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Help Defend Gaming: Sign the Gamer Petition

Hal Halpin's Avatar + Posted by Hal Halpin on Jul 15, 2010 // President, Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA)

Sign the Gamer Petition here.

ECA: Entertainment Consumers Association

This winter, the game industry — developers, publishers, retailers, et al — will face the single biggest legal challenge that such entertainment, broadly, has ever been up against and in the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). The State of California had appealed the U.S. Ninth Circuit decision to strike down the so-called CA “video game violence” law in Schwarzenegger v EMA, which every court had done in every such “violent video game” case. But this time was different; For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case (via “accepting certiorari” aka “cert”). To be blunt, none of us expected it and we were all taken back by the decision. Just 1% of cases filed are granted cert — one percent!

At stake: gaming in America. Yes, you read that correctly.

California State Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) is the former child psychologist who championed the “violent video game” bill from inception and is coordinating with California Attorney General, Jerry Brown (D-Oakland), and their legal team to muster forces representing the anti-game side. In the pro-games corner are trade associations which represent the corporations which make and sell games and other groups which have skin in the game, such as First Amendment rights organizations. Both sides have an impressive roster of academics, researchers and legal teams committed to a decisive win. Forget 800-pound gorillas; this is more like armies going to war. And the reason is simple: all legal precedent can go right out the window. The slate is cleaned.

In the time since the Court’s announcement there has been a lot of media coverage, both from the enthusiast outlets and the national press. A disturbing theme that you’d find too often in the consumer comments is one of apathy. Perhaps it arose from winning in each of the violence in video game cases. Maybe because, from our perspective, it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that we could lose — the logic seems pretty obvious. But this is the U.S. Supreme Court, the only court in our country where the Justices don’t have to “follow the law” because they make the law that everyone else follows. And here’s the rub, as industry executives will openly admit: a loss wouldn’t just be limited to any one demographic, such as minors; or any one area, such as California; or even to any one art form, such as video games. It wouldn’t solely change how games are merchandised and sold. Should the U.S. Supreme Court determine that games may not necessarily enjoy the same First Amendment protections as music and movies do now, it would be catastrophic and the implications for gaming and gamers, and entertainment consumers generally, widespread.

Many states and legislators across the country will be watching the outcome of this case closely and are eager to see that there may be an opportunity to re-start their regulatory efforts. Developers are anxious because their rights as artists and creators may be substantially diminished. A loss would have a chilling effect on the medium as a whole — not limited to the United States. Other forms of media could quickly follow, with movies, music, books and all other previously protected First Amendment free speech on the block. Foreign governments often fashion and amend their own laws after SCOTUS decisions. Retailers and publishers, who presently employ a self-regulated ratings system (ESRB), not unlike movies, may be forced to comply with a regulatory environment, like alcohol, tobacco, and firearms. This case may significantly impact the rights of minors, as one of many First Amendment points to be debated will likely be whether minors have them or deserve to keep them. The age of majority is also inconsistent from state to state… The business, legal and cultural implications are mind-boggling.

In most SCOTUS cases, the perspective of the citizens is represented by the politicians — who are presumed to be representing the will of the people. The industry and its trade organizations represent the business. The idea of abdicating our personal consumer representation to the political figures in this case was and is unfathomable.

The Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) is the non-profit membership organization which represents the rights of gamers in the U.S. and Canada. Our members pay an annual dues fee and in exchange receive advocacy representation, affinity benefits and discounts on games-related goods and services. We will be submitting a Friend of the Court document, called the consumer amicus brief, in support of the industry. That move, while it may appear obvious, is very uncommon. Similar membership organizations such as AAA or AARP are among the few that have the resources to bring such a document to bear. Additionally, ECA will be attaching a consumer petition, which any American of any age can sign on to. It simply, but emphatically, states:

We, the undersigned American video game consumers, purchase, rent and play video games the way we do other entertainment content such as movies and music. We respectfully request that you hold that video games are indeed free speech, protected under the First Amendment, like other entertainment media.

Petitions, historically, have not made or broken any SCOTUS cases; they have little legal bearing. The vast majority of what will determine whether we win or lose is predetermined. What a consumer amicus, and attached petition, will do is inform the justices, staff, clerks, historians, members of the Bar and Supreme Court press corps that consumers, in this case, are represented by consumers — not politicians. We will be showing that the will of the people is present, is not “covered” by a few select elected officials, and that we are making our case via the consumer amicus and also backing it up with the convictions of petition signatories. A petition that is viewed as successful may or may not be impactful, but one that is not successful could in fact harm the case. Maybe the amicus and petition will only change the game by one percent. Maybe it’ll be the same long odds that led to it being heard in the first place.

