National Youth Rights Association Looking For Examples Of Political Speech Via Video Games

from the help-out dept

With the Supreme Court getting ready to hear the case on the constitutionality of California’s anti-violent video game law, lots of different folks are preparing their amicus briefs. The National Youth Rights Association is pointing out that most of the people involved in the case — likely all of the Supreme Court Justices and the lawyers on both sides — probably aren’t gamers. They’re looking to put together an amicus brief that shows how video games have important social, artistic and political value — and so they’re asking gamers to help out with some suggestions and examples of finding value in these sorts of games. I figured that a number of the folks in the community here might be able to help out…

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Comments on “National Youth Rights Association Looking For Examples Of Political Speech Via Video Games”

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Matt Bennett (profile) says:

First Case: Bioshock. Examines (and mocks, I think somewhat unfairly) the philosophies of Ayn Rand and capitalism and libertarianism.

Red Faction: Examines the case of an oppressed colony (not much different than India or the U.S.) and the case for violent revolt.

Mirrors Edge: Haven’t played this one, but ti examines a fascist future world where many things are banned and freedoms are few, yet everything is clean and bright.

InFamous: Straight up examines the responsibilities of Power, very similarly to the Spiderman comics.

Matt Bennett (profile) says:

Portal: Questions laboratory testing

Half-Life: A thousand political points, detailing how conspiracy and secrecy can lead to world changing social change, often for the worse if those forces are not examined and controled by the common people.

God of War: Questions the value of religion, and when mortals reach the powers of divinity.

I would go so far as to say, as a (newly) mature expressive art form. MOST games make a political statement, same way as most movies. Sure, you get the inane violence porn, but that’s actually the exception and indicates a bad game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Half-Life 2: player finds himself, in first-person perspective, in a totalitarian regime where everyone is under constant surveillance, electronic locks keep people in as well as out, forced relocations are commonplace, and guarded checkpoints separate neighborhoods. And people are disappearing and there are other … disturbing … changes going on.

Then you find yourself being hunted by this regime.

And then you help kick its ass.

Anonymous Coward says:

Many japanese games examine the necessity of living in harmony with nature, albeit through fantastic and often incomprehensible parables. This could be construed as political.

Final Fantasy 4 stars a conscientious objector.

You should be able to find a number of games which emphasize the necessity of waging war with honor, as this is constructed almost purely from stock characters. The starcraft terran scenario might be an example.

Admittedly, in this area, video games are all rather pathetic compared to literature, but that’s not to say they shouldn’t be protected. They can may reach a different audience or complement writing’s reach on the same one. To give up on video games now may be to abort something which isn’t yet even born. Even though my examples are older, the writing and scenarios in interactive games have got sophisticated enough just within the past few years to begin to be taken seriously.

BillDivX says:


Almost every GTA game includes examples of corrupt politicians, mostly parody of real world events. GTA San Andreas also primarily centered around commentary on the war on drugs and gangs, and it featured corrupt cops and federal agents, and area 51. The series has even touched on terrorism, imperialistic tendencies in the US government, and the ongoing feud (and lack of coordination) between CIA and FBI.

As far as purely artistic goes, I could recommend Zelda, Halo, and Metroid: Prime, for their detailed storylines. Development of the main, and secondary characters, as well as the elaborate creation of fantasy worlds and fantasy species, are the very definition of artistic storytelling. All three are also graphically artistic, often setting backdrops that are realistic, but at the same time represent a highly stylized vision. And finally, all three make social commentary on war, the struggles of good vs. evil, religion, etc.

Or how about the old series “Syndicate” which was primarily a commentary about the dangers of corporate influence (and eventual takeover) in government, along with all the social and moral implications of that.

This is just scratching the surface. Pikmin is such a strange and unique visionary piece of work, that it’s hard NOT to call it artistic. Same with many of the RPGs like Final Fantasy. That level of detail in an imagined world, with such unusual imagined characters and creatures, would, on it’s own be enough to call any book, TV show, or movie “art”, so why not a video game?

Again with technology. The number of games set in the future, with imagined future technologies, is staggering, and those imagined technologies will probably have a heavy influence on real tech one day. One only has to look at movies and shows of the past, like star wars and star trek to see the potential for that kind of cultural impact to occur. Mech Warrior and Metroid both have examples of human exoskeleton “battle suits”, and every space game includes futuristic laser and energy weapons, just like all the space movies, books, and shows in the past half century, which have contributed significantly to the interest and motivation of real world laser research.

