I had never heard of Vlambeer or Gamenauts before yesterday. I had never heard of Radical Fishing or Ninja Fishing either. Yet in a single day, both companies and both games came crashing through my browser. Why?

To make a long story short, Vlambeer made a simple little flash game called Radical Fishing. They have a following of supportive and caring fans. They released this and made some money off of it.They decided they wanted to port the game to the iPhone but with improved graphics and gameplay. However they needed money now and made a couple more games browser.

While all this happened, Another game company, Gamenauts, saw a fun game that did not have an iPhone equivalent and decided to bring a game to that market that had those mechanics. This caused an uproar among fans of Vlambeer and their games.

That is the story in a nutshell.

What makes this story interesting is the reaction from gamers and game developers. First we have the reaction from Vlambeer themselves:

We don’t want to discuss cloning and patents, because we think the only thing that matters is that we feel that what Gamenauts did is morally wrong. The worst thing is reading positive reviews complimenting the super original design of the fishing gameplay – by people who have no clue that we even exist.

What we want to do is thank everyone for speaking up without us having to ask for it.

We also have a more in depth thought from one of their partners:

Specifically the “prematurely” part of this announcement. Basically we’re announcing this news before we’re ready to because a quasi-clone of Radical Fishing has been announced for iOS. It’s called Ninja Fishing and it’s a game that appears to play exactly like Radical Fishing but includes a ninja with a sword instead of a fisherman with a gun. When we saw the footage, our hearts sank because we knew we wouldn’t get it done in time to be first-to-market. Now I don’t want to get into the larger debate of patents and all that nonsense. Game design is game design and should influence others and be built upon. I understand that everything is a remix of everything that has come before it and there is no such thing as a purely original idea if you examine it deeply enough.

So my point is not that Gamenauts is doing something illegal or that original creators should be able to lock down design with patents or other nonsense, my point is about common decency and the little guy getting fucked over by a studio that is both creatively and morally bankrupt. This kind of thing is so common today that flash developers, essentially doing R&D for anyone that cares to watch, expect this kind of excrement to rain down on them if they wait too long, furthering the anxiety of making games on your own without a safety net.

So, while both blog posts express disdain for Gamenauts’ move, neither are calling for anything bad to happen to them. Nor are they calling for increased protection from law. However, the internet community does not feel the same way.

Here on Gamasutra we have two blog posts specifically talking about this event.

In the first we have Evan Jones talking about how the move was completely unethical. This I can’t understand. The entirety of game design’s history has been chock full of wholesale copying of mechanics with more often than not only minor changes. To claim that Gamenauts acted unethically is to claim that Square, Blizzard, EA, Activision, Bungie, Sony and countless other big name and smaller name companies acted unethically when they copied game mechanics into their own games and found success.

What Gamenauts did was find a game they liked that was only available on the browser. They saw there was no similar game on the iPhone and no indication that that game was coming to the iPhone. So they used their considerable resources (as determined by a browse through their site) and made it happen. They saw an untapped market and tapped it. That is not unethical. That is good business.

The next article is by Andy Schatz and he calls for greater copyright protection of game mechanics.

I can’t back this at all. Copyright is meant to protect the expression of ideas and not the idea itself. We cannot control the idea of “fishing by dragging as many fish as possible, throwing them in the air and shooting them.” However, we can own a full game called Radical Fishing that uses that idea.

Can you imagine a world where JRR Tolkien controls the fantasy adventure or where animated animals were owned by Disney or Warner Brothers? I would not want to live in that world.

In a world where game mechanics could be copyrighted, the games industry would have completely stagnated shortly after it started. Our entire industry has thrived on the fact that game mechanics are not covered by copyright.

This is the state of the game industry. There is no reason why it should change. Did a company get beat to a market by a similar game? Yes, but that happens everyday in this industry.

We don’t need added protection through copyright or patents. We just need to suck it up and do what we do best and make games.

Last week, Ninja Theory said that story is the most important aspect of game design. This caused quite the stir in the comments that I was unable to participate in. So, I shall post my thoughts here.

