Violent Video Games for Kids

Violent Video Games for Kids

A 2005 California law requiring labeling of violent video games and banning their sale to minors was declared unconstitutional by a California District Court this week. Assembly Bill No. 1179[pdf] (which endearingly defines video games as “electronic amusement device[s]”) was challenged by the Entertainment Software Association and the Video Software Dealers Association shortly after being signed into law by Governator Schwarzenegger (who endearingly starred in many violent films before inveighing against violent games). The plaintiffs got a preliminary injunction before the law went into effect; the latest decision makes that injunction permanent.

The decision quotes highlights from the bill, including its definitions of “heinous,” “depraved,” and “torture.” “Needless mutilation of the victim's body” is a particularly pertinent factor in the assessment of the game's violence, raising the question: when is mutilation of a victim's body necessary?

Minors do not have full First Amendment rights, and states may encroach on the First Amendment if they have a “compelling interest.” But content-based regulations are particularly repugnant to the constitution, and California's video game law couldn't overcome that defect by being narrowly tailored to the state interest of protecting minors from becoming violent by being exposed to violent games. That's in part because the state couldn't show that violent video games were any more dangerous to minors than violent movies, tv, or the internet. (It's worth noting that the movie-rating system is a voluntary industry measure, not government-imposed.)

A victory for games as communicative speech deserving of First Amendment protection, this case also raises a few interesting questions. States can and do limit minors' access to sexually explicit material (indeed, the law was passed shortly after the revelation of sexual content in Grand Theft Auto) – so why the higher standard to limit their exposure to violence? Should the courts be interrogating the science behind a legislature's choices?


Thumbnail photo courtesy of Fuzzy Gerdes.



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I feel that it should be the parents choice what their kids play or buy. So many parents are uneducated about games it seems like that should be a priority. Teach parents about the games so they can better regulate what games their children get a hold of.



The hell should it be your decision whether or not a kid plays a game?! I can understand that you might not want a 9 year old playing manhunt but If the child is responsible and understands that it is just a game then why not?




It is my decision, because I am the parent. I set the rules, I decide what is acceptable or not--I am the Matrix.

If it makes you feel any better, it also means every screwup of a kid makes the parent immediately and legally culpable. My kid chucks a rock along the street and it causes damage under someone's parked car? Yep--I foot the bill. When the kid becomes an adult, hey--knock yourself out. Until then, you live in a totalitarian (but I'd like to think enlightened) state where I am judge, jury, and executioner. Hopefully that last one won't be needed too often.



Couldn't have said it better myself. Completely agree with both your comments.



People who condemn video games must just hate life in general, imho. They tried to connect the guy who killed all those people at Virginia Tech to violent video games. He didn't play any violent video games, or any video games in general. I am smart enough to determine that he is crazy without seeing him have to play video games. But I don't like Grand Theft Auto. Violence in video games is little compared to sexual content, imho.



violent video games dont make people violent, violence in that persons life makes them violent. its a proven fact already that video games dont make the person violent. how many times have you heard on the news about some guy playing socom(as an example) and went out and because socom has killing in it, desided to go get a desert eagel and started shooting people up?. i can honestly say i have never seen it, another thing that cause's violence is bullying, most people who become violent were bullied in one way or another. dont get me wrong im not passing blame off to bullying, im just stating why not put blame on something that acually cause's violence. not an electronical device. whats next? they gonna say ATM's cause violence?, or wait maybe mobile phones. or mp3 players.



I'm a parent of a 3-year old, and guess what? It's *my* responsibility to monitor what she watches on TV, what clothes she walks out of the house with, and yes--what kinds of games she plays. It will be so for many years.

I enjoy watching some of the older episodes of CSI on Spike, but I don't since my daughter would certainly be horrified by some of the things on there. The bill and others like it actually hurt parental rights more than it helps. If people who want to attack video games because of the violence really want to make kids safer--start with parents who smoke around their kids. At least that's a legitimate health concern.


Mad Beaver

I want to know where you got the pic for this article. The one where a kid is holding an original Nintendo game controller. It’s cool. Who reading this has actually used one of these things? Reminds me of big hair and death metal.



@Mad Beaver: when I use someone else's photo, I credit them at the bottom of the post by saying something like "Thumbnail photo courtesy of [someone]" and their name is a link to the photo, usually on flickr.

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