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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:

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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