Video Games, the Supreme Court and You: An Internet Petition Actually Worth Signing

Video Games, the Supreme Court and You: An Internet Petition Actually Worth Signing (photo)

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There’s a conceptual conflict in the way that video games get framed in the cultural conversation: either they’re products thrown out in the consumer marketplace or they’re works in a creative medium.

That divide has framed much of the debate about the effects of violence portrayed in video games, which in turn has resulted in a governing body with a division dedicated to ratng the content found in games. The organizations in question–the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Entertainment Software Review Board-do similar work to the MPAA or RIAA, in that there’s a blend of promoting awareness and self-policing that happens under the auspices of each. But, because video games are so scaaary, the trust given to other mediums isn’t enough.

Sensationalistic reportage and political discussion about the psychological effects of playing video games has been around since the days of “PONG.” Recently, though the pressure for elected officials to “do something about it” has reached a fever pitch. When California State Senator Leland Yee was a State Assemblyman earlier in the decade, he authored California Assembly Bills 1792 & 1793, a bill prohibiting the sale or rental of games that portray “killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” to people younger than 18 years old. Never mind the fact that such games are clearly labeled to prevent any such sales. Never mind the fact that most retailers require ID checks for the purchase of any such games. Governor Schwarznegger signed that bill into law on October 7th, 2005.

But, less than two years later, the laws were deemed unconstitutional by U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte, for infringing on the First Amendment’s provisions for free speech. Now, that ruling’s going before the Supreme Court of the United States as the case titled Schwarzenegger v. EMA and their decision could mean game over for the law or reinstate it and give it an extra life.

So, the way that SCOTUS rules could not only affect where and to whom certain kinds of games get sold, but also the cultural understanding of what games mean and how that meaning is allowed to grow. If California Assembly Bills 1792 & 1793 get upheld, then video games will essentially be outside the category of protected free speech. That’s the same kind of categorization that’s protected books, movies, music and most any kind of artistic endeavor. A ruling in favor of Yee’s bills could create a chilling effect that not only effects the selling of video games, but would narrow the kind of content that creators would feel confident in addressing in their games.

Look, it’s pointless to argue whether a “Grand Theft Auto” game is making the world a better or worse place. Let the loudest voices on either side of that debate shout themselves hoarse. The larger concern is the way that this decision could undercut the right of a “GTA”-style game to even exist. The idea that such a judgment could come from minds that, though sharp, aren’t familiar with the video game medium is frightening.

With that in mind, the Entertainment Consumers Association (which isn’t affiliated with the ESA) is drafting an amicus brief. The ECA’s asking for gamers, free speech advocates and other interested parties to sign the digital petition that will be included in the amicus brief. The deadline to sign the petition is midnight tomorrow night. You can get more information at their site dedicated to the case: http://theeca.com/schwarzeneggervema.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.