First Amendment specialist criticizes game laws, earns my puppydog love

This article is over 16 years old and may contain outdated information

Recommended Videos

It’s not often that my coverage of gaming politics gives me something to feel good about, but when the rare moment comes, I’m more than happy to talk about it. With it being the US’ Constitution Day, it seems an apt time to talk about the words of attorney Julie Hilden, who’s position as a First Amendment specialist gives her ample weight to talk about videogames and their place in American law. With regards to the recently overturned videogame law in California, Hilden had some critical words to share.

“Simply calling video games “violent” attempts to blur reality and fiction; video games obviously are not violent in the sense, say, dogfighting is,” Hilden explained. “They depict violence, rather than actually perpetrating it.” Already she has earned about 10,000 more smart points than Jack Thompson has. I don’t think that’s ever been truly pointed out before, either, that every accusation of videogame violence has, so far, been little more than fallacy. Videogames are not violent — how can they be? They merely show violence, as Hilden said. Even if you’re the one controlling the action, it’s still far more passive than physically holding a gun and taking a real person’s life. That’s a whole world, a whole universe away from any game.

That’s not even the best part of Hilden’s critique, however. “What might seem to be innocuous shorthand, however, cloaks the need to provide evidence of a link between the violence depicted in the video games and actual violence committed by those playing the games – the very kind of evidence Judge Whyte looked for, and did not find, when he struck down the California statute.”

All I want to say to that is … thank you, Julie Hilden. Finally, a sensible voice among the reactionary madness spouted by other so-called experts. Hit the jump for more of Julie’s fine words, and make sure you thank whatever mad deity you believe in that there are at least some smart and rational people in the world.

[Thanks to Justin Donutface.] 

Simply calling video games “violent” attempts to blur reality and fiction; video games obviously are not violent in the sense, say, dogfighting is. They depict violence, rather than actually perpetrating it.

Calling video games “violent,” then, is much like calling a Barbie doll “anorexic.” The real concern is that the games promote violence, and the dolls promote anorexia.

What might seem to be innocuous shorthand, however, cloaks the need to provide evidence of a link between the violence depicted in the video games and actual violence committed by those playing the games – the very kind of evidence Judge Whyte looked for, and did not find, when he struck down the California statute…

[The] “psychological conditioning” argument makes a poor fit with First Amendment law, because it tends to see us not as the First Amendment sees us – as thinkers… but as reflexive actors, responding to stimuli without conscious choice or mental mediation… No wonder, then, that the California legislature, in drafting the “violent” video game statute, borrowed heavily from the classic legal test for material that is deemed obscene-as-to-minors…

The video game statute closely tracks the Miller test’s three prongs… outside the obscenity context, Supreme Court First Amendment doctrine looks with great disfavor at government regulation of speech based on its content.


Destructoid is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy