Don't expect to learn about many new video-game releases on Chicago buses or station stops. The city's transit authority banned advertisements for mature-rated games – a rule that is unconstitutional, according to the video game trade group.
The Entertainment Software Association sued the Chicago Transit Authority today, claiming that the restriction violated the industry's free speech by selectively targeting ads for mature-rated games while allowing posters for rated-R movies.
This ban came in January after last year's legal back-and-forth over ads for Grand Theft Auto 4. Chicago experienced an uptick in crime the same week that the violent game advertised on CTA buses. Speculative news reports, such as one from the local Fox affiliate, wondered aloud if the two were connected. CTA pulled the ads soon after. The game's publisher sued CTA for breach of contract and got it to restore the posters, leading the city to simply lock out any future "mature" or "adult only" video games from advertising through the bus system.
The gaming industry has long complained about a double-standard. As the Monitor reported in February, in the past few years, state legislators in California, Louisiana, and Massachusetts submitted or passed bills outlawing the sale or rental of mature games to children. Judges have consistently thrown out such measures as unconstitutional. In February, a California appeals court struck down such a law. It ruled that targeting violent or sexual video games, while not expanding the law to cover R-rated movies or suggestive books, unfairly singled out the free-speech rights of a particular industry.
"Ex-[Illinois] Governor Blagojevich spent hundreds of thousands of dollars unsuccessfully to defend a law that barred minors from buy or renting similar video games before it was struck down as unconstitutional," says David Horowitz, executive director of Media Coalition, a trade association for books, movies, and games that backs the ESA's lawsuit. His remarks ran on the gaming blog Kotaku. "The Chicago Transit Authority should repeal this ill-conceived ordinance rather than using scarce resources to fight this in court and get the same result."
The CTA told Kotaku that it feel confident in its position, after all "CTA does not allow advertising for alcohol or tobacco products and this ordinance is consistent with that long-standing policy."
When Boston tried banning ads for a different Grand Theft Auto title, the city's transit chief told the Boston Herald that ads for X-rated movies had no place in public transportation, and neither did mature games. "We don't want to offend our riders," he said, according to Games Politics.
What do you think, readers? Are violent games worse than violent movies? Let us know below, or on Twitter.