Video Games are (still) Protected Speech

The ruling in a pivotal California case is upheld.

This week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit announced its ruling in Video Software Dealers Association vs. Schwarzenegger, confirming, unanimously (3-0), the decision of the lower court that two 2005 California laws were “an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech.” They were also found to violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The laws, California Assembly Bills 1792 & 1793, would have categorized ultra-violent video games (by a broad definition) as “harmful matter”, making their sale to minors illegal, and would have required games rated ‘M’ by the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) to be placed in a separate section and require signage to explain the prohibition in stores where such games were sold.

The bills were championed by Assemblyman Leland Yee, who is a perennial windmill-tilter when it comes to this issue. Not surprisingly, he claimed that the decision was wrong and called for it to be taken to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the fact that California taxpayers have already been forced to pay $282,794 in attorney fees for the original go-round, and of 13 times this has been tried (in various US jurisdictions), the courts have never ruled that any of these bills was Constitutional.

You can download the entire ruling here [PDF, 570K, 30 pages] (courtesy of Video Game Voters Network).

Video Games 13, legislators 0. (Are we bored yet?)

Reminder: games.announce

Some game marketing is still essentially free.

If you are interested in marketing games, you can post announcements to the Usenet newsgroup,, a group for which I am the (sole) moderator.

To recycle the relevant portions of my original announcement here:

The beauty of using Usenet for marketing is that it is essentially free, making it one of those easy steps that an independent game publisher can take to get additional exposure for its titles. Google Groups carries, so your announcement is searchable there and quickly incorporated into the Google index as well.

This is an announcement group, rather than a discussion group, so messages will stand on their own, though the (unmoderated) ‘’ discussion group provides an outlet for conversations. For shareware authors, there are other software announcement groups on Usenet, but none that cater specifically to games, so this is an opportunity to be noticed.

Here is the official charter for csipga (as it is known for short):

This newsgroup is for announcements that are useful to the entire PC computer gaming population, including but not limited to new release announcements, software publisher news, bug information, and PC game reviews. Followups will be directed to, or another appropriate subgroup at the moderator’s discretion.

In practical terms, I will likely approve almost any message as long as it relates to PC gaming (not in a cheap spam way) under Windows, DOS, Linux, or even Mac OS X if I am feeling generous. Press releases are encouraged, as well as product announcements that may not warrant a full press release. Note also that game reviews are allowed, so it is perfectly acceptable to have a satisfied customer post a glowing game review (though it should come directly from the author, not via the publisher).

[Back to new information…]
Since this is a low traffic group, announcements will stand out, so I encourage anybody interested to take advantage of this game marketing opportunity.

Note that, due to the way moderated newsgroups work, you do not even need to have Usenet access. Simply email your message (press release or whatever) to the submission address,, and it will be queued. As long as the message is in plain text (HTML emails are automatically binned) and is on topic for the group, it will be posted. If you have any problems, you can reach me via comments here (or at my regular email address).

I look forward to some good submissions.

Jason Della Rocca steps down

The Executive Director of the IGDA resigns.

This week, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) announced that Jason Della Rocca, its long time Executive Director, will be stepping down effective March 31. This will be just after the conclusion of the 2009 Game Developers Conference (GDC) this year.

Under Jason’s leadership over eight and a half years, the IGDA has grown massively (2900%), from 500 to 15000 members. More importantly, and understandably omitted from the press release, he took the organization from a fairly directionless group of early game developers (of which I was one) to an association that actually has significant relevance within the game industry.

You can read about Jason’s reasons for departing in this post on his personal blog. (There are lots of comments there, too, as well as at this Gamasutra article.)

I had the opportunity to work with Jason Della Rocca back in 2005 when the State of Michigan proposed legislation restricting game sales in the state, and I testified before a Senate committee, on behalf of the Detroit IGDA chapter. I saw Jason’s passion first hand, and his (and the organization’s) guidance and assistance was especially helpful. (Nevertheless, the legislation passed anyway, but then it was ruled unconstitutional, as expected, and ultimately cost Michigan an extra $182349 in restitution for industry legal fees. They should have listened to us.)

Good luck in your new endeavors, Jason!