Maybe have a look at Animal Crossing. It’s almost purely an exercise in social and community behavior.

Online Multi-player modes in most games today, and especially MMOs, are considered primarily a social venue by players.

And finally, lets not forget the all important, and yet often overlooked, not just in games, but shows and movies…Music. The music alone can make a movie artistic, and movie soundtracks have had significant social impact. Similarly, the best of video game music is a cultural phenomenon. Video game music has inspired real bands, inspired real songs, even been sampled countless times. The number of people walking around with a video game melody as their cell-phone ring tone is probably at least 7 figures.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Everywhere

I should also mention that games devoid of all XYZ value (let XYZ = politics or moral or anything else) are perhaps necessary components of the artistic corpus simply because we need some junk food to keep things in perspective. It is very dangerous to propose that we only eat/watch/read/listen to what is good for us. Without absorbing a spectrum of experiences, we have no sense of perspective or balance.

How would you expect kids to take games seriously if they are all preachy un-fun wastes of time? If you want an example, look at how literature is taught to many students by using boring stuffy books of value only to intellectual elites and how much our kids love reading. The kids can play whatever they want to play and listen to whatever they want to listen (haha but not in theory, amirite?) , but they are worn out by reading hyperliterary garbage. You want to spread that to other artistic disciplines?

Nelson Cruz (profile) says:

Re: Everywhere

“GTA San Andreas also primarily centered around commentary on the war on drugs and gangs, and it featured corrupt cops and federal agents, and area 51.”

I second that. Also the “talk radios” and the ads on the radio have some of the best social commentary I have ever seen. I still quote two of those ads with my friends sometimes. Plus, the game character got fat if you had him eat to often at fast food places and didn’t exercice!

It’s one my favorite games of all time. GTA IV tried, but did not match it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not much of a ‘violent’ game player, but I played Silent Hill 2, which is a nightmarish environment, but the whole plot of the thing is for a man to find and reunite with his wife, to rescue her. That game is not rated for kids.

Otherwise, I’ve played the heck out of the Sims games, and they are primarily about consequences of your sims’ actions (moreso when you’re telling them what actions to take or not take). Don’t feed ’em, they die. Don’t provide facilities, they soil themselves. Don’t let them sleep, they faint. Don’t give them skills, they can burn the house down. Don’t place a phone or smoke alarm, complete destruction and loss of sim lives. Don’t send them to work, they’re fired. Don’t pay bills, repo man shows up. Don’t care for the kids, social worker comes. Don’t let them socialize, they pine. Don’t do homework or go to school, get a bad grade. And on and on.

There are also integral time, reward, and money management aspects.

And relationship management: It’s not a really violent game, but sims can become furious with each other and, if the relationship continues to deteriorate (sims continue to bug the crap out of each other), physical altercations occur. There’s also face-slapping in jealous fits of rage when a sim in a committed relationship is caught cheating.

Certain snarky sims will lecture others for breaking the computer or clogging the toilet, or run across town to angrily confront someone for using a telescope to peep on them.

Oh, and if your sim doesn’t tidy up the dishes and pizza boxes, it could meet its end with the extremely rare death by flies.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

> but the whole plot of the thing is for a man to find and
> reunite with his wife

Spoilers about Silent Hill 2 …

but Silent Hill 2 is about a man who killed his wife. She was suffering and he put a pillow over her head. Then he spent years in a personal hell trying to decide if he did the right thing. This is one of the most powerful videogames ever made.

… Spoilers end

– Saint’s Row 2 had a story and cinematography that was on par with any action movie I’ve seen.

– Eternal Darkness is one of the best Cthulhu games made.

– Heavy Rain is probably the best current example of a video game with a story that rivals most movies (even though it ripped off Se7en).

– My wife was totally in love with Alistair from Dragon Age and to this day complains that I didn’t end up married to him (I played through as a female character for her).

It is sad that we’ll have to wait until all these old f**kers in politics and journalism die before we can have a new videogame come out and the reviews just focus on the content of the game, and there isn’t some accompanying piece about “videogames linked to violence” or other nonsense. I don’t see any commentary about The Expendables, which is at least as violent as GTA IV. (In fact, most reviews mention how The Expendables is _less_ violent than Rambo.)

Anonymous Coward says:

RTS(Real Time Strategy) are good to teach people why some things happen even when they don’t directly know it.

You have to gather resources and defend yourself all the while trying to acquire more space it faithfully represents what happened in the cold world and shows people exactly why it happened.