First I will say that I don’t completely agree with Ninja Theory. I don’t think that story is the most important aspect of game design. But it’s importance is growing.

For me, gameplay is the most important aspect of games design. You can have the best looking, sounding game with the best story ever, but if the gameplay sucks, it will destroy any other good will it may have had with gamers.

So where soes that leave story in the ranking? Personally, I would toss it in the same level as art direction and audio. All of which falls behind gameplay.

To help explain this, I will be looking at the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why; and the H: How. Each of these is impacted by one of the main factors of games design in some way.


This is two fold. First, we have “Who will be playing the game?” This is the first question you may ask yourself when designing a game. This will often determine the type of game you make. This will also determine the controls you use in the case of platform specifics.

Next is who the player will be represented by in the game world. There will not always be a clear answer to this as the player will be some disimbodied persona that is not referneced in the game (ie Tetris, Bejewled) Yet, there will often have some kind of avatar representing the player (id any FPS, RPG)

Is it necessary for the player to have an avatar representing them in the game? No. But having one can often help the player immerse themselves in your world. Having a good story for the game can help in designing the player’s avatar.


What is the goal of the game? What is the player shooting for?

These questions can have a variety of answers ranging from “to get a high score” or “save the world”

Gameplay will often define short term goals and at times define the end goals. So for a puzzle game the short term goal will be “use the pieces to match 3 like shapes” or for an RPG “use your abilities and equipment to win the battle”

But just like with who, a story provides context for these goals. What type of enemies are you fighting? What abilities are the players going to have? What equipment?


This is a little more abstract. There are two possible ways to address this point. The first is “What is the time frame for completion of the game goals?” It is also “What is the timesetting for the game, future, past or present?”

Gameplay will always determine a time fram for completion. In racing, the goal is often to get the fastest time on a track. In a puzzle game it is to get the most amount of points in a set time.

But when you add story, you can often add to the setting of the game. So an RPG or FPS will be able to expand on the setting and provide further context to the gameplay. Story can also help define why you have given time frame. (ie the enemies have set a bomb and you have 10 minutes to escape.)


This is where the player will be spending their time while playing. Gameplay will often define the abstracts such as a gameboard or battle arena.

But just as we have seen in the other points, story expands upon those locations. So we can place the player in a variety of locations such as a Mars base, or a fantasy kingdom. Having a location also helps define the who and what of the game as it gives greater context to the player’s avatar and the enemies they fight.


This is state of mind that the player needs to be in to play the game. Why are they playing? What is their motivation. Along with What, this point helps define goals of the game. If they are playing to get the most points, why are they doing it? Are they doing so to be number one on a high score list?

It can also define those other goals such as “Why is the player fighting these enemies?” Are they doing so to take over the world, save the world, or protect their home? Having a story to define the why, you can give the player a stronger motivation to complete the goals of the game.


Finally we have how. This is the most basic aspect of game design. How will the player be interacting with the game world? I would say that this is the most important of the six points. This will be strongly defined by the game play. How will the player manipulate the peices in the game area? How will the player access the abilities of the avatar and use them on the enemies?

This is the least likely area to be strongly influenced by story as it deals mostly with input and UI.


So in the end, you can create a great game while completely ignoring story. You can create any game from a puzzle to and FPS to an RPG and completely ignore story elements. But having a story to add context to a game can provide the same or possibly greater impact of the art you put in the game.

For one last point, let’s look at one of the most successful games ever made, Madden NFL. At its very core, this is just a football game. Its gameplay is defined by the NFL rules. You can create a very good football game without needing the NFL tema names and stadium. But when you add certian story elements such as who, when and where you give the player a greater immersion into the game. This has added to the success of the franchise.

There have been other football games that did not use the NFL trademarks, but none have been as successful. It is when you provide the player the ability to select their favorite team and players and put them in familiar settings that you gain that recipe for success.

So while you can create a great game that has no story to add context to the player’s actions, and ome games don’t need it at all (ie puzzle games), adding context through even a minimal amount of story elements can greatly influence the player’s ability to enjoy the gameplay, just as art and audio does.


