like "racists" or the fact that London now has a higher crime rate than New York City).
It appears to me that the whole controversy over lootboxes in video games is nothing more than politicians looking for a different reason to regulate sales of video games since the US courts including the US Supreme Court struck down every attempt by individual states to regulate sales based on the "violent" content in the games.
It also comes off looking like that Hawaiian moron wants to redefine what gambling means. So what is gambling? It's putting money down to attempt to win more money. Comparing buying a lootbox in a video game to playing a slot machine at a casino, playing in the World Series of Poker, betting on the Super Bowl or the Kentucky Derby, buying a Powerball ticket, or even buying a scratch-off ticket is like comparing apples to uranium.
If the lootboxes involved more real money(for example, paying $10 for a chance at making $100 in real money), then the argument that it's a form of gambling would make more sense. However, if the lootboxes are only offering random items or even in-game currency that can only be used within that particular game(for example, Simoeleons in a Sims game, Munny in a Kingdom Hearts game, Zenny in a Capcom game), then that doesn't fit the definition of gambling.****
All I can say is keep fighting the good fight. Even though it seems like the politicians are trying to make it an issue again, they come off looking stupid when us gamers point out the cold hard facts the politicians don't want the public to know about. Because the politicians should face the facts that fake "violent" video games were not and never were a problem to begin with. The real problem is the lack of parental involvement in their children's lives and the lack of respect for personal responsibility and personal accountability in society.
*-Has anyone else noticed that you hear far more from the Parkland students(to the point of violent physical illness) than from the Santa Fe students. But it couldn't be because those dumbass Parkland students are more anti-gun than the Santa Fe students were, right? Nah..............
**- I know Riverdale hasn't done a school shooting episode yet(though they've had violence at Riverdale High and there was a reference to Jughead threatening to burn down the elementary school because of bullies as a kid), but I don't think the other shows I've referenced have either. I'm just using current shows as an example to point out a double standard.
***-With more states decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana for recreational use & for medical purposes, it isn't just drunk driving people have to worry about, but people driving stoned. Not to mention that with the issue with opioids, people could be driving under the influence of those drugs as well. Maybe it's time for Mothers Against Drunk Driving to change their name to Mothers Against Impaired Driving? Or even spin a organization off of MADD that focuses on other forms of driving while impaired if MADD hasn't done that already?
****-This doesn't take into account that the US Supreme Court recently legalized sports betting in every state, overturning a federal law that limited the practice to only in Nevada. That decision may play as much of or a bigger factor into attempts to legislate lootboxes in video games than the decision in Brown v. EMA would.