Elena Kagan has just completed her first full year as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. When Aspen Daily News Online asked her what she felt the most challenging case of the last year was, she stated that it was the recent California Video Game Law that gave her the most trouble.
It was the case where I struggled most and thought most often I’m on the wrong side of it. You could see why the government would have wanted to do this and you can see the kind of danger it was worried about, the kind of effects these extremely violent video games have on young people.
Kagan eventually joined the side denouncing the law as unconstitutional, citing that the right to free speech is one of her main issues. She said that the other justices share this outlook, stating:
I think what you have to say, and people have been saying this, is this is a court that is extremely protective of the First Amendment and extremely protective of speech. There is no question the court has a very expansive view of the First Amendment.
In many ways, Kagan’s struggles with the case highlight the tumultuous atmosphere surrounding public opinion of video games. Game design theorists such as Jane McGonigal write about the expressive and educational power of games, with McGonigal arguing in her book,Reality is Broken, that games have the power to “change the world.” However, the general population is less convinced, if the California Law’s mere existence is any indication. Leland Yee, the original writer of the bill, has been quoted as saying that he very diligently monitors the content of his own children’s video games, going so far as to require that their TV’s face their doors in their bedrooms as they play. While in an age when a lot of violent mature games are on the market, parents can learn from his willingness to be so educated on what his kids are playing, Yee still demonstrates the view that video games are bad for you and should be banned.
Overall games are making a lot of headway when it comes to government consideration. Earlier this year, the National Endowment for the Arts amended their standards for earning government grants to include video game projects. Along with the Supreme Court’s decision, games are doing pretty well. However, it may be a while before games are more widely considered to be a worthwhile past time by the general public. If game designers like McGonigal are to be believed, games could be incredibly important elements of humanity’s future, so it is up to us already in the gaming lifestyle to be ambassadors of the medium. That way, we’ll be ready to rally against whatever scary new medium our kids like.
Source: Aspen Daily News Online