Video Game Ban Case Goes to Supreme Court

Discussion
Apr 27, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Video game makers believe California and six other states have run afoul of the U.S. Constitution by banning the sale of violent video games to minors. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with them, at least in the case of California, and threw out that state’s law, claiming it was unconstitutional. Now, the nation’s highest court has agreed to take up the case following an appeal by California.

Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, said in a statement, "Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional. Research shows that the public agrees, video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies, and music."

Some believe the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, which allows the sale of videos depicting animal cruelty, may signal a willingness by the justices to rule against game bans. States other than California with bans include Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Washington.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the California ban into law in 2005,  said in a statement, "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. I am pleased the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up this issue, and I look forward to a decision upholding this important law that gives parents more tools to protect their children, including the opportunity to determine what video games are appropriate."

Discussion Questions: Should states be allowed to ban the sale of violent or overtly sexual games to minors? Should retailers be doing the same as a matter of sales policy even when bans are not in place?

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9 Comments on "Video Game Ban Case Goes to Supreme Court"


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Al McClain
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Al McClain
11 years 12 days ago

You’d like to think that retailers would police themselves on this one, but the era of self-policing, if there ever was one, is over. Some retailers will do the right thing, but for many others “It’s all about the money!”

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
11 years 12 days ago
“Censorship” is always a touchy topic. However, it’s important not to classify all restrictions under the term “censorship.” Censorship of information is one thing, applying restrictions for the common good is another. Adults have always had more freedom than children for good reason. As a society, we have an obligation to protect our children. There are reasons to believe that violence and explicit content contribute to the delinquency of minors. It is unreasonable to expect parents to have the ability to monitor their children 24×7, even in households where one of the parents is at home with their kids. The fact is that they cannot always monitor everything their kids do. Kids need restrictions and parents sometimes need help applying those restrictions. We don’t allow our kids to enter “R” rated movies, buy alcohol, purchase porn, smoke, drive or even vote. These are all things adults can do that kids can’t. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand why. Things that are harmful to children should not be readily available to them and society… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 12 days ago

This Supreme Court hasn’t shown much willingness to protect the average citizen. It has a history of distasteful decisions, including enhanced state powers of eminent domain which threaten homeowners, and a decision to legalize crush videos (which will probably now appear on YouTube.) I would guess that protecting children is pretty low on their priority list.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 12 days ago

“Minor” is a legal definition. This distinction was struck because there has historically been a determination that an individual under a certain age does not have the facility to appropriately make certain decisions. Minors can not sign contracts. Minors can not buy cigarettes or alcohol. There are age distinctions with regard to driving automobiles or seeing movies.

It is a bit confounding on why this distinction is in question with regard to video games. If the Supreme Court overturns this law, does that put all age related prohibitions at risk?

Kent Bryant
Guest
Kent Bryant
11 years 12 days ago

I see this as a first amendment problem but if the big retailers had the morals and fortitude they just would not sell them and there would be no need for the law. But just like porn, tobacco and liquor I really don’t see why they can stand and this cannot.

Michael Rockafellow
Guest
Michael Rockafellow
11 years 12 days ago

Video games are stealing our children’s opportunity to be a “kid.” Don’t throw adult material at them as well. Minors cannot buy Playboy or Hustler magazine at a retailer. I cannot see one positive benefit from this decision.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 12 days ago

As commentators here have noted, this would seem to be a simple (“common sense,” in some views) expansion of various restrictive laws governing minors; why then, or even how, could a court overturn them? Perhaps because the laws are vague, or fail to show cause-and-effect (it’s quite easy to show an 8 year-old will wreak havoc with a car, it’s much harder to prove they are harmed by playing a video game.) My own views on this are mixed: I find repugnant the idea of a 6 year-old playing, say, GrandTheftAuto, but I also find absurd that some busy-body somewhere would try to prohibit a 16-year old from playing a video version of the Battle of Britain because they think it’s violent. The wording of the question stacks the deck: of course one would want to prohibit an “ultra-violent” game, but who is to decide how that term is defined?

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
11 years 8 days ago

Yes.

Yes.

At some point, it has to become about doing the right thing. We need more leaders.

Ryan Miller
Guest
Ryan Miller
10 years 11 months ago
Much like we believe fast food restaurants should not be the ones responsible for imposing caloric-intake restrictions on their customers, gamers’ stance is that retailers should not dictate video game purchasing decisions to consumers based on factors such as race, age, religion, or sex. As a responsible retailer, and again in similar fashion to the aforementioned fast food restaurant example, we do feel a sense of duty to help educate parents on the ESRB rating system and the contents of the various video games we carry. It is our strong hope and recommendation that parents know, and be involved with, the whereabouts and general purchasing choices of their children, be it with buying Bioshock 2 or a Big Mac (the latter of which is proven to pose a greater health risk to consumers). No restrictions imposed, by retailers or government, will have the same level of impact as strong, clear guidance from parents. Those who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.-Ben Franklin We firmly believe… Read more »
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