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?)

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!

A Brand New Day

The theme of this Inauguration Day is change for the better.

At this moment, President Barack Obama has just taken the oath of office to become the 44th President of the United States. This historical moment really ushers in 2009, so it is an appropriate first post for this year.

Note that the new President now officially works from a home office (the most famous one in the world), as I and many independent software developers do.

For my part, I have worked to change my priorities and schedule to further reduce the number of distractions and focus primarily on actual development tasks. I am now setting aside two days per week during which I only do development, barring emergencies. Of course, through today, there have been more minor emergencies than not, but I will persist nevertheless.

I am looking forward and aspiring to great things in the coming months and years.