Activision: Violent games law chokes free speech

CEO Bobby Kotick is throwing his company's support behind the games industry in its fight to make sure minors have the right to buy violent titles.

Activision Blizzard, which is prepping the release of M-rated Call of Duty: Black Ops later this year, has joined the games industry's fight against a California law that blocks the sale of violent video games to minors.

Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Gamespot

Back in 2005, California passed a law that banned the sale of "violent and inappropriate" video games to minors. At the time, the bill was challenged by the gaming industry, which said that it violated First Amendment rights. The bill was blocked by a U.S. District Court in 2005 and again by the U.S. Appeals Court in 2009.

Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case on November 2. In preparation, Activision Blizzard has filed a "friend-of-the-court" brief to show its support for the games industry. The industry is also supported by 10 state attorneys general, Activision said.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick is outspoken about the California law.

"Our First Amendment has survived intact for 219 years amid far greater technological, historical and social challenges," Kotick said today in a statement. "The argument that video games present some kind of new ominous threat that requires a wholesale reassessment of one of our nation's most treasured freedoms, and to take that freedom away indiscriminately from an entire group of our population based on nothing but age, is beyond absurd."

Kotick added that similar attacks on the First Amendment have been leveled on "books, comics, rock 'n' roll, movies, TV and the Internet. In each case, freedom prevailed."

He also took aim at California itself and said the state should be doing its part to inform parents about the Entertainment Software Ratings Board ratings system. Every game available on store shelves has ratings based on content. They range from an "Early Childhood" rating for games considered suitable for kids 3 and older, to an "Adults Only" rating for games considered suitable only for those 18 years and older due generally to their violent or sexual nature.

The ratings do not prevent anyone from buying the titles, although most major retailers voluntarily prevent the sale of "Mature" games to minors and do not stock "Adults Only" games.

"Instead of tampering with the nation's Constitution and wasting taxpayers' money on setting forth unenforceable regulations during budgetary crisis," Kotick continued, "California could and should have adopted any number of measures and campaigns designed to ensure even higher rates of parental understanding of, and reliance on, the industry regulation system."

Of course, not everyone agrees with Kotick.

Last week, Common Sense Media, which has been a staunch supporter of the law to ban the sale of violent video games to minors, released the results of a survey that found 72 percent of adults support a bill that blocks the sale of "ultraviolent or sexually violent" video games to minors.

James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, said in a statement accompanying the survey that "parents feel that the video game industry isn't doing nearly enough to protect kids from access to the most ultraviolent games."

About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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