182 experts, organizations denounce California game law

ESA receives support from diverse factions in Supreme Court case, including US Chamber of Commerce; film, recording, press bodies; attorneys general; scientific community; more.

The Entertainment Software Association has a tough fight on its hands as it prepares to argue the unconstitutionality of California's violent games law before the US Supreme Court. Luckily for it, the game industry's largest representative body is receiving substantial support from across a variety of entertainment industries and commerce bodies.

Headshots will be strictly prohibited in the ESA's upcoming Supreme Court battle.

On Friday, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund sparked a flurry of "friend of the court" amicus brief filings in the case of Schwarzenegger vs. the Entertainment Merchants Association, supporting the ESA's position. With the amicus brief deadline expiring over the weekend, the ESA announced today that 182 "First Amendment experts, national organizations, non-profits, associations, researchers, and social-science experts" have filed similar briefs with the Supreme Court.

"The depth, diversity, and high quality of briefs submitted strengthens our position before the Court," ESA president and CEO Michael Gallagher said in a statement. "These briefs are rooted in virtually every form of expression, commerce, social science, and constitutional jurisprudence imaginable. It is our hope that the Court will uphold an unbroken chain of lower court rulings that affirm video games' First Amendment protections, the rights of consumers' access to speech, and that parents--not government--are the best arbiters in determining what is right for their children."

The ESA lists 30 separate amicus briefs as having been filed in support of its efforts, including a number of publishers like id Software, Activision Blizzard, and Microsoft. According to the ESA, the filed amicus briefs echo the points already outlined by the gaming organization in its own filing, which was submitted to the Supreme Court on September 10.

Eighty-two members of the scientific and scholastic community also argued on behalf of the ESA, saying, "the studies [relied upon by the state] are of no help to California…because they document neither a causal connection nor a correlation between the playing of violent video games and violent, aggressive, or antisocial behavior." The briefs also note that California "ignore[d] a weighty body of scholarship, undertaken with established and reliable scientific methodologies, debunking the claim that the video games California seeks to regulate have harmful effects on minors."

The United States Chamber of Commerce also offered its two cents, stating, "California's law fails strict scrutiny because a ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors is not the least restrictive alternative to protecting them from age-inappropriate media content. Industry self-regulation is a highly effective and less restrictive alternative."

The Motion Picture Association of America's brief noted that, were the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal's decision overturned, it would have a "chilling effect" on the movie business. "[S]tate and local governments could attempt to impose similar restrictions on depictions of violence in other media, including motion pictures. Such restrictions would have an obvious chilling effect, particularly given the inherent amorphousness of restrictions of that type and the potential for a patchwork of nationwide regulation."

The ESA also received support from the Attorneys General for Rhode Island, Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington State. This group argued that the "quick fixes such as the California Statute cause more practical and constitutional problems, in expanding unneeded regulatory activity and hindering law enforcement, than they solve."

Notably, Oklahoma passed its own version of violent video game legislation in 2006. However, the law, which classified violent games in the same category as pornography, was ruled unconstitutional in 2007.

A full list and reproductions of the amicus briefs can be found on the ESA's Web site. Oral arguments in the matter are expected to commence on November 2. At issue in the case is California Assembly Bill 1179, which was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 but challenged in court before it could take effect.

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Discussion

197 comments
blueguykisame
blueguykisame

well i agree that the esrb ratings should maybe be enforced more based on maturity levels (getting tired of screaming 6 year olds on a a pretty violent Modern Warfare 2, and etc.) but this is a little much. Violent games are infecting children just as much as violent films, shows, and friends are if not less. Very few minors don't understand the difference between a game and real life. In gta4 i may get away with a murder, but in real life there would be forensic scientists and multiple investigators on the scene within hours already on my tail ready to put me away for life. I'm 15. And nope, my parent's wouldnt approve of me owning gta 4 or several other games via games on demand. there are some parents who do need to be more aware, but this isn't the right step in my opinon.