With the recent decision by EA to charge $10 for online play for used games, I began to wonder what is the reason for this. The conclusion I came to was a desire to create multiple revenue streams without having to create new content.

To better understand this concept, we need to look at other entertainment industries. These are Movies, Music and Books. The following examples are based on the production of a single work. (eg Movie, album, book, or game) The listed revenue streams are not all encompassing as things like licensing and product placement revenue are not listed. The listed revenue streams are the direct to consumer streams.


The video game industry most often gets compared to the movie industry due to budget, crew size and marketing. But I don’t think i have ever seen a true comparison on revenue streams though. So how does the movie industry earn their income?

Theatrical Release

When a film is released to theatres, people will pay around $10 for a single viewing. People choose to do this for the experience of seeing the film on a 50 foot screen with 30 speakers blasting sound. This experience is also useful for dating and hanging with friends. For many films the theatrical release will produce enough income to break even on expenses and start bringing in profit.

Video Release

Eventually a film will be released on video in a variety of formats. Instead of being sold in single viewing tickets, the film is now sold for lifetime home viewing. The experience is dramatically different from the theatrical release, but it is compensated for by the lifetime viewing privilege. The video release also brings with it the ability to include additional content such as deleted scenes and commentary.


In the end, the movie industry have two very different revenue streams in which the consumer is buying the same content more than once, but with vastly different experiences.


The music industry has been compared mostly to the indie game scene. Its product and market is vastly different from games though. There is still some cross over, but not as much as with movies.


With the music industry, bands have the ability to hold live performances of their music. This is a similar experience as that of a movie’s theatrical release. Again similar to movies, people buy tickets for a single concert experience. If they want to go to another concert, they must buy a new ticket.

Album Release

Bands and other musicians also have the ability to record their music for sale in a similar fashion to a movie’s video release. Such sales are for lifetime home listening. This gives the customer the ability to listen to their favorite music whenever they want. Yet, just as with movies, this experience is vastly different than the concert experience.


Just as with movies, the music industry has two very different revenue streams that do not rely on the production of new content. Yet the consumer of music is buying the same content with vastly different experiences.


Interesting enough, books are the most comparable to games when it comes to possible revenue streams. By nature books are not capable very many revenue streams in which the consumer buys the same content multiple times.

With books there is one release. The consumer will most often buy a single copy of a book once in their lifetime. Publishers have attempted to compensate by releasing books in a hardback copy first with a high profit margin and then later in paperback with a slimmer profit margin. But most often a single consumer will not buy both the hardback and paper back copies of the same book.


Books have very limited options for revenue. Since they are limited in their ability to sell the same content with different experiences as in movies and music, writers and publishers must create additional content to increase revenue.


Finally we get to games. As I said  above, this industry is less like movies and music and more like books in its limits for revenue streams. As of now, we have a single release of games. Unlike movies and music we do not have a revenue model in which we can sell single use experiences that consumers are willing to buy into.

At one time we had arcades, but those did not fall into the same model as theatres and concerts do. Most games that were released in arcades never saw a home console release as the experiences were tied directly to the arcade. Those that did see console release were often vastly different due to technology constraints of consoles. The other downfall of arcades was the inability for large groups to share in the experience as is found in movies and music.

In the end we have a single revenue source of game sales. We are making up for this with the use of expansions and DLC but we have yet seen a model in which consumers purchase the same content more than once.

So what can be done to imitate the revenue models of movies and music? Is it possible to create a revenue stream in which the consumer experiences a game in a fashion that is not the same as they get at home? I don’t think that anyone has that answer right now.

There are a lot of claims that a certain year is the year of something. The year of the PS3, the year of the mobile, etc. Many people make these claims long before anything truly remarkable happens and pretty much all of them fail to live up to their expectations. So rather than look forward and make predictions about whether a certain year will be the year of the Linux game, I am rather going to look back at the last few months and proclaim that 2012 is the Year of the Linux Game.

