Games Awarded Movie Status

Games Awarded Movie Status

A federal judge issued an order postponing enforcement of a Washington state law designed to restrict the sale of violent video games to minors. Even though any injunction, according to Washington state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, the Democrat who wrote the law, would only be preliminary and the case will go to trial, the move does represent a minor victory for the gaming industry. The judge gave games the same protected speech status as that enjoyed by movies and music.

The law, which was set to take effect from July 27, would have imposed a USD 500 fine on anyone who sold a video game depicting violence against law enforcement officers to minors under age 17.

The video software dealers association was opposed to the law from the start claiming it was too vague and unconstitutionally restricted the free expression of game publishers. Following the injunction, Bo Andersen, President of the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA), released the following statement:

This is a victory for the First Amendment rights of video retailers and their customers. It affirms that the government cannot restrict access to video games, even those that are -- in the court's words -- obnoxious,' just because it doesn't like the messages they contain.
While VSDA does not believe that children should be able to obtain video games that their parents determine are not appropriate for them, we are pleased that the court agrees that the solution devised by the state of Washington is arbitrary' and too broad' and likely infringes the constitutional rights of video retailers and the customers. The better solution is for the industry to continue to educate parents about video game ratings and for parents to utilize those ratings to make informed judgments about the games that they permit their children to play.

Today's ruling was on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction, which was granted and will bar enforcement of the law while the legal challenge is pending. In addition to VSDA, the other plaintiffs are the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA), the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), Hollywood Video, and the Washington Retailers Association. The lawsuit is being heard by Judge Robert S. Lasnik in the federal district court in Seattle, Washington.