torbonator
torbonator

America the land of the free.... and censorship ftw! *insert sarcastic tone*

guyguyguy1234
guyguyguy1234

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Octopii
Octopii

The reason why this law is so important is because the description of "violent video games" isn't well described in it. What this means is each individual publisher would need to make those decisions based on the wording of law and hope that they're not in violation. Would a T-rated military shooter be considered inappropriate because it includes depictions of killing another human? How about the killing of aliens - are the Covenant sufficiently humanlike to be protected under the law? Does killing zombies count considering they're already dead? It's those questions that would scare the developers into not making creative, innovative games for fear of their game being unlawful and banned.

sliperywhenwet6
sliperywhenwet6

But will this law CHANGE anything? Most retail stores require an ID to buy any M games. Kids can't get them now anyway, the parents are buying them the games. So the parents will continue to get those games for those kids.

sliperywhenwet6
sliperywhenwet6

Im 14, but I actually care about the industry. I am learning to make maps, 3d models, and even animations. I like games for more then just shooting and "owning noobs". I like the stories and universes they create. So if I can't the next Half Life game because Cali decided to get more retarded? Thanks, government. I hope this law is seen for what it is: lazy parents not taking the time to see what games their kids are playing. I am not just gaming, but I am working towards a career. (and by mapping I mean Hammer world editor, not Halo "forge mode")

raptures330
raptures330

@ClaudiusCaesar If you don't want your son playing a certain video game, by all means: walk into the living room, press eject on the console, tear him a new one for buying it without telling you, and give it back to the store for a refund or store credit. Allow us all the same option. Let us police ourselves and our children, not Uncle Sam.

steelmouth
steelmouth

what the hell is Schwarzenegger doing i used to love the guy back in hollywood and at his prime, he really needs to quit politics and get back to his violent self that we all love

makon
makon

@ClaudiusCaesar "NO law can discriminate one group." Your own words. Doesn't making one sole section of the media industry fall under government scrutiny, and not all the rest, count as discrimination? Sounds like the definition to me. ...Did you seriously just compare government regulation of things such as the pharmaceutical industry and banking firms to video game production and sales? On what possible level do video games come even close to the same standard as the provided examples? Even if you could spin that as well, you can also look to how well the government has regulated those industries that you listed. Banking has hit rock-bottom, and our medical care is ranked amongst some of the worst in the world due to price gouging and denial of care. [Sarcasm]Thumbs up for government regulation![/sarcasm]. This law, also, doesn't "protect" anyone. Parents will still buy games for their kids, and will still make the same moronic mistakes that they do already, no law will change that. The only law that could change that is one that requires potential parents to pass an IQ-test and common knowledge exam before being allowed to breed. Instead, privatized sales will still occur, retailers will be bound to the same restrictions that, and I do emphasize, they already have, and government oversight and control into this industry will only hamper the ability for developers to create and distribute games, and for honest customers to have access to the material that they wish for.

24k_Solid_Gold
24k_Solid_Gold

@raptures330 hmm, I was not aware of that! I don't live in the US, but I assumed this was one of those things that is a more general law, like selling alchol to minors for example. But apparently this not case. :O

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

@makon What I meant was this law is for everybody, not for a specific group. So, no sales for anyone: retailers or private sale. It's a government's JOB to regulate industry to protect people from abuses. Don't you want pharmaceutic industry to be regulated? Or airlines? How about banks, are you willing to pay the next bail out of them? Maybe the game industry is abusing by rating some mature games as teen.

makon
makon

@ClaudiusCaesar By your own admission, this law indeed does discriminate against those who sell video games, and violates free trade rights. A bit of a contradiction there. By following the ESRB, the retailers that this law potentially would affect already do enforce the regulations by forcing retail employees from their jobs, and placing marks against the store managers. I'm sorry, but losing my job as a retailer sounds quite a bit worse than the over-arching corporation being fined $1000. The register-systems that all major retailers use have the clerks validate that the person they are selling a game to is over the age of 18. At the register, this law changes nothing. At the developer/publisher, this law adds government regulation and oversight to a process that is already overseen and enforced by the ESRB and their ratings, while opening a new can of worms for anyone who wants to remove games as a whole.