If you care about gaming and your rights, please, consider signing the petition.

//Add Your Own

221 Comments   20 Replies

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201

+ Ish_786 on July 16th, 2010 at 9:48 am said:

If by chance federal laws are enacted to enforce this decision, I suggest you try using nullification. If you do not know what it is or how to implement it, try reading the book “Nullification: How to Resist Tyranny In The 21st Century” By Thomas Woods.


202

+ TheHerp80 on July 16th, 2010 at 11:49 am said:

Ok i have to say that this post is not informing the public on what the Bill is. I’m sure if most “gamers” were to read the bill they would find it hard to argue against it. The Bill only prevents Minors from buying games from retailers. IT DOES NOT prevent them from playing them if their Parents or another adult were to purchase it for them. Retailers will be fined for selling violent games to Minors up to $1,000. The bill would also require a larger ’18′ logo on the front box. BTW Stores already do this but it’s self regulated, this will just make it a real Law. No one is trying to take the M rated games away from adults.


203

+ Bioman20 on July 16th, 2010 at 1:34 pm said:

Will this affect Canadian gamers?


204

+ Adraeus on July 16th, 2010 at 1:44 pm said:

@190: ECA isn’t filing a simple petition; ECA is filing an amicus brief, drafted by one of the top law firms in the world. It’s very expensive and very comprehensive. The list of supporter names is attached to the brief to add extra oomph.

@194: See my post #178.

@202: See my post #117.

@203: Yes and no. Canada is not governed by US laws, but Canada is certainly influenced by them.


205

+ Zero315 on July 16th, 2010 at 2:35 pm said:

Yeah… I probably would’ve signed this, even though the supreme court probably couldn’t care less about online petitions, but the fact that the ECA has their hands in this means I’m not touching it with a ten-foot pole.

It also saddens me to see the ECA on the Playstation Blog… You’d think the people that run it would’ve done some research on the ECA and their… questionable (to say the least) practices.


206

+ Adraeus on July 16th, 2010 at 3:34 pm said:

@205: See the post directly above yours.


207

+ DANCEoftheDEAD on July 16th, 2010 at 3:43 pm said:

Why the hell are they doing this?They can’t do anything about all the violent games we have in our posession.They should just forget about this nonsense.


208

+ stimey1 on July 16th, 2010 at 4:50 pm said:

If the violent games, music, and movies don’t have an impact on behavior then what’s the point of the ESRB? What difference does it make if the parents are involved with what thir kids are playing, watching, or listening to if there is no negative effect?

I was born in 71..grew up watching every R-X rated movie I could, played every crazy game I could get my hands on over the years, listened to very intense music,jammed in bands playing intense music.

I’ve never been in trouble, never been one to fight with others, I love pets, I’m a caring person married now for nearly 12 years. I have 5 college degrees.

According to their observations shouldn’t I be some sort of raving lunatic out for blood? Anger management issue, hurting people, having no compassion for life? This arguement always fails to me.


209

+ Thrasher20 on July 16th, 2010 at 10:27 pm said:

I made my contribution


210

+ Jayson619 on July 17th, 2010 at 1:02 am said:

Hey Hal. I’m from Singapore and somehow I managed to get my petition through; hopefully accepted. Look on the bright side, Jack Thompson made that challenge against video games and lost and I’m sure as hell video games will triumph in this once more. Have faith in this.


211

+ MagicFingers2 on July 17th, 2010 at 3:49 am said:

Well the sad truth is we have no RIGHTS. Were controlled by other humans and told what we can and cant do. So sign the man made paper with man made words much like your race its made up too. They can do what they want when they want and they’ll just use their man made words to do just that. The fact is i’ve never had my i.d. checked when buying a M rated game and thats part of where the problem lies. Of course i’m 28 but, that should’nt mean anything if it is in fact a MAN MADE law. I guess we should start praying to FAKE people in the sky now that seems to work for everyone else. No need to reply to me cause i wont be back to read it. I’ve said my peice and thats all i wanted. Good luck to you all and remember whats really important. I share my birthday with AMERICA (independence day) i’ve always been in its shadows so f**k you america


212

+ PsychoMantis86 on July 17th, 2010 at 8:33 am said:

Those who would trade in their freedom for their protection deserve neither.

~Benjamin Franklin


213

+ common-sence on July 17th, 2010 at 8:10 pm said:

Don’t do anything to associate yourself with the ECA.