It seriously took a long time and a lot of trouble to get to this point. Game developers have dismissed Linux as a viable platform and have ignored the pleas of gamers for Linux support. For many years, Linux gamers have resorted to rolling their own solutions for gaining Linux compatibility in the form of emulators and compatibility wrappers. Some companies have sprung up in the past in the hopes of expanding the availability of Linux games, but have failed due to poorly thought out business strategies. So what makes 2012 so different from all the previous years?

The first step in making this year the year of the Linux game was the introduction of the Humble Indie Bundle. Originally the brainchild of Lugaru developer Wolfire Games, it made it a requirement for inclusion in the bundle to have native Linux support. This bundle has gone through five primary incarnations and numerous brand specific bundles. All of them included Linux support for the games. As a response for this inclusion, Linux gamers have paid on average far more than Windows and Mac gamers and have made up anywhere between 15 and 25% of all payments to the bundle.

Humble Indie Bundle #1 Stats
The final sales stats for the original Humble Indie Bundle.

The next major shift towards developer support for Linux gaming was Kickstarter. While Kickstarter was a lot slower on the draw for its influence on Linux gaming, it has really shown its power to shift trends in that direction. Recent high profile games such as the Double Fine Adventure, Wasteland 2 and Shadowrun Returns have revitalized the desire to not just  add Linux support as a reward for exceeding funding goals but also as a primary selling point for funding. The number of game projects on Kickstarter supporting Linux has done nothing but grow. A recent Ubuntu Forums post highlights dozens of game projects that support Linux.

Because of these successful Kickstarter campaigns promising Linux support, we have also seen a major shift in middleware providers as well. With the success of the Wasteland 2 project, Unity3d will be adding support for exporting games to Linux with version 4. This was something that developers have been requesting for several years. It is now happening because of this shift in the market. Another high profile Kickstarter game, Double Fine Adventure, has also resulted in the addition of Linux support for the growing 2D engine, Moai.

Finally, we have also seen the largest digital distribution service for games making the shift toward supporting Linux. Yes, I am talking about Steam. Valve had recently released a Mac client for the Steam platform and with it came many rumors that Linux support was in the pipeline. Earlier this year, Valve finally came clean with the news that, yes, a Linux version of not just Steam but also its Source Engine was coming. The largest digital distribution platform in gaming history is making its way to the smallest PC market. If that is not validation of Linux as a viable platform for gaming, I don’t know what else could convince you.

So with all these events in the last few months, I am confident to say that, yes, 2012 is The Year of the Linux Game.

After my review of game development on the PC, I came to realize that there is very little if any support for Linux as a viable platform from the creators of game engines for the PC. Even those that advertise that they are cross platform engines only go so far as to be cross platform for Windows and Mac.

As a gamer that has decided to use Linux as my primary OS for me and my family, I find this disheartening.

I am well aware of the small market share that Linux has world wide. (around 1%) It is not that small when compared to the Mac market. (around 5%). (source) So why is Linux’s 1% valued so little compared to the Mac’s 5%. Both are relatively small compared to Windows’ astounding 92%.

Before we dive into that question, let’s look at the commercial engine market again and their cross platform support in both player and development view points:

  • Flash – Has native player support for Linux. This allows any game developed using Flash technology to run on a Linux computer. Unfortunately, Adobe has no viable SDK or IDE for development on Linux. It is possible to develop Flash games on Linux, but that requires numerous workarounds. Adobe’s Flex SDK has a beta for Linux development that has been in beta for a number of years.
  • Silverlight – Silverlight has both player and development support for Linux through the Mono Project and its corresponding Moonlight player. Microsoft itself does not support Linux in any way other than to release the core functionality of Silverlight to the open source community. They do hold some functionality back unfortunately. This is seen in the Netflix Watch Instantly Player. Because Microsoft holds back the underlying code for the Silverlight DRM, viewing of Netflix movies on Linux is impossible.
  • Unity – Unity support only Mac and Windows in game play and development. There is no Linux support for their Web Player or development. Although a feature request has been open for 10 months, there has been no word from Unity Developers on the matter. (source) Yet, they have responded to a forum topic on the subject in which they stated they have no reason to support Linux due to the small market size (source)There is one quote in there from the Unity CCO that I will discuss later in this article.
  • Torque – Torque only has support for Windows and Mac. There was at one point a community maintained version of their Torque engine, but that was abandoned several years ago. It would seem that the core trunk of Torque took a direction that was incompatible with Linux.
  • Unreal and XNA – Only Windows support with nothing to indicate that these will be coming even to Mac.

