New Video Game Laws? Not Now, Please

Your
budget deficit continues to grow by leaps and billions, and voters are telling
you to stick your plan for closing part of the gap in your ear. What’s the next
logical move, state of California?

Continue
defending a law aimed at stopping children from buying violent video games –
litigation that’s already cost the state close to $400,000.

That’s
the state’s tab so far in a lawsuit the Video Software Dealers Association
filed after a 2005 bill sponsored by Sen. Leland Yee, The
Sacramento Bee
reports
. The attorney general’s office has until the end of
today to decide whether to continue the case, which the state has lost so far
in U.S. District Court and before the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals.

According to the
association’s Web site
, seven states and two local governments have passed
such legislation and the trade group is actively involved in eight lawsuits.
It’s filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the ninth case.

The
association’s take: Such laws interfere with minors’ First Amendment rights.

That one
could be a wobbler legally. Courts long have ruled that states can regulate
minors’ access to materials as long as that regulation doesn’t also restrict adults.

The
association’s second claim is downright laughable: “The association’s
advocacy is propelled by the recognition that video games and other forms of
entertainment can educate, amuse, inspire, challenge, and bring people together
and that society is invigorated if individuals and families can decide for
themselves, without the interference of government, what they shall see, read,
hear, and play.”

In the
case of California’s
law, you have to wonder exactly what the association considers education, amusement
and inspiration.

Yee’s
bill is aimed at video games that depict humans being killed, maimed, sexually
assaulted or tortured. That’s probably not the type of education, amusement and
inspiration most parents want their children to receive. And most people don’t
consider bondage and family bonding to be one and the same.

Still,
there are systems in place to help parents decide if a game is appropriate for
their children.

The
Entertainment Software Board already labels video games. It’s even worked in
recent months to improve
what some in Congress thought were vague
descriptions. Additional warnings are posted in stores, and the the ESRB Web site has a
searchable database that consumers can check out before shopping.

And if
Yee’s bill is aimed at stopping minors from playing violent games without
parental permission, it’s difficult to see how it would achieve that goal.
There’s always a friend’s house.

There’s
also the danger that banning teens from buying games would make them all the
more attractive. If the adults don’t want me to have it, then that’s exactly
what I must have.

As for
the alleged connection between video games and violence, the one that allows
Yee to say his bill would “save children”: Research shows mixed
results. One recent study of studies suggesting personality is a big factor in
whether people who play violent games become violent themselves.

So what
will California have for its $300,000 if it presses on to the U.S. Supreme
Court – and that tab will climb if it does.

It will
have a law not needed because there already are numerous ways for parents to
keep their kids away from violent games. That doesn’t sound like a good
investment of taxpayer money right now.