Check online about there history. They allowed people to sign up for a one year membership for free. They then proceeded to remove some of the benefits (to their credit, some were abused), which caused several people to opt out. HOWEVER, their online opt-out system was fake. People who canceled got charged for another year.

The ECA then said “our system never had an online option to cancel an automatic re-subs,” and removed it from their site. They then MANDATED that people send them registered snail mail to cancel, saying that “there was an old database no one knew about, and it kept everyone’s CC info, which is why they were re-upped.” So they kept personal financial info long after someone wanted out. They don’t send out one month warnings about recharges despite saying repeatedly that they require themselves to do so. Hal set off on a huge campaign to complain about how “gamers abused everything, they got what they deserved, we are not at fault here,” and other nonsense.


214

+ Keyeszx on July 17th, 2010 at 9:57 pm said:

@8 I know they need to stop. When will parents be blamed. Watch when the minors generation are the ones running the country they will blame the parents because of the actions parents are making today. Damn weren’t they taught responsibility.


215

+ KelXor on July 18th, 2010 at 6:16 am said:

It’s so lame some brainless poeple try to blame the extreme violence that have been going on in the U.S.A for ages to the video games!. The worse thing is these people obviously have a lot of weight in the judicial system so you can imagine any other crazy lack of common sense and scientific support idea may potentially come through eventually.
This is not about supporting ECA or the gaming industry people, this is about standing up for your rights! yes you heard it correctly…YOUR RIGHTS!

Even though I’m in Canada and signing the petition may not count, people’s right have no boundaries so I’m 100% behind it and I have sign it anyways!


216

+ SkyNet003 on July 18th, 2010 at 8:37 am said:

As far as I know, the whole thing was to stop kids from buying M-rated games, right? If that’s the case, what’s the problem, then?

Of course, I might be wrong…


217

+ SkyNet003 on July 18th, 2010 at 8:38 am said:

Of course, if I am going to defend my rights, I’d rather defend them on more, how shall I say, mundane things, perhaps?


218

+ KelXor on July 18th, 2010 at 1:55 pm said:

I believe SkyNet003 you and others are missing the big picture, the problem is not about gamers under 18 but that simply the whole process is flawed as there is no scientific evidence that violent games influence violent behaviour. It is simply wrong and these politicians are doing this likely because of a lot of pressure is being put on their shoulders by brainless parents out there… so obviously as usual they only care about the votes…question is if this is allow to happen, what comes next? Any other crazy idea will also go through…
For those people who think otherwise… when was the first game invented? on the late 1940′s or so? well U.S.A was already deep in some crazy violence, mafia killing all over, drugs, weapons…and do you know how the games looked at that time? boring little squares shooting more boring little squares… come on people have some common sense!


219

+ Cheater87 on July 18th, 2010 at 6:34 pm said:

@ post 202. This WOULD ban these games from adults at least in their full uncensored form. The ESRB’s AO rating bans games from adults because no store would touch an AO game due to the rating. Why would this be ok to sell but an AO game not? I’m afraid of that happening and games being heavily censored for even adults just to be put out in the market.


220

+ MrBeatdown on July 18th, 2010 at 7:09 pm said:

Well, since my comment with a link in it has yet to be approved after three days, here it is again…

I refuse to ever support your organization after the mess you put your own members through. It’s not so much the fact that you had a non-working membership cancellation feature on your website as it is the fact that you lied, twisted facts, and blamed the entire issue on the likes of CheapAssGamer despite the issues being completely unrelated. You also failed to take any action to alert potentially affected members to your error. What’s worse is that you stand to profit from that error. What’s even worse that that is that some people who did discover the issue and jumped through your ridiculous hoops to cancel were STILL charged.

I’m all for the cause, but I’d rather take my chances than express my support/opposition through an organization that refuses to even look out for the best interests of their own members. Gamers aren’t stupid. This one’s for you Hal…

Google “RIP ECAs credibility” and click the third link.


221

+ PirateHarlock on July 21st, 2010 at 12:52 pm said:

I am definately NOT supporting either the ECA or SONY in this matter because both have equally shady and / or outright illegal business practices. ECA with its bogus “membership charges” and sony with its illegal deletion of otheros (yes deliberate deletion of data without consent is illegal) and its highly reprehensible business practices. The gaming industry deserves much closer scrutiny, not in the way the california legislation entails but in the same ways many financial institutions need closer supervision to prevent consumers from being ripped off.


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