The video game industry scored one for free speech recently when it convinced the South Australian government to remove misleading anti-video game billboards. Despite research to the contrary, these billboards attempted to claim that video games are are a gateway to gambling. These billboards contained clever statements such as “GAMBLING starts with GAMES.” While this is a victory in stopping the defamation of video games and their creators, video game censorship remains a big issue for free speech in Australia.
In December, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) joined the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (IGEA) in order to help combat the anti-game propaganda that was being spread by the billboards. When the government announced that they would be removing these billboards, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill did acknowledged that the campaign contradicted research that had been performed on the topic. With this win under its belt, the IGDA issued this statement calling for the end of video game censorship. It states in part:
We also call on the Australian government to finally end their failed policy of censoring video games. The Australian government is wrong to treat Australian adults like children by forbidding games. To the Australian government’s credit, they have begun to dismantle their game censorship regime. However, it still remains the worst in the Western world and continues to violate the free speech rights of both game developers and the Australian voters. It’s time for Australia to join the rest of the free world by finally rejecting video game censorship.
Video game censorship hits close to home with the CBLDF because of how closely it mirrors the attacks on the comic book industry in the 1950s. Despite groundbreaking decisions like Brown v. EMA, which awarded First Amendment protection to video games and cited CBLDF’s amicus brief detailing the similarities between attacks on video games and comics books, video games are still being attacked. They have both been blamed for corrupting youth and being the cause for violence and practically everything else under the sun. As an article from CBLDF’s resident comics censorship historian Joe Sergi highlights, Australia has a particularly extreme history of censorship as a result of one bad seed in the comic industry. This was a big victory for free speech for Australia, but there is still a battle ahead to maintain the free expression rights of video games.
Eric Margolis is a 3L at St. John’s Law School who wishes to pursue a career in Entertainment / Intellectual Property law. You can contact him at EricMargolis310@gmail.com!