It stands to reason that if the Supreme Court is going to talk about videogames, so is Jon Stewart. In a funny bit on last night's Daily Show, Stewart talked a bit about the recent decision—which upheld a ruling qualifying games as speech worthy of protection under the first amendment—then showed a fatality from the new Mortal Kombat in which Noob Saibot and his clone grab Sonya Blade and tear her in half up the crotch.
In the segment (embedded below), Stewart cautions the audience that what he is about to show is "like an interactive, animated snuff film." As the video plays, he talks over the shocked gasps and hoots from the crowd, saying that, "The U.S. Supreme Court determined, 7-2, that the State of California has no interest in restricting the sale of this game to children."
The set-up and Stewart's reaction are pretty funny. Not only did he pick a scene from what is arguably the most ridiculously violent game on the market, he also picked the most gory and painful-looking fatality. What's more, he chose a clip in which a female character is getting killed by a man, and in a somewhat sexual manner at that. (Noob's fatality can be done to any character in the game.) But that's really okay; it isn't as though we should expect him to show a corresponding clip from Flower. This wasn't about "fair," it was about getting laughs.
But it is worth noting that Stewart implied that the court ruling made it so that M-rated games could be sold to children with no regulation, which isn't true at all. The Court's ruling simply determined that the ESRB, the gaming industry's independent ratings association, was sufficient to regulate games with no governmental intervention. The decision makes it no more possible for children to purchase Mortal Kombat (an M-rated game) than they are able to attend movies that have been rated R by the similarly non-government-regulated MPAA.
Mortal Kombat is silly and fun while we're playing it, but it's a bit bracing to see a scene from it taken out of context like that, isn't it? For those of us who believe in the creative power of this medium, it's worth bearing in mind that scenes like the one Stewart chose are often the ones that people will hold up every time the question of game censorship is raised.
But just as The Human Centipede exists in the same world as The Incredibles, so too can Mortal Kombat coexist with Costume Quest and Child of Eden. It's all speech, and it all deserves constitutional protection.
(As a side note, if you'd like to read a bunch of writers waxing rhapsodic about the best and most disturbing fatalities in Mortal Kombat, I refer you to the fatalities-only review we did over at Kill Screen. It's pretty good times.)