The War on Gaming: Library Censorship
As I am travelling across the country, I am interacting more and more with libraries. In the past I had to rely on libraries for gaming opportunities. I have gone so far as to have a video game I made added to a library collection.
The US Supreme Court recently issued a decision which gives games first amendment protection. Although I was glad to see video games receive the protection they deserve, I was also critical of the decision and the gaming community for fostering a culture of censorship.
As I am now in Florida, the library situation is becoming increasingly dire. The Orange County library system is charging a $10 fee for limited access to tourists/non-residents. This is in direct contravention of Article 19 which protects internet access as a human right. This is even more shocking when the conduct is being promoted by a library. The librarian told me to go down to McDonalds to enjoy their free wifi. This unnecessarily shifts the costs from the public to the private sector. In a civil rights regime, like the United State, it can also result in a subsequent loss of rights. After going to McDonalds, I returned to the Orange County Library on Edgewater to file a written complaint about their internet policies which clearly impact the non-resident poor and tourists and are a clear denial of human rights.
In St. George, Utah, the filtering software put an automatic block on my ability to access Elements the Game.
Although the block was removed upon request, it requires a removal each time and obviously chills expression.
As I am heading into Seminole County, I looked at the computer use polices of the Altamonte Spring’s library. The computer use policies specifically prohibit playing games saying:
“Games and online gambling are not permitted on the computers.”
It is the library itself which is acting as a center of censorship in direct contradiction of the holdings of the Supreme Court of the United States and paper rights without enforcement are meaningless. It is my suspicion that a library that is willing to openly engage in an act of censorship, is probably willing to exercise its ability to censor in more subtle ways as well.
The libraries decisions will effect people everywhere.
The Central library at Casselberry (Seminole County) charges $1 for a 45 minute visitor pass and has a websense blocker in place. It does have a free wifi connection for people like me, on one side of the digital divide, who have a netbook. People without the technology will be left behind. At the Casselberry library, I visited Kongregate without problems. The Casselberry library also had an infographic which showed that at least 12% of its library visitors came to use the computers or wifi.
Many people rely on libraries for a myriad of services including gaming.
Interestingly enough, the library at Casselberry also blocks youtube and this story (the one you are reading) does not have the embedded youtube video in this story viewable at the Casselberry library. Tumblr is also site-blocked.
In summary, libraries that deny access to games fundamentally impair my ability to communicate serious social and political messages and more significantly it also restricts my ability to express my love.