A report from MTV News regarding Wednesday's subcommittee hearing entitled “What’s in a Game? State Regulation of Violent Video Games and the First Amendment” indicates that the gathering in Washington D.C. of witnesses from both sides of the debate surrounding violence in video games resulted in a rather heated, if only one-sided discussion.
The hearing, presided over by Kansas Senator Republican Sam Brownback, along with the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Property Rights, focused partly on the reasons why laws which have been signed over the past year by governors in California, Illinois and Michigan banning the sale of violent games to minors have been struck down by federal courts.
"As a matter of law, any attempt to justify content-based suppression of speech based on the theory that particular content carries too much risk of causing listeners to engage in bad behavior is categorically ruled out under the First Amendment," said video game industry lawyer Paul Smith early in the testimony.
The hearing also included testimony by Reverend Steve Strickland, the brother of policeman Aaron Strickland, who was shot and killed in an Alabama police station in 2003 by a teenager who was said to be a fan and player of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series, a case still rumbling through the courts. "These games in the wrong hands played long enough are detrimental to our family, our friends and our entire society," he said.
Researcher Dmitri Williams, from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign noted that most game studies do little if any follow-up for hours, days, or even years following their exposure, commenting: "With a study that short you might be measuring excitement, not violence. You could effectively get the same effects by having them throw a Frisbee."
A full write-up of the session is now available at the MTV News website.