Supreme Court Throws Out California Law Banning Sales of Violent Games to Kids
Free speech advocates have got to be thrilled with a Supreme Court ruling today that overturned California's attempt to ban sales of violent video games to children.
Personally, I think it's another indicator that we need to get a lot more proactive about how we flag and review this sort of interactive, digital content. Frankly, our laws woefully ill-equipped to the level of sophistication and imagery that is now possible through even the most basic of games. Need evidence? Play "Angry Birds" for a few minutes. Incidentally, think about the premise of that game for a minute — attempting to kill a bunch of pigs. The stuff that the California law sought to nix was way more graphic and violent. An example: "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2," which includes depictions of terrorists killing civilians. (Its rating is pending.)
The 7-2 ruling deemed that the law — ironically signed into existence in 2005 by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes, he of the very violent Terminator character) went too far in its attempt to protect children. It didn't set out a new code of rating of this sort of content. Rather, it sought to find retailers that sold the games to anyone under that age of 18.
In the ruling, the court wrote:
"This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that 'interactive' video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its out-come, is unpersuasive."
CNN covers the detailed history of the case in this article.
While I'm no legal expert and I'm a writer, so I appreciate the free-speech defense, I believe we DO need tighter scrutiny of the regulations governing how video games and other digital content are marketed.
It is one thing as a parent to watch a movie or other form of linear content and decide whether or not your child is mature enough to view it. It is another thing entirely to expect a parent (or an aunt like me) to try out these interactive games beforehand and make that decision. That's because, frankly, I am not nearly as good with the joystick or game control devices as my young nephew. That's a fact, and it's a problematic one for those of us who would like to filter the images exposed to impressionable children.