So what are the major arguments against developing for Linux? For the first of the common arguments let’s take a look at that quote from the Unity CCO I mentioned earlier:

So yes, the market just isn’t big enough. We don’t have the resources to cure the miniscule of the Linux-buying games community… If the linux community suddenly starts buying up huge amounts of games, then there is a case for us. So far, sadly, that is not the case.

The core of the argument is that not enough Linux users are buying games so they don’t feel the need to support the platform. Isn’t this the very definition of a Catch 22? So how are Linux users supposed to buy games if there are no games for them to buy?Does anyplatform have fans before the games start rolling in?

As a bit of a contrast to that viewpoint, I would like to make a case of 2d Boy’s World of Goo. According to their blog announcement of the Linux version of the game Linux versions account for 4.6% of the full downloads from their site. (source) During their Birthday Pay What You Want Sale, Linux downloads accounted for 17% of all downloads. (source)

The next argument against Linux comes from the discussion of Linux support for the Unity Player. This comes from someone in the discussion as they have no relation with the Unity company.

The question is, does it make sense right now, in the real world of tradeoffs, limited resources and unintended consequences, and given the fact that most linux geeks are constitutionally unwilling to pay for stuff? It does not. (source)

The key take away from this point is the myth that Linux users are unwilling to pay for software. This is patently false. Yes the core idea behind Linux is the use of free and open source software. That does not mean that Linux users are unwilling to pay for quality games and software.

Again, we will look at 2d Boy for an example. During their Pay What You Want Sale, Linux users held the highest average price paid for World of Goo out of the three supported platforms. (source) So clearly Linux users were willing to pay for this game, why not others?

Personally I think these arguments have no merit. I think the games industry is looking at the Linux gamer in the wrong way. You really shouldn’t be looking at Linux users in their willingness to purchase the games, but in their willingness to game period.

For this example, I point you towards the Wine project. (Wine HQ) Here is a community that is dedicated to trying to get the games that you make to work on the OS they choose. They want to play your games and they have to jump through some pretty amazing hoops to get there. Why would you not want such enthusiastic gamers buying your games?

Other things to consider as well is that many PC manufacturers are looking to Linux as an alternative OS to Windows. This is especially true for Netbooks. By ignoring this OS you are also ignoring the potential customers that choose those computers over their Windows based brothers.

In the end, I don’t think the problem is with Linux or the users of Linux that brings about the shortage of games. It is the developers of the games whose unwillingness to support this emerging market that is failing here. If game developers took the initiative to support Linux as well as other platforms from the beginning, the impact would be negligible. It is easier to do it at the start of a project than to try to shoehorn it in at the end.

As an independent game developer, I have made the decision to only use technologies that will allow Linux, Mac and Windows gamers to enjoy my products. That is why I have decided on Flash for my first project and will be looking to the Open Source Community for the technologies I will be using to make PC games further down the road.

June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States finally passed their ruling on the video game case, Brown vs. EMA. This ruling was a long time coming, clocking at 7 months. What came as no surprise was that the ruling was in favor of the video game industry on the grounds that the California restrictions on the sale of violent video games to minors was a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

I am glad that this ruling came out this way. I am also glad that they ruled the California law was a violation of free speech rather than ruling against it on grounds of “vagueness.” The ruling ended up being 7 against the law and 2 for it. The ruling itself comes in 4 parts. The first part is the majority opinion. This is the actual ruling and what has become the law of the land. This was written by Justice Scalia and was joined by 4 other justices. The second part is a concurring opinion written by Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts in which they agree that the law should be struck down, but on a different reason than the majority. While the majority ruled the law unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, Alito and Roberts feel the law is justifiable but needed to be struck down on vagueness grounds.

