In news that is sure to blow the minds of many in the game playing community, Activision Blizzard and, notably, its CEO Bobby Kotick (more commonly known for incensing gamers with his ‘business over fun’ philosophy) have recently joined the pre-hearing proceedings in the hotly-discussed Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) court case. The case seeks to challenge a 2005 California ruling that restricts the sale of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18. The two principal arguments against the 2005 ruling are that firstly video games are no more likely to encourage violent behaviour in children than any other media; and secondly the criteria used to classify a video game as violent are so vague and ill-considered that games such as Super Mario Bros. – a title enjoyed by children and teenagers for almost three decades – falls within its titles to be restricted.
Whatever your opinion of Activision Blizzard and its often controversial president, the addition of such a massive name within the entertainment industry is a great boon for those seeking to overturn the unpopular 2005 bill. Despite being opposed by a federal judge on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, the bill was brought into effect with the support of only 11 out of 50 American States. With id Software, The Cato Institute and a number of other scientific and civil liberties groups already rallying around the EMA, Kotick & Co have joined a growing number of organisations in filing an amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court brief. An amicus curiae is where someone not directly involved as a party in a court case voluntarily submits information to assist the court in making its decision.
Kotick states that in 219 years, the U.S First Amendment has endured despite the progress of society and technology, and that to change the rules now in order to take away the enjoyment of legally certified entertainment from people under a certain age is “beyond absurd”. He also argued for greater parental understanding and more strict enforcement of the existing rating system for games, which should be keeping unsuitable titles out of the hands of younger audiences in the first place. Apart from the bill being unreasonable, Kotick argues, the people who support it don’t appear to know exactly what they are trying to enforce, or even how they plan to enforce it.
Obviously, Activision Blizzard has a vested interest in seeing laws such as this one overturned. A cynic might say that one of Activision’s recent success stories, Modern Warfare (4.7 million sales in the first day of release) might not have done nearly so well without the supposedly lax attitude of parents towards buying their young teenagers the game. No doubt many of Kotick/Activision’s detractors will remark on that when they hear of the software giant’s involvement in this case. All the same, those capable of rational thought should be able to look past their long-cultivated antipathy and realise that big names such as Activision Blizzard are a great way of getting attention for cases like this, which might ordinarily have gone unnoticed by the game-playing masses had it been championed by enlightened scientists and civil liberty experts alone.