Last Friday, the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter to the Paterson Free Public Library in Paterson, New Jersey, to protest a new policy that bans the playing of certain video games, in particular first-person shooters, on library computers. CBLDF is one of the organizations that signed the letter, which argues that the video games are protected by the First Amendment and cannot therefor be censored by officials at the library.
The letter takes library officials to task for subscribing to the same unsupported views that led to video game bans in Massachusetts, a presidential recommendation and proposed bill mandating research on video games and violence, and the fallacious claim by one senator that video games are a “bigger problem” than guns. NCAC writes in their letter:
The library has not offered any sound justification for removing access to specific games. Instead, according to published reports, librarians are taking this action to “prevent our kids from learning these behaviors.’’ This assumes that viewers will simply imitate behaviors represented in fictional settings without any independent mental intermediation, a proposition that is palpably false and that the library implicitly rejects by offering access to all sorts of internet sites and maintaining a varied collection of books, magazines, videos and other materials.
The letter further points out that the library is not allowed to selectively ban access to printed materials that are protected by the Constitution, so they cannot do so with video games. Further, library officials are not allowed to remove protected materials simply because they do not like them.
The entirety of the letter follows below. The ban on first-person shooter games in the Paterson library is concerning because the games are constitutionally protected and the ban sets a precedent that could expand to other materials, including comic books. Further, the ban is based on the unsupported idea that violent video games cause violent behavior. The library officials’ attempt to justify the ban by arguing they are acting in parents’ best interest is a fallacy because officials cannot know the wishes of all parents in the community nor are they obligated to act as babysitters. Further, the ban applies to patrons of all ages, including adults, thus violating their First Amendment rights.