0 A.D. (Gorgeous open source game)

Age of Empires series.

Also it can teach about economy with very realistic results like in Ultima.

Or EVE online that allow cheating in the economy because it happens in real life and others need to learn how to deal with it.

Multiplayer games like Halo are not only about killing but about cooperation to achieve a goal (the flag), in many games you will see people working for others to strength their ranks, teaching new people new skills and fostering cooperation the killing is just a background to those social interactions and acts like a scape valve.

Also those games can stimulate curiosity not all is fiction in games they impart some knowledge of things you probably wouldn’t be exposed.
That uses Alessandro Volta as a vilain that controls electricity.

Karateka was a beautiful game.

Survival horror games are just fun and most use psychological themes.

Onimusha (beautiful game previewing Asimo which at the time didn’t do much and actually does have a story )

Alone in the dark
Parasite EVE
Resident Evil
Silent Hill(Considered the scariest video game of all times)

Some people just like a good fright.

Anonymous Coward says:

Any appeal to the Supreme Court on a First Amendment issue is an uphill battle for a state intent on imposing a content based legal sanction. Given that the district and appellate courts appear to have uniformly applied First Amendment precedent to strike down portions of the law, I will be curious to find out what it was about this case that resulted in the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari.

Is this really a First Amendment case in the eyes of the Supreme Court, or is there another associated legal issue that it plans to address?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think someone should bring up Chess and how it was decried as the end of the world as we know it, cats and dogs living together, etc.

Ah yeah. The specific quote on that one was:

“A pernicious excitement to learn and play chess has spread all over the country, and numerous clubs for practicing this game have been formed in cities and villages. Why should we regret this? It may be asked. We answer, chess is a mere amusement of a very inferior character, which robs the mind of valuable time that might be devoted to nobler acquirements, while it affords no benefit whatever to the body. Chess has acquired a high reputation as being a means to discipline the mind, but persons engaged in sedentary occupations should never practice this cheerless game; they require out-door exercises–not this sort of mental gladiatorship.”

ArcticChill (profile) says:

The Government Is Guilty of Violent Video Games

I’m not a console gamer and it seems to me that most of the games wanting to be banned are of that genre, I would point you all to two PC games endorsed by the US Government.

Both games developed with the US Government’s permission and or endorsement. So how can a State rule that violent video games are illegal when the Federal body says it’s ok?

PS – I’m not an american citizen

KPalicz (user link) says:

Re: Re:

This is exactly the worry. If the court was strongly leaning toward declaring the law unconstitutional it would have just let the lower court ruling stand. The fact they are hearing the case suggests they may be looking to overturn the lower courts (and thus uphold the California law).

That is why we are concerned and need as much help with this case as possible. This is our only shot, if they rule against us, a pandora’s box of video game regulation will be opened.

If you have anything to add, plot descriptions, dialogue quotes, etc definitely leave it here:

Karl (profile) says:

Two points

1. It’s sad that gamers should even have to show that “video games have important social, artistic and political value.” This seems a fairly clear-cut example of free speech, which makes no such requirement.

2. Anyone else think it’s a little ironic that an action movie star is up in arms against violence in entertainment? Would he support a ban on a video game (Alien vs. Predator) that was partially based on one of his movies?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Two points

1. It’s sad that gamers should even have to show that “video games have important social, artistic and political value.” This seems a fairly clear-cut example of free speech, which makes no such requirement.


2. Anyone else think it’s a little ironic that an action movie star is up in arms against violence in entertainment? Would he support a ban on a video game (Alien vs. Predator) that was partially based on one of his movies?

Agreed again.

Adam (profile) says:

Ahh, the evil videogames

I always thought that video games are the next evolutionary step up from reading books. When I read a book, I’m imagining what is going on. I am an invisible spectator, with no control over the story. With video games, I have as much control as the developers allow me. The story still gets told, but I get to have some say in what happens and when (depending on the game, obviously).

How about Mass Effect? Your choices in the first game have consequences in the second. Politics, genetic modifications, the rights of AI to exist, speciesism, sexuality, nobility, selfishness, all of these show up depending on how you play the game.

Charles (profile) says:

Art is hard to define, but beautiful in practice

Many recent games are stunning in terms of the things they represent. Little Big Planet is unique in the free flow of challenges requiring the player to build his, or her, own solution regardless of outside influences.

Art is by its very nature transient to a specific population, and cannot really be defined clearly, since it is truly in the eye of the beholder.

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