G4’s Sessler: Game Censorship Gone But Not Forgotten

In the latest edition of his Soapbox, G4’s Adam Sessler expresses the view that video game censorship is pretty much gone, but that gamers should be watchful for its return.

GP: Here at GamePolitics, we’re waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule in the California case later this year. At that point, we’ll have a better handle on where the game censorship issue is heading.

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  1. Chuma says:

    Can this guy talk without making his arms and hands look like they are on strings being controlled from above the camera view?  3rd Tracy brother methinks…

  2. digdug says:

    I was talking about liberal judges (on the supreme court), not liberal politicians. Theres a difference. Its like the difference between the ACLU and Hillary Clinton. Both are liberal, but one represents liberal judicial philosophy and would oppose all censorship, and the other is…a politician.


  3. Austin_Lewis says:

    "And the liberals would probably oppose the law anyhow"

    Because Yee didn’t have a hand in it.  OH WAIT. 

    People seem to have this idea that liberals oppose censorship, and that’s simply BULLSHIT.  In fact, most liberals are very much in favor of it, especially the ones in our government.  By the way, most of the bills concerning Video Games have been written by, you guessed it, LIBERALS. 

    So kindly pull your head out of your ass and stop living in your magical world. 

  4. Arell says:

    Of course, it’s perfectly in the developer’s right to change or subtract concepts from the final product if they want to.  And until the game is finalized, that’s all they are, "concepts."  It’s not self-cencoring to decide an element doesn’t belong in your product.  If Bioshock decides that "killing the Sisters wasn’t really bringing much to the game," then that’s totally their call.  It’d be the same as deciding Plasmid-shooting housecats don’t necessarily add to the game in a significant manner.

    They also have to weigh controversy with potential gains.  It’s one thing to do something in a game because it pushes boundaries and adds depth.  It’s another thing to do something in a game just to shock people.  Would the ability to light Sisters on fire have added enough to the game to outweight the controversy that follows?  I personally don’t know.  All I know is that I’m not going to second guess the developers for deciding it wouldn’t.  It’s their product, it’s their investment.  It’s their livelihood.  We talk about free speech and artistic expression, but we need to remember that video games are consumer products.  They’re created to make people money.  And part of selling anything is to consider your audience, and try to predict how the consumers will react.  Because consumers have freedom of expression, too, and they use their wallets to say what they will or won’t tolerate. 

    It’s all well and good to judge them from the sidelines, when you don’t have your reputation and millions of your own dollars on the line.

  5. Arell says:

    This is all basically true.  Both sides (on the extremes) believe they are right to tell people what they can and cannot do.  The Right thinks so because they believe their morality is the ONLY morality that matters.  The Left thinks they can cencor and ban because they think the government needs to protect everyone from every minor thing.  There is some crossover, some Cons want to protect children, and some Libs want to force their form of morality down everyone’s throat.  But it’s all the same thing.

  6. hayabusa75 says:

    Sessler could be a gold medalist if they ever made gesticulation an Olympic sport.

    "De minimus non curat lex"

  7. ZippyDSMlee says:

    I disagree, censorship is alive and well but its not the 1984 draconia of old, its even more insipid because its more subversive and subtle. Bioshock for instance removed the ability to kill little girls on screen and Oblivion and Fallout 3 share the no child death foolishness. Bioshock also possably has subtle changes to the litte sister designs as it was hyped they were normal looking little girls but in the game we find them to be stylized and more abstract.

    In other words we have censorship not from government but from corporate and its magnified for the consoles that refuse to deal with NC17 content on their systems most of the time, this plus publishers them selfs not wanting to make waves adds to a system of quite and insipid censorship.

    Now as for censorship from government itself I doubt it could be done without a upheaval of the status quo, at least this is the case in the US.

    I am a criminal because I purchase media,I am a criminal because I use media, I am a criminal because I chose to own media..We shall remain criminals until Corporate stay’s outside our bedrooms..


