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California Submits Arguments for Violent Game Law to Supreme Court

The Supreme Court battle heats up as California submits their arguments.

On July 12th, California submitted their argument in favor of a law banning the selling or renting of  “violent” video games to minors, according to Game Politics. The argument is a 59-page brief submitted by California’s Attorney General Jerry Brown.

The Supreme Court decided to review California’s game legislation and hear the state’s and the ESA’s argument concerning violent video games back in April.

Schwarzenegger v. EMA is the first time the Supreme Court is hearing a case concerning video games.

Stephen Totilo at Kotaku obtained some of the brief’s arguments.

It defines “violent video games”, as well as the penalties for violation of the law:

1. California Civil Code sections 1746-1746.5 (the Act) prohibit the sale or rental of “violent video games” to minors under 18. The Act defines a “violent video game” as one that depicts “killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a manner that meets all of the following requirements: (1) A reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find that it appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors; (2) it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community as to what is suitable for minors, and; (3) it causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors. The Act does not prohibit a minor’s parent or guardian from purchasing or renting such games for the minor. Pet. App. 96a.

The Act provides for a penalty of up to $1,000 per violation, which may be lowered in the discretion of the court. The penalty does not apply to any person who is employed solely in the capacity of a salesclerk or other similar position, provided he or she does not have an ownership interest in the business in which the violation occurred and is not employed as a manager in the business. Pet. App. 98a.

The law will treat video games as equivalent to pornography.

No rational justification exists for treating violent material so vastly different than sexual material under the First Amendment when reviewing restrictions on distribution to minors.

Postal 2, a 2003 PC title, is cited as an example of a type of violent game that would be illegal to sell or rent under the law. Few other games are specifically mentioned.

While supporters of the bill claim violent video games harm children, the full scope of their effects cannot be completely tested:

Never has this Court required a legislative body to come forward with proof of a direct causal nexus between offensive material and physical or psychological harm to minors. Such an evidentiary requirement would presumably entail experimentation on minors in order to justify legislation seeking to protect them from harm. In order to show direct causation, researchers would theoretically be required to isolate a minor from all other forms of violence (be it media violence, school violence, or family violence) while exposing the minor only to violent video games in order to determine whether such exposure directly causes the negative physical and psychological impacts observed by the existing literature.

On his website, California Senator Leland Yee, a leading proponent of the bill, said:

We need to help empower parents with the ultimate decision over whether or not their children play in a world of violence and murder. The video game industry should not be allowed to put their profit margins over the rights of parents and the well-being of children.

According to IndustryGamers, some in the game industry worry the law will prevent certain titles from being sold at big chains like Wal-Mart, who bring in a large percentage of game sales.

In response to California’s submission, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) said:

Courts across the country recognize that computer and video games, like other protected expression such as movies, books, and music, have an artistic viewpoint, and use sounds and images to create an experience and immerse the player in art. That is why other courts have unanimously affirmed that video games are entitled to the same constitutional protection as movies, music, books, and other forms of art.

California’s law is no different than others before it. It is clearly unconstitutional under First Amendment principles.

According to Game Politics, the ESA has until Sept. 10th to file their own arguments to the Supreme Court.

Discussion

“Empowering” parents? What rights have parents lost due to “violent” video games? Lee’s argument is completely ridiculous and makes absolutely no sense.

Games are a luxury, not a right. They aren’t something that are needed to survive or have a healthy life. They aren’t something that takes away rights either. The game industry isn’t some totalitarian force taking away people’s rights by making video games.

Parents already have the “ultimate decision” in regards to what their children are allowed to do.

Parents need to be parents. The government doesn’t need to be a child’s parent. It’s up the parents to decide what is or isn’t right for their own children. Likewise, parents need to stop being irresponsible and take care of their damn kids. A five-year-old kid shouldn’t be playing Grand Theft Auto. An Xbox 360 is not a babysitter. How about “empowering” parents to do their job right?

Minors cannot purchase a M-rated game. More often than not, you need to show a state ID to the employee to confirm your age. A seven-year-old just can’t walk into Gamestop and buy Modern Warfare 2.

Besides parents or family members, how else is a child supposed to afford and obtain a $60 game, plus the $200-300 system to play it on?

Even if the law passes, it doesn’t stop minors from playing violent games. With terrible parenting, they’ll still be exposed to these “violent” games that if you listen to guys like Lee, are sending our country into a spiraling decay and destroying our entire civilization.

While California defines “violent” games in the brief, their definition is broad. There’s a big difference between M-rated games like God of War 3, Halo:ODST, and Dead Rising.

Their requirements are completely subjective and place the judgment in the hands of people who don’t play video games or know anything about them.

The example they use is outdated. Postal 2 is seven-years-old. It’s not even relevant anymore. If Gary Coleman (who starred in the game) was still alive, he’d no doubt say “Whatchu talkin’ ’bout Senator Leland Lee?”

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s governor, didn’t have a problem with excessively violent media when he was bringing in millions of dollars with the Terminator franchise, Commando, Predator, and his other successful films.

EA’s Jeff Green brings up a fabulous point:

If Schwarzenegger really believed in the underlying message of the law with his name on it—that it should be illegal to sell or rent material deemed excessively violent for kids—then he should take the first step and make it illegal for kids to see “The Expendables.” Until then, this is all nothing but hypocrisy of the highest order.

As usual.

The Expendables looks very violent. Arnold stars in the film. He should practice what he preaches. If he is so concerned with protecting children from violence, he wouldn’t be starring in such a film. Lawmakers need to stop playing moral authority and leave that responsibility in the hands of parents.

Photos:

Kid gaming by Ariana Cubillos / Associated Press

GTA4 by Paul Sakuma / Associated Press

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