The third and fourth parts are dissenting opinions from Justices Thomas and Breyer, respectively. I will be focusing on the concurring and dissenting opinions in another post.

I want to focus on some of the key points I liked in the majority opinion.

First we have the primary ruling:

We emphatically rejected that “startling and dangerous” proposition. Ibid. “Maybe there are some categories of speech that have been historically unprotected, but have not yet been specifically identified or discussed as such in our case law.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 9). But without persuasive evidence that a novel restriction on content is part of a long (if heretofore unrecognized) tradition of proscription, a legislature may not revise the “judgment [of] the American people,” embodied in the First Amendment, “that the benefits of its restrictions on the Government outweigh the costs.”

Here they are saying that there is no reason why such a law could be constitutional. I like that they called this a “startling and dangerous proposition” as it would set a chilling effect not only on games but also on other forms of entertainment.

Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of “sexual conduct,”

Because speech about violence is not obscene, it is of no consequence that California’s statute mimics the New York statute regulating obscenity-for-minors that we upheld in Ginsberg v. New York,

With this statement they are drawing a clear line between sexual obscenity and violence. There is no historical record that any legislature or previous courts would have classified violent content along with sexual obscenity. Just because California attempted to classify violent games as such, doesn’t make it so.

California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim in- deed.

Here we see the Justices further what they stated before. We have no history of ever restricting violent content, why start now? They use some great examples that resemble what the Judge who ruled against the Oklahoma law used. The original Grimm Fairy Tales are nothing like the sugar coated Disney movies.

In the way of examples, I really like this next example of violent media that is not barred from children.

In the Inferno, Dante and Virgil watch corrupt politicians struggle to stay submerged beneath a lake of boiling pitch, lest they be skewered by devils above the surface.

It is just so gratifying to see the Justices take such a jab at politicians.

As for the argument that video games enable participation in the violent action, that seems to us more a matter of degree than of kind. As Judge Posner has observed, all literature is interactive. “[T]he better it is, the more interactive. Literature when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader’s own.”

Here, the justices see right through the smokescreen raised by supporters of this law that games are different because they are interactive. All media is interactive to some extent and the better the media is the more interactive it is.

Because the Act imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it passes strict scrutiny—that is, unless it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest. The State must specifically identify an “actual problem” in need of solving,

California cannot meet that standard. At the outset, it acknowledges that it cannot show a direct causal link between violent video games and harm to minors. Rather, relying upon our decision in Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U. S. 622 (1994), the State claims that it need not produce such proof because the legislature can make a predictive judgment that such a link exists, based on competing psychological studies. But reliance on Turner Broadcasting is misplaced. That decision applied intermediate scrutiny to a content-neutral regulation. Id., at 661–662. California’s burden is much higher, and because it bears the risk of uncertainty, see Playboy, supra, at 816–817, ambiguous proof will not suffice.

This is some good stuff. The justices have ruled that California provided no compelling state interest. They provided no solution to an existing problem. On top of that they failed to identify an actual problem. This next part rips into it even more.

The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them,6 and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, “[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.”

Even the research that California used in its defense has been seen as worthless by the Justices. The studies by Craig Anderson have been debunked by other researchers on many occasions. They don’t show a causal link between violent game play and aggressive behavior. In fact, his own studies show similar effects when children view violent movies, cartoons and pictures, as they state next.

Of course, California has (wisely) declined to restrict Saturday morning cartoons, the sale of games rated for young children, or the distribution of pictures of guns. The consequence is that its regulation is wildly underinclusive when judged against its asserted justification, which in our view is alone enough to defeat it. Underinclusiveness raises serious doubts about whether the gov- ernment is in fact pursuing the interest it invokes, rather than disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint.

Now this is something I have question every such piece of legislation. Why treat violent games different from other violent forms of entertainment? If you are going to restrict one media, why not all? I like that this alone would be enough to defeat the law and am glad they didn’t stop here.

