Google’s too-loose leash

September 3, 2011

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THE VIDEO game industry cheered earlier this summer when the Supreme Court struck down a California statute banning the sale of excessively violent video games to minors. In effect, Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Assn. gave teeth to what gamers have been arguing for years: that their games are a form of speech deserving of First Amendment protections. They’re right, but that doesn’t mean they should feel emboldened to push violence in their games to cruel new levels. Video game creators - and the outlets that sell their games - should now police themselves.

One such company, Kage Games, isn’t living up to that responsibility. KG Dogfighting, a game Kage has made for Android smartphones, enables users to raise virtual dogs for the purpose of sending them to maul or get mauled in virtual dog fights. While not its express purpose, the game ends up functioning like a how-to manual, teaching users the real-life methods used to train dogs to fight.

It’s especially unfortunate that virtual dog fighting is taking hold now, after the high-profile dog fighting conviction of NFL quarterback Michael Vick helped to dampen interest in the illegal sport. Animal rights activists, knowing they would face a long, uphill trudge through legislation and the courts if they sought to ban the game, have wisely taken the battle to the court of public opinion instead. They should continue to pressure Kage Games to discontinue its product and, more significantly, urge Google to stop selling the game through its online Android Marketplace. The Supreme Court has guaranteed Kage the right to make and sell its violent game, but Google is under no obligation to distribute it.