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

@makon NO law can discriminate one group. If will be illegal for retails, will be illegal for everybody. That was just the GameSpot simplification of it. Also, like any example you said, it will NOT be illegal to minors PLAY them (parents choice), it will be illegal to BUY them. In the future, if ANOTHER law try to restrict our right, as ADULTS, to buy a game, then WE will fight together to avoid it. I'm a parent, and I'll probably give some mature games to my son to play. But, I don't want he goes and BUY them for himself.

makon
makon

@ClaudiusCaesar ..Did you even read what you just put down? "Under the new law, retailers that sell such games would be subject to a $1,000 fine". Emphasis on the keyword: Retailers. The same retailers that are screened and monitored by the ESRB. Ebay, Craigslist, and other individual sales WILL NOT be prohibited. I would ask that you provide me a logical answer to one question: why games? Why not movies, music, books, and other entertainment mediums? It isn't 'illegal' for a minor to go see an R-Rated movie, it's just irresponsible parenting choices. It isn't 'illegal' for a minor to listen to explicit music about gangsta's and ho's, it's just bad parenting choices. It isn't 'illegal' for a minor to read an extremely violent and mature novel, it's just bad parenting choices. Where along the lines did video games suddenly become your exception to this trend? All the other mediums listed are not illegal in any state in the country, they are simply policed by themselves, and you don't see any legislation being proposed to change that. This law is seeking to revoke any 'free rights' from video games by deeming that they have 'No artistic value'. I explicitly do not want some politician with an agenda to have the right to deem that the games I play have 'no artistic value'. Not when they can later go back and propose that any video game deemed with that classification of 'no artistic value' should be restricted/banned.

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

@makon If you open the "signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005" article in the end of this article, you'll see that "Under the new law, retailers that sell such games would be subject to a $1,000 fine" (sell to minors). This law will STOP individual sells. It's not going after the distributer or producer. You are trying to create FEAR among gamers. That this law will ban games and so on. Gamers, have NO fear, if you are an ADULT, you will be able to buy ANY game you want, because the 1st amendment protects your freedom. But, if you are a minor, you have to ask your parents. P.S. The game industry will lose sales? Yes, because it will be more difficult to sell some games to minors. Other industries also lose not selling to minors, that's life.

makon
makon

@ClaudiusCaesar This law doesn't stop or prohibit the individual sellers of video games, even if you ran an Ebay store. It places a fine against the corporation at large, not levying any criminal or small claims charges against any individuals. What this law DOES do, however, is place video games under government scrutiny and observation. Getting further legislation against video games would be leagues easier after this legislation passes, however, because all they would have to do is point back to this bill and say "See? They're bad already! The law says so!". With that, they could place any restrictions against the video gaming media that they wanted, ranging from prohibiting the advertisement and sale of games in public stores and property (ex. porn), or deem that a game has 'No artistic value' and is banned outright. You claim that people need things such as this bill to help parents. How about if they passed a small meassure that required companies to train their employees further in the ESRB system and its enforcement, rather then mandate everything is run through government filters and screenings? For online sales, place a small notice page describing that "This game is rated M for Mature due to..." and requires smeone to click an option for "I am 18 or older, and I agree." I would advise you, and anyone for that matter, pull up 'Extra Credits: Free Speech" on YouTube or TheEscapist, it is a nice find on this topic.

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

@makon This law does NOT prohibit the production of mature games. It only prohibits to sell them to MINORS. Adults can buy as much as they want. I play mature games and I 100% sure I will be able to continue so. ESRB does not prohibit EVERYONE to sell mature games to minors. Anyone could buy mature games at EBay and sell them to minors. My suggested name for the business: "Mature Games for Kids". Who will stop it? The game industry? Flagging it. lol This law will never replace parents. It will HELP parents. Because, only parents will be allowed to give a mature game to their children.

raptures330
raptures330

@24k_Solid_Gold Actually, if you live in the US, it is not illegal. Just many game shops police themselves and refuse to. It is that very fact which is the point of this court fight.

makon
makon

@ClaudiusCaeser The law would make it where government officials would dictate what is 'Mature' and what is not. What happens, then, when they decide that 'Mature' games are labeled 'Obscene Material' and are prohibited, either falling under the same restrictions as pornography, or being banned outright? That is before a developer has to even pay any fees or fines associated with making a game 'Mature'. Nothing good comes of this law for the industry, and through them, the people that play games. ESRB Ratings, enforced in every state, prohibit the sale of a Mature game title to a minor. If a salesman violates that prohibition, they lose their job and their store manager is flagged with an offense. The only reason this law is taking up the court's valuable time is because enough ignorant parents didn't check the ratings for the games their kids pestered them for. Now when their kids misbehave or act out of line, it's video game's fault for it. Even though the parents are the ones who purchased the games anyway, and didn't bother to act responsibly in the first place.

KillerWabbit23
KillerWabbit23

Rant, rant, rant, blah, blah, blah, I hope the law doesn't pass. You've seen this before. T_T

24k_Solid_Gold
24k_Solid_Gold

I just don't get it. The law already does this! I mean, it is already illegal to sell M rated games to anyone under the age of 17 (at least where I'm from, and I assume it is like that everywhere else). There is no problem with this issue, why is it being brought up? >:O

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

@ZIVX This law only prevents MATURE games to be sold to MINORS. They do NOT need to change anything to sell to ADULTS. They still can produce the most bloody game in history, just sell to adults only.

ZIVX
ZIVX

But it will prevent some games from being sold which the developers would have to change the content to meet government standards which violate the first amendment.

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

This law does NOT prohib production or trade of ANY kind of game. It only defines what is MATURE and prohib them to be sold to MINORS. Today, any person could sell a M game to a minor, and this law will STOP that. But, any PARENT could give CoD MW2 to a 8 years old to play.

JackHoleFace00
JackHoleFace00

Nice to know that once and for all this charade will finally come to a conclusion. I'm betting (and hoping) it's deemed unconstitutional. Not only because I don't agree with it, but also so that that sniveling piece of crap Lee, who should be focused on more important problems in California, can look back and see that he's accomplished NOTHING but wasting time and tax payer money for the past FIVE years.

makon
makon

This law is just a pathetic shoe-in for future legislation to ban/restrict video games as a whole. Anyone who knows anything about the gaming industry, even down to the retailers, knows that the ESRB is just as powerful as this law would ever hope to be. As a former Gamestop employee, I watched one of my co-workers get fired because during an ESRB sting, he accidentally sold a M-Rated game to a 17 y/o kid without checking ID on accident. The ESRB Handlers contacted my District Manager, and was forced into letting our co-worker go because of the situation. The largest rallying cries for this law are "We need to be informed about what our kids play!" and "They shouldn't be sold to minors!". Due to ESRB enforcement, a retailer can not sell an M-Rated game to someone under the age of 18 lest they risk their jobs for that sale. All parents have to do is read the back of the case that describes the ESRB rating and the reasons for it. Any proper retailer is unable to sell a game to a minor if they fall outside of the game's rating bracket, and must explain to a parent or legal guardian that the game their child is trying to purchase is rated M (If they are a very proper retailer, they also explain the reasons why it is rated M), and then let the parent decide. If parents stepped up on the duties to be responsible parents and guardians for their children, we wouldn't even be thinking about legislation such as this.

whitemikeph23
whitemikeph23

if you read the new game informer mag, it has what the bill actually says. i thought this bill didnt affect me. there are many other states that support this bill too.ct,fl,hi,il,la,md,mi,mn,ms,tx,va, this bill would let the publisher rate the games based on their interpretation of the bill instead of the esrb. under the bill, a game falls under the law if..."a reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find it appeals to a deviant or mobid interest of minors..it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community as to what is suitable for minors,or it causes the game, as a whole,to lack serious literary,artistic,political, or scientific value for minors." and it describes a violent game as one in which "the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" so publishers have to determine whether or not zombies constitute as a human. or if covenant are considered humanlike in fear of getting fined or worse.and the govt would basically shut down the esrb,when they already do an excellent job.not to mention the fact that the govt would be controlling another thing in our lives.YES i agree that minors probably shouldn't buy M rated games, but it is up to the parents to supervise these children playing these games or at least know what they're playing to decide what's best. i have an 8 year old son. all he wants to do is play cod:mw2. do i let him? sometimes, and i let him know the situation of the world the game is set in. what's so hard about that parents???

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

Today the game industry regulates itself. So, they decide which games are M. But, there is NO punishinent for those who doesn't follow ESRB.

kavadias1981
kavadias1981

You mean this wasn't the law before?! Kids in California could just go and buy an M rated game whenever they chose?! Talk about backwards.

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

Corporations are in the business of make MONEY. They are not civic advocates. Why do you think Activision and others are against this law?

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

Why the industry is so concerned? Because this law will also make lots of TEEN games become MATURE. That will reduce their sales.

ClaudiusCaesar
ClaudiusCaesar

The law will pass, because it does NOT limite freedom. It just prohib anyone to sell MATURE video games to MINORS (like porn). The law does NOT prohib parents to buy MATURE video games to their children (what would be limitation of freedom).

stziggy
stziggy

So does anyone think Jack Thompson is aroused by this situation? He's been awfully quiet.

Gifted_One
Gifted_One

Like everything else.... Education is the key to understanding, perspective and most importantly, accuracy. For so many people to have college degrees in so many levels of gov't. it should come as a surprise that there is such a lack of education(hence the 3 important words) in these people. People whom have so much power and say for the rest of us civilians.. A true shame. Ought to start fixing our problems in school from kindergarten to the Ph.D. at an ivy league college. Maybe then will things change for the better. Doubtful anything relavent will happen. And to blame any one person shows nothing but even more ignorance. Keep in mind that someone who is ignorant is simply lacking knowledge. Funny how its knowledge that seperates us from other creatures. What an ungrateful race we are. Some people I bet will understand this fully and others will vaguely get it. Let time tell if you dont agree. Just look around. Look and listen and learn.

KuroriKenshin
KuroriKenshin

I thank the found father's every day for the 1st amendment. It is so clear and unmisinterpertable that literally everything is protected; not just the things some stupid people or government find offensive. Thank you again for protecting our right to offend the hell out of whiny a$$holes.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

Wasting Tax Payers dollars yet again. Way to go Merica.

jimmyzeke13
jimmyzeke13

While i don't really think little kids should play m-rated games, this law would be as helpful as the one banning downloading music illegally.

jamesm7786
jamesm7786

@magicalclick & @dkdk999 I absolutely agree!

jamesm7786
jamesm7786

Excellent. I am very happy to see the support that has shown up for the Video Game Industry. It is a terrible shame that more people do not realize what this legislation can do their own first amendment rights. Leave it to Big Brother to try and impose upon a constitutional right...

SoNin360
SoNin360

Either way this goes, I don't think it is going to have that much of an impact...

dkdk999
dkdk999

the law isn't going to do a damn thing as far as stopping kids from playing mature games. Why do people have this fantasy that passing a law immediately fixes problems?

magicalclick
magicalclick

If they don't play those game, they will just burn real living bugs in their backyard anyway. Or if they are real rich, they will hunt real animals with real riffles where obviously no cops around, and obviously the gore effect is as real as it can get.

Swedenik
Swedenik

Haha, the state of California is gonna be tactically nuked in court

calvinsora
calvinsora

The large divide here is that the restrictions being opposed here are not a solution to the problem. It's not that chain stores like GameStop and Best Buy are rubbing their hands together, rejoicing in added sales of violent video games. They sell it because it's made, the buyers bear the complete responsibility to the content of said purchase. It's not the government and retailers that must conform to the will of the parents, it's the complete opposite! If parents can't control what their kids are playing, what does that say about their parental duties as a whole?

Mephers
Mephers

Ive watched this country go to shat, quietly I might add. If this passes I give up on this nation.

Ringx55
Ringx55

I don't get it, kids shouldn't be allowed to buy rated M games. Unless I'm totally wrong and their fighting over something else?

spKeeper20
spKeeper20

ESRB was made for a reason. this wouldn't be relevant if parents monitored what their kids play.

ThAdEa82
ThAdEa82

