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New Video Game Laws? Not Now, Please

by Indy, published

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.

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