California Video Game Law Being Reviewed

The law never even made it out of the starting gate after being signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which prohibited the sale or rental of violent video games to anyone under the age of 18. The Supreme Court is in the middle of the battle between the laws protecting children and the free speech rights to decide if the state of California can ban the sale or rental of violent games to minors.

Not only will the ban keep minors from purchasing violent video games, but also developers and game manufacturers will have to create strict labeling. If the law goes into affect, Retailers could face fines of $1,000 for every violation.

Governor Schwarzenegger stated, “We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies,”

Opponents of this law state there are already ratings systems on video games and that parents should be the deciding factor on which video games their children should purchase and play. The Entertainment Software Association states the video games are an expression, which is protected by the First Amendment.

This case comes after a strike down to a federal law banning videos showing animal cruelty. This case is using some of the same free speech concerns even though the state is aiming to protect children instead of animals.

Michael D. Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association stated, “we are hopeful that the court will reject California’s invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment.”

California state senator, Leland Yee, wrote the video game ban and explained that the Supreme Court “obviously does not think the animal cruelty ban and the violent game ban can be compared”. He also stated, “Clearly, the justices want to look specifically at our narrowly tailored law that simply limits sales of ultra-violent games to kids without prohibiting speech,” “Clearly, the justices want to look specifically at our narrowly tailored law that simply limits sales of ultra-violent games to kids without prohibiting speech.”

California lawmakers approved the law based on studies suggesting violent games can be linked to aggressions, desensitization to violence, anti-social behavior, and aggression in children. Judge Consuelo Callahan stated, “None of the research establishes or suggests a causal link between minors playing violent video games and actual psychological or neurological harm, and inferences to that effect would not be reasonable.”