  8. FlakAttack says:

    Yup, Canada’s right wing hasn’t even lifted a finger towards censorship. They also dropped the gay marriage and abortion debates completely, saying they have no intention of fighting that battle and simply gave in. So far, I’ve been pretty happy with them actually… I just hope their approach to Net Neutrality is better than the Liberals, who’s pockets are stuffed with corporate money.

  9. Father Time says:

    Anyone else find it funny that GTA4 seemed to garner more controversy before it was released than after it was released?

    I remember NY politicians complaining about it taking place in NY (one guy said it would be like Halo in Dsineyland, which seems like it would be an awesome game) and a whole bunch of complainers, and after it was released the only ones that really complained were MADD.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  10. hellfire7885 says:

    It’s not going to go away.

    There are and always will be people hellbent on having society their way, their morals, their rules, etc, and this will sadly continue.

    I can’t wait ot hear it all when hologrpahic technology is released.

  11. DarkSaber says:

    THe USAs ‘left-wing’ is still on the right-wing compared to the rest of the world.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  12. digdug says:

     I disagree with that. I think both sides, both political extremes, are basically an equal threat: the religious right and the far left. The religious right want to force its morals on everybody, and with the far left its political correctness. And sex and violence is both immoral and politically incorrect. 

    What people forget though is that its judges that are most important because they decide what is or isnt censorship. And in that I think liberals are much better. Even though theres alot of poltical correctness in left wing politics (and theres Lieberman, Hillary, etc….) liberal judges and liberal civil liberties groups (ie the ACLU) are still very commited to a broad interpretation of the 1st Amendment that would include video games. That is still the liberal judicial philosophy regarding free speech.

    Conservatives though intperpret the Bill of Rights more narrowly (ie conservatively) and also are more likely to allow states to decide the issue for themsleves (ie federalism/states rights). Thats where censorship will come from, not the federal government, it’ll come one state at a time.


  13. digdug says:

     I really doubt the surpeme court will even take the California  case (ie "grant cert"). 

    The conservatives on the court will think of it as a state (specifically the state’s courts) making its own decision. And the liberals would probably oppose the law anyhow. So I dont think this case will solve anything.

    A solution (precedent) will come from when a video game company brings a suit against a state and its court that UPHELD a censorship law. Then it will be up to the supreme court to decide if the state law infringes on the 1st Amendment. That will be a nail-biter too becuase I think the conservatives on the court will be tempted to allow states to have whatever laws they want. They may vote against the federal government censoring video games, but theyll consider state laws to be a "states rights" issue. Then if a state wins a case like that all hell breaks loose because it’ll be every state for itself and different censorship laws depending on the state.


  14. BearDogg-X says:

    Plus, it’s been mostly the far left(H. Clinton, Lieberman, Herb Kohl, Baca in federal; Yee, Blagojevich, Spitzer in the state governments) than the far right(the only major name politican being Sam Brownback) that’s been pushing their pro-censorship, anti-First Amendment bills. It also doesn’t hurt the industry that most of their major critics(the Parent Trash Cult, Thompson, Eagle Fordumb) are being increasingly seen as loons.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  15. Father Time says:

    I don’t think making the language more accesible is necessary. I think game makers might do it anyway to increase makret share, but look at Pokemon, there was a panic over that and parents didn’t understand it. Now the panic’s died down, pokemon’s not as big as it once was (which isn’t saying much) and yet I doubt much more parents understand it.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  16. MasterAssassin says:

    "The movement to censor games IS a neocon thing.  You seem to believe that there’s anything other than neocons running for office in the US.  There isn’t.  Your ‘socialist’ Obama is a neoliberal who is doing everything he can to run the country on Bush administration lines."

    LMFAO so Hillary Clinton is a neo-con? Joe Liebermine is a neo-con? Oh and I think Lyndon La Rouche and Code Pink would be very insulted to be called neocons. The movement to censor games is both a far left and far right thing. Right-Wingers believe it is necessary because it goes thier "Christian Values", left-wingers believe that they contradict thier pacifistic beliefs and glamorize war and violence as a way to solve problems. Both want to censor games for pretty much the same reason, they just pull thier morals out of a different source in the case of conservatives it would be the bible and for liberals it would be their unwritten rules that violence is wrong no matter what the circumstances.

