As politicians get older and a new generation of policy makers take hold, video games have become a bit less of a scapegoat – some lawmakers appear to have moved on from the video game debate.
That's according to Ken Doroshow, senior VP and general counsel for the video game trade group, the Entertainment Software Association. He recently spoke at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas.
But the games industry still need to stand alert, despite the lower volume of high-profile restrictive video game legislation, he said. "There's still unfortunately a great deal of fear and prejudice that translates into bad laws," he warned game makers. "...At the end of the day, it's about your creative freedom."
Doroshow boasted about the ESA's peerless 10-0 record against restrictive video game legislation. Courts have ruled that many forms of restrictions on video game sales – such as law-enforced age restrictions and large warning stickers on game packaging – are unconstitutional, infringing on the First Amendment. Courts have ruled that video games are a form of speech on the level of books, movies and other forms of more traditional media.
One of the primary reason for the failure of game laws is that legislators have been unable to prove that video games incite violence – a common argument among game law proponents. "There is not a proven causal connection," only correlation said Doroshow. But people are still trying to support claims that video games with violent or sexual content cause bad behavior.
Lawmakers also have argued that game laws, such as ones that would make it illegal for minors to buy video games, are meant to protect the psychological well-being of youth. But Doroshow said that legislators "have to show that the supposed harms are real," something that courts say lawmakers have failed to do.
These statutes have also fallen flat because they are under-inclusive; they don't include laws for other forms of media, and are too focused on the supposed ills of video games, while leaving other forms of media with similar kinds of content out of the equation. Also, courts seem to realize that there are less restrictive alternatives to keep inappropriate games out of the hands of minors, such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board, education and parental control on game consoles.
Restrictive game legislation isn't the game industry's only hurdle, Doroshow noted. There are also cases such as the recent ESA vs. Chicago Transit Authority, in which the CTA didn't allow ads for M-rated video games on its buses, while R-rated movie ads were free and clear. "It's absurd," said Doroshow.
Courts seem to agree. In January, the ESA won a preliminary injunction against the CTA.