One of the most unique and memorable voices in the world of games right now is Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, the man behind The Escapist video column Zero Punctuation. His rapid-fire game critiques are witty, vulgar, and occasionally charged with political commentary. He clearly believes in the power of social expression in games.
It's not surprising, then, that the Entertainment Software Association recruited the 27-year-old Australian to create a public service announcement (see sidebar video) for the Video Game Voters Network, an American lobbying group designed to unite gamers who support freedom of speech in games and stop the regulation of games in the U.S.
Though more or less devoid of his trademark obscenities (he couldn't resist throwing in a posterior joke near the end), Croshaw's video message puts forth an entertaining and common sense argument for government regulators to treat games the same way they treat books and movies.
However, it might be fair to ask: Why tap Croshaw's distinctive oratory stylings right now?
Well, aside from this being an election year for our neighbours to the south, the Supreme Court also received written arguments earlier this month from the ESA on California Assembly Bill No. 1179, which seeks to fine people caught selling "violent video games" to consumers under the age of 18. Oral arguments are slated for November.
The bill, created by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, had already been defeated in lower courts, but the Supreme Court exercised its right to review and hear the case. If the Supreme Court justices side with the state, then retail store managers could be fined $1,000 each time their store is caught selling games to minors. What's more, other states would have the ability to create similar legislation.
Croshaw isn't the only member of the media speaking out against the bill. Journalists from game and technology outlets such as Ars Technica have professed support for the ESA's position as well, stating that the industry already regulates itself via the ESRB and pointing out that it's not just the ESA that's against the bill, but also hundreds of other organizations and experts, ranging from the Motion Picture Association of America to the American Booksellers Foundation to scores of scientists and medical professionals.
It's serious stuff with potentially far-reaching ramifications. While Canadian gamers wouldn't be immediately affected if the Supreme Court sides with California, restricting game sales could conceivably cause publishers to alter the content of their games so as to avoid meeting whatever criteria the government establishes for a game to be labeled "violent" and unsuitable for players aged 18 or under.
Do you think Croshaw has picked the right side to back? Would you like to see federal or provincial governments try to pass similar legislation banning the sale of violent games to minors in Canada? Register your opinion in the poll in the sidebar.