  17. GoodRobotUs says:

    It’s hard to say about censorship, like Jackals stalking a herd, all it needs is for one of the herd to show a sign of weakness, and it will try its luck.

  18. Avalongod says:

    Well I think there’s something to what he’s saying even if he is a bit optimistic.  I think that the impetus for censorship has decreased somewhat, but not gone away.  The failure of multiple censorship laws….more older people are becoming familiar with video games (although still not the OLDEST echelon, those with the most power and influence)…and I think people are beginning to realize that youth violence went DOWN as video games got more popular and, indeed, more graphic.  Those are probably the influences that are putting something of a bucket of icewater on censorship these days.  Unfortunately there are still some politicians, activist groups and social scientists who are pushing this issue, so it’s not gone away totally.

  19. mdo7 says:




    Not only that.  I met several anime haters who hated video games.  They would not tell me why.  They told me video game was dumb.  I’m suspecting one of them could be JT since one of them acted too similar to JT.

    If anime haters can hate DC Comic because they turned Batman into an anime.  They have no problem hating Halo or video game because of the Halo anime.  As of now, we probably have a small percentage (maybe bigger) that will hate Halo or video game because of this announcement.  This anime hating/video game hating could grow if more American game become anime like Bioshock, Fallout, Starcraft, Warcraft, or Grand Theft Auto (GTA anime could have them siding with Jack Thompson since to them, they’ll think "Rockstar game and Take Two are part of the anime conspiracy"), they can end up siding with video game haters like Jack Thompson, Leland Yee, Michael Atkinson (if there are anime haters in Australia), Keith Vaz (if there are anime haters in the UK), or anyone else.  I know because I’ve been reading comments about they’re hating the Halo anime and hating the franchises because of the anime.  I even read several disturbing message like saying they will hate video game forever if more American video game become anime. 





  20. Arell says:

    Well, I’m not about to tell others what they can and cannot like.  But the thought of a Batman or XMen anime makes my lip curl into a sneer.  Same thing for Halo.

    Hey I can hate on anything I damn well please.  I can even say that I don’t want something made or to exist.  It’s only when  I try to force other adults not to view something, that I cross the line ("force" is the key word here, I can always try to "convince" people with my words).

  21. hellfire7885 says:

    Heh, I have seen online petitions to ban anime. Problem, none of them get taken seriously as cartoons had their time on the chopping block.

  22. sqlrob says:

    You’re right about the sales. IIRC, Wal-Mart had a hard-line "No M" stance.

    Then GTAIII came out.


  23. sheppy says:

    Well frankly I don’t think the threat of censorship is from outside the industry anymore.  But rather the ESRB’s ability to slam an AO rating on a game and effectively force a censoring.  Force a censoring?!?  Yes, actually.

    As AO, very few outlets would carry it.  All of them would be online.  And Online only retail strategy is the number on reason why certain DS and Wii games are considered ultra rare and valuable.  But before we look at that, look towards the console manufacturers.

    Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have ALL stated they will not allow an AO rated game to be on their consoles.  This, in essence, severely limits the platforms the game COULD come out on if they did hit an AO rating.

    And finally, since there is NO consistent bar on ratings for the ESRB, what could have been perfectly fine for one run through may suddenly be AO worthy the next time despite no changes being made to the content.

    If one of the big three would take a stand and allow AO rated games, that would go a long way to waekening brick and mortors resolve.  ESPECIALLY if that game was Gears of War 3 or God of War 3.  Saying no to Manhunt is easy.  And considering the brick and mortors stance on AO rated games is simply because of no viable sales of one so far, let’s all agree the morality and ethics of a store that sells American Psycho on Paperback and Saw IV Unrated on DVD, but cries outrage at Manhunt 2 isn’t worth a damn and basically makes their ethics solely upon the potential sales of a thing.

    So yeah, Sesslers right that censorship isn’t a threat from outside of the industry but the ESRB essentially are the moral police from within.  Censorship is STILL a major concern and it comes with a postage stamp rating on the front of the package.

    Wall of Text Simulation- Insert coin to continue.

  24. Zerodash says:

    You’re telling me that Senator Yee (D), Hillary Clinton (D), Lieberman, and all those other Democrats (or former) are NeoCons? 

    You’re telling me that Obama is exactly the same (or nearly so) as George W.?

  25. Flamespeak says:

    Conservatives want to censor things that may be considered obscene or hurtful to children.

    Liberals want to censor things that may be offensive to minorities (be it race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.)

    Don’t act as if Con are the only bad guy out there when the Libs are just as messed up in the head but for different reasons.

  26. hellfire7885 says:

    Yes and no. It’s more or less self censorship, as while yo ucan go ahead adn publish it, no stores will carry it and no console manufacture will allow it on their machine, limiting the market to PC only and only being able to sell it in specialty shops or online.

    So in a way it is, but not really.

  27. Flamespeak says:

    The AO rating has nothing to do with censorship, mi amigo. You can make a game that earns an AO rating and the ESRB will let you go ahead and publish it.

    Good luck getting a chain of stores to carry your product though.

  28. mdo7 says:



    TboneTony, I think anime and manga already got scapegoated.  There was several cases for that.

    -Deathnote was blamed for a murder in a European country.

    -Naruto has been blamed for a kid putting his head in a sandbox

    -the manga Battle Angel Alita has been blamed for a murder in Taiwan.


    Also, Don’t forget the Rapelay controversey.  It’s a sign that anime and manga are going to be blame next.  We already got enough anime haters on Youtube to carry JT’s torch.  I’ve met a lot of anime haters who hated Batman just because it was made into a ANIME!!!  They said they will never buy another Batman comic, and also they may never watch any Batman movie again.  It looks like Batman was "tainted" and "poisoned" by anime to them.  They’re going to hate Marvel because Wolverine and Iron Man is going to become an anime character.  They may go JT and say Marvel is part of the anime conspiracy.

    TboneTony, are you aware of Halo getting a anime titled, Halo Legends?  I’m scared that anime haters may hate Halo or worse, the video game industry.  Even though a friend of mine on Yourube told me a small percentage may end up siding with JT.  To them, they’ll think the Anime industry has bought out the video game industry and they will throw conspiracy theory about how the US has been taken over by Japan.  They may have no choice but to ally with Jack Thompson and other video game haters if more American video game become anime/manga.  GTA and Bioshock anime may get them becoming true video game haters if this happen.  TboneTony, if this ever happen, you and I are going to need a strategy.  




  29. TBoneTony says:

    As much as many hard core gamers hate the Wii over the last few years, I do believe that a console like the Wii, had to happen just to prove to people outside of the loop of Videogames that Videogames are not really about shooting people or even raping people (like in Japan for example).

    Videogames can be for anyone of any taste of any interest, no matter how small or large that audience can be, Videogames (or the ones that are on the internet by the way) can be anything from simple fun to something complex and fun for a verry minute audience who are into that sort of thing.


    So yeah, a console like the Wii had to happen, and I believe that it is for the better.


    It will still be many more years until we feel those effects of people finally realizing that Videogames are not scary at all much like music was in the rock era of the 60s and 70s.

    Same thing happened when Columbine happened, and now the reverse of that is starting to happen too today.



    On the other hand there have been many other issues even back in the Columbine era and years after it.

    the collapse of the World Trade Centre in New York attracted the War on Terrorism.

    And I remember the lies of people were saying about the hijackers being trained on Flight Simulators. Even to the effect that a single game that was about flying WW2 style of planes was cancelled for the fear that it might be used by American News Journalists that these games could be used for flying planes into buildings.

    Now seeing that the Global Financial Crisis has got nothing to do with Videogames, people might back away from Videogames for a while even though Politicians today who have always tried to blame Videogames for the problems in society are still doing that today, but when those people are getting older and soon will be voted out of power by people who have grown up more and are able to tell more effectively when a politician is lying (eg. Everytime their lips move) then you will soon find that politicians will try to look at something new to blame everything on, or maybe new generations of politicians will come in with a greater understanding of how things work so they will never make those same mistakes that other politicians before them have done all this time.


    Although I am only guessing that is the case, but all you need is for just one politician to make a mountain out of a molehill and a news station who is desperate to make news, and you will have the same old story all over again.


    Hope the internet will become so big that news people will think twice about going for a story and really try to get their facts straight knowing that there is alternative information that can really challenge their own information they are trying to make newsworthy.

    Thats the only thing I find different with the internet, you don’t have to rely on newsworthy information just to make more hits.



    He has a point when he talks about Language.

    For me, communication is a major factor of who people in society either understand or don’t understand things that are new to them.

    and when the kids understand something and the adults don’t, then all it takes is for a opportunist politician and parental groups desperate to adversise themselves and news media who are looking for stories to attract some hype around and THEN you will find a scape goat to something horrible that had just happened (ie, like Columbine) and THEN you have Moral Panic over that thing that just happened to be new for the younger generation who seriously never have the power to vote against those who are taking their parents for a ride.


    So yeah, in the new decade there may be something that other people don’t get that may become the new Moral Panic. But I feel that Anime/Manga MAY be safe because of the number of people young today who are so into Anime and Manga.


    However I might be wrong about that, since that Anime and Manga are from Japan, then perhaps people will try to attack Japan because of the differences in culture like how the Middle East was attacked after the events of 9/11.

  30. MrKlorox says:

    There are third and fourth and fifth groups, etc…

    They just tend to be lumped in with the others by ignorant people.

  31. Zerodash says:

    I always liked Sessler, but dude- his ranting sounds pretty obvious he believes that the movement to censor games is soley in the "neo-con" or conservative side.  Seems blissfully unaware of all the leftists who are just as gung-ho about censoring games. 

    And the censorship of games is FAR from over.  As a country, the USA is pretty much divided between far-left and far-right ideaolgies (look how we go from a zealot like George W to a Socialist like Obama in a single election), and both sides have reason to promote censorship. 

    It’s in the interests of both an American Theocracy ("stop the sinners") and an American Socialist State ("Big Brother will take care of you stupid sheep") to promote censorship.  And both groups are just as potent and influential as ever. 

    We need a 3rd group…

  32. Bennett Beeny says:

    The movement to censor games IS a neocon thing.  You seem to believe that there’s anything other than neocons running for office in the US.  There isn’t.  Your ‘socialist’ Obama is a neoliberal who is doing everything he can to run the country on Bush administration lines.

  33. Neeneko says:


    I think a better way of putting it would be that the rate of increase has slowed or even halted, but censorship is still a big issue with media in general and esp with games. Both private (not procted) and federal (protected in theory).


  34. Cheater87 says:

    Video game censorship is not over. Censorship is not over in general. Music, TV and movies are still censored. The AO rating will still be used as a form of censorship as well. I hope one day that all censorship will be gone. But it does look like there is less media outcry now.

  35. DarkSaber says:

    He might be right, he might be wrong, but he’s still a dick.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  36. TBoneTony says:

    To be honest, Censorship will never go away. Much like the power of artistic people to fight for their freedoms of speech and expression (no matter how offencive it is) will never go away too.

    I think that people will get dumber by just listening to just one side of the bedate all the time on the news and current affair shows.

    You need to be able to make something offencive and see the real truth and beauty in it to fully understand the reason why we have got a strong feeling of freedom of speech. At the same time you also need to become a parent and see the horrible things in the world to understand the true feeling of wanting to protect your kids from the bad things in the world.


    And in the end, people who have made something offencive and who also are parents themselves need to understand that the only way to protect their kids from the horrible things in life is to prepare them for life in general. Let them know that not everyone are kind and genorus. There are some really evil people out there in society.

    At the same time there are some really good people in society too.


    But the difference between good and evil is not really obvious, sometimes the government and the parental groups are evil and the people who make offencive things are good because they might be trying to talk about the confronting things in society though their medium and are taking a big risk of offending people because of it.



  37. Tony DarkGrave says:

     lol as long as hilary clinton and that douchebag Jack thompson is around is can return.

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