Super Blagorio Bros. and the 510,260 gold coins

By Eric Naing

With his 2005 Safe Games Illinois Act, Governor Blagojevich took up the mantle of unconstitutional video game demagoguery which usually is the terrain of presidential hopefuls seeking to burnish their family values cred (I’m looking at you, Hillary). A year later, the law and Blagojevich’s subsequent appeal have been rejected, and the $510,260 owed to the video game industry has yet to be paid. And guess what? Illinois taxpayers get to foot the bill.

The Safe Games Illinois Act was designed to criminalize the sale of “violent and sexually explicit” video games and forced retailers to put a 4 square inch sticker labeled “18” on any game deemed inappropriate. No other entertainment industry is being so tightly regulated and unfairly targeted right now. Fortunately, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly threw out the act claiming the legislation was too broad and ruled that the State of Illinois must pay $510,260 to cover the legal expenses of the video game industry. Blagojevich appealed and that too was just recently rejected.

Thanks to Blagojevich’s overreaching and unconstitutional attempt to demonize video games, cash-strapped Illinois now owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to the very entity it was trying to attack. “The end result of the governor’s quixotic and politically motivated effort is that Illinois taxpayers now owe the video game industry over half-a-million dollars,” says Gail Markels of the Entertainment Software Association. Meanwhile, the money continues to go unpaid and interest is continually increasing the amount owed.

One aspect the Safe Games Illinois Act which raised a red flag with the courts was the law’s stipulation that any game that showed a female breast for even a moment in any context would be deemed inappropriate. Imagine if such a standard were applied to art or movies. Using the game God of War as a template, the court said that the law criminalizes video games “without concern for the game considered in its entirety or for the game’s social value for minors” and that despite the exposed breasts in the game, the act “sweeps too broadly when it prohibits a game that is essentially an interactive, digital version of The Odyssey.”

Unlike our governor, Judge Kennelly is a rare authoritative figure who understands that video games should be viewed in the same light as television, movie and books. In his ruling, Kennelly keenly point out that “video games are one of the newest and most popular forms of artistic expression” and that they “are generally designed to entertain players and viewers, but they can also inform and advocate viewpoints. They are therefore considered protected expression under the First Amendment.”

Since I lack the programming know-how, I would like to suggest that an enterprising individual create a video game about Blagojevich. In it, you would take control of our governor and desperately try to run away from your indicted lawyer and former fundraiser. In another level, you could award no-bid contracts and cushy state jobs to people who give you money. Of course, the ultimate goal of the game would be to successfully balance the state budget by borrowing huge sums of money and dumping the burden onto future generations. And at the end of the game, you would control an Illinois voter who has to hold their nose and vote for Blagojevich only due to his party affiliation and because his Republican opponent is so useless.

Like the stodgy, old critics of rock ‘n roll during the 1950s, Governor Blagojevich is blindly attacking the latest form of entertainment media solely to appeal to distraught soccer moms who should be the ones watching what their kids do in the first place. His law is nothing more than a craven attempt to hop aboard the bash-video-games-bandwagon with Joe Lieberman, Bill O’Reilly and Hillary Clinton. Too bad life is not a video game, otherwise I’m sure we all would like to restart the election and select a different governor.