California claims that the Act is justified in aid of parental authority: By requiring that the purchase of violent video games can be made only by adults, the Act ensures that parents can decide what games are appropriate. At the outset, we note our doubts that punishing third parties for conveying protected speech to children just in case their parents disapprove of that speech is a proper gov- ernmental means of aiding parental authority.

This quote really hit home with me. I have been a long time advocate for parental rights and authority. I do not think that this legislation helped parents do much of anything. Parents are the ultimate authority in their homes and have all the tools needed to prevent their children from playing games they don’t want them to play. Why do they need a law to override that authority?

the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that, as a result of this system, “the video game industry outpaces the movie and music industries” in “(1) restricting target- marketing of mature-rated products to children; (2) clearly and prominently disclosing rating information; and (3) restricting children’s access to mature-rated products at retail.”

This system does much to ensure that minors cannot purchase seriously violent games on their own, and that parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home. Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.

This one is something that supporters of this law always ignore. The federal government’s FTC has found over the last 5 years that volunteer ratings enforcement is better in the video game industry than any other media. This shows that the least restrictive method of regulation, volunteer self regulation, is doing well enough on its own that it does not need a law to punish the 20% of sales clerks who fail in their duties.

And finally, the Act’s purported aid to parental authority is vastly overinclusive. Not all of the children who are forbidden to purchase violent video games on their own have parents who care whether they purchase violent video games. While some of the legislation’s effect may indeed be in support of what some parents of the restricted children actually want, its entire effect is only in support of what the State thinks parents ought to want. This is not the narrow tailoring to “assisting parents” that restriction of First Amendment rights requires.

Now here is another rub. This law would prevent a parent from allowing their child from buying a game, but not prevent them from playing. This makes no sense. Additionally, this does nothing to change the behaviors of parents who do not actually care about game content. This raises no awareness of game rating or content among parents. It does nothing. So why is it needed.

I will end with the final word from Justice Scalia as he ended it in his ruling:

And the overbreadth in achieving one goal is not cured by the underbreadth in achieving the other. Legislation such as this, which is neither fish nor fowl, cannot survive strict scrutiny.

The Supreme Court of the United States recently decided to review the California Law that would regulate the sale of video games to minors. There is a 10 court precedent that is in favor of the video game industry which means that the Supreme Court would most likely rule in favor of the video game industry as well.

But if they do, will that be the end of all such legislation? My answer is no. I base this off of what has happened in Oklahoma.

In 2006, the Oklahoma Governor signed into law a bill that would make it illegal to sell violent games to minors. This law was immediately challenged by the video game industry and ruled unconstitutional. I won’t go into details about why as the reasons were the same as all prior and subsequent laws.

Was that the end of this legislation? No.

Shortly after the bill was struck down in court, a new bill was introduced that would force video game retailers to distribute literature with all game sales that explained that violence in games can have harmful effects on children. There were several problems with this bill. For one, there is no such causal link between violent games and any harmful effects. For two, the bill required that this literature was to be passed out with all game sales, not just the violent ones.

This bill never made it to a vote and was not introduced the following session.

In 2009, Oklahoma began to consider the prospect of providing tax incentives to game developers. Oklahoma already provided incentives to the film and television industries. A good idea to begin with.

Unfortunately, supporters of prior attempts to regulate game sales injected this bill with restrictions on which games can apply for incentives. A game company cannot apply for incentives on funds spent in the creation of M and AO rated games. This restriction is not reflective of anything in the language for film and television incentives.

This bill has not made it out of committee for the last two session due to Oklahoma’s budget shortfall.

This is just one state’s reaction to having their regulatory law struck down as unconstitutional. Will California be any different? Will the federal government be any different? There are people in our governments and people in positions to influence government officials that still feel that games should be regulated in some way. So it will not end any time soon.

Eventually the attempts will stop. Eventually the cries of distrust of the games industry will subside. Yet, there will be a stigma associated with games for many years just as there still is for Rock and Roll and Dungeons and Dragons.