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Is Government Regulation of Video Game Violence Is Unconstitutional and Unnecessary

Piyush Kumar ShrivastavaJul 30 . 6 min read

Violence in Videogames has always been a matter of debate. It is a big concern for authorities as they want to censor or control the violence in video games as they are finding it to be affecting people playing violent video games. But, is it really like that? Are the Government regulations and their interventions required on video game violence content?

This all began when there was video games rating authority was formed in the USA as  Entertainment Softwares Rating Board(ESRB). The response of the gaming industry was positive to it and games were rated as Everyone(E), Mature(M), and Above 17 for adults only games.

Judgment on Videogame banning

Authorities have been trying to take control or ban the violent content and some decisions were also taken.

  • In the USA, the Supreme Court gave a judgment in 2011 that the state of California cannot ban the sale of violent video games to children. It was said that banning the sale of these games is a violation of constitutional rights of minors. Voting was done and came up to be 7-2 leading to the lifting of the ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. The Industry was estimated to be bringing 18 billion USD in 2010.
  • In 1999, two students in the USA who had opened fire at Columbine were found to be fans of violent Videogames. So, many families of the columbine victim filed a lawsuit against a total of 25 video gaming companies alleging them to be a direct cause of the deaths due to their violent video games. The suit was dismissed in 2002 by the Court.

Cases in India

  • The Madras High court gave a decision on a plea on videogames banning in July this year only. A Plea was that some business enterprises are trying to lure children to keep playing video games during the time of lockdown. Also, the games were said to be devastating their phase of life which is very crucial for their career.

The bench consisting of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy said intervention is required only when there is some illegal action taking place. The decision of control or censorship of video games should be left to elected representatives. Court said further that the issue is not detrimental to the public interest at large.

  • The game called Blue Whale challenge played online consisted of many tasks in which the final level was about committing suicide through the final task. Many children below 18 were found to be committing suicide playing this game. A writ petition was filed on this in the Madras High Court to which the Court several directives to the entire download links for this game. 

Later on, the Supreme Court of India in the Sneha Kalita versus Union of India case labeled the game as a national problem. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology told that access to the game cannot be blocked as the game was not a downloadable app. The MeitY also issued show-cause notices to Yahoo, Google, and Facebook about the actions they had taken to block access to this game.

There are several examples all over the world about video game banning and their control. In some cases, bans imposed on the games were lifted while in some cases, Court did not intervene and left the decision on the matter with the Government. 

However, in India, some laws and Constitutional articles are there about videogames, creators, and the content to take care of in the game.

Laws in India

  • Article 19(2) 3rd part is about freedom of speech and expression, but also allows for restricting this fundamental right if the content is not decent and morally not good.
  • Article 39(e) and (f) 4th part in the constitution tells that abuse or corruption of children is not allowed and should be protected from exploitation and not abandoned from material access.
  • Section 5(B)(I) included in The Cinematographic Act,1952 guide to Censor Board to not allow any moviemaker with movie content to be against decency, public order, or morality.
  • Section 292  of the Indian Penal Code (IPC)  says that obscene content publication physical or digital is a crime 
  1. The Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act) Section 67 On breaching the Act, convicted to be first punished with imprisonment up to 3 years and fine up to 500000 rupees and the subsequent conviction as 5 years Jail and fine up to 1000000 rupees.
  2. Section 67(A) if found convict, Jail to be increased to 7 years and a fine up to 1000000 rupees.
  3. Section 67(B) first conviction to be imprisoned with 5 years of Jail and fine up to 1000000 rupees and subsequent conviction to be imprisoned 7 years with fine limiting to 1000000 rupees.
  4. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986  Jail extending up to 2 years and fine to 2000 INR if convict found to be depicting woman figure or body in a derogatory way through paintings, writings, publications, figures, etc.

For details, you can go to https://www.stalawfirm.com/en/blogs/view/video-game-censorship-india.html

Despite these laws, there is no direct law or rule to censor or ban video games. There hasn’t been any direct ruling also by any of the Indian Courts to ban any video game.  

Banned Games

Some games have been banned for different reasons. The ban was imposed mostly on the sales depending on the different laws in different countries.

  1. Rapelay
  2. Manhunt 2
  3. Tom Clany’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2
  4. Postal 2
  5. Cluster’s Revenge
  6. The Pokemon Trading Card Game
  7. Grand Theft Auto
  8. Command & Conquer: Generals
  9. Bully
  10. EA Sports MMA
  11. The Guy Game

For detailed reasons on these games banning, you can go to https://www.pcmag.com/products/11-video-games-that-got-banned-and-why 

Conclusion

Game banning and control depend on how the Government and the Courts find the Videogame’s content to be. The focus is mainly that content should not cause any harm to the sentiments of any group or community or the storyline is maligning anyone’s image and does not cause any threat to anyone’s life.

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