In a completely unprecedented move by US courts, the governments of eight states -including Wisconsin, Illinois, and Vermont- passed temporary measures last night to prevent the release of Mortal Kombat (Xbox 360, Playstation 3) over concerns of the graphic, violent content it contains. Citing the series gruesome fatalities and disturbing mutilation, several state senators have called Mortal Kombat “the worst game our nation’s children have seen since Mortal Kombat (1992).”
While the proposed legislation does not directly ban M-rated video games, the wording refers to “gratuitous gore or personal harm for the sake of inflicting personal harm” as gaming elements that could cause roadblocks for future releases.
Of course, for everyone living in Australia, all of this will sound familiar. Earlier this year, Mortal Kombat was declassified and thus banned from sale throughout the country. Video game advocates stateside have always assumed gaming violence would be protected under free speech ruling, as it has been for nearly 25 years.
While Netherrealms is fighting the passage of these rulings on a case-by-case basis, several governors, including Florida governor Rick Scott, have asked state courts to issue temporary injunctions that could prevent the sale of all M-rated video games until further notice. While online and digital download services like Steam will probably not be affected, it’s also possible that in the long term, such platforms may be restricted by regional encoding or other barriers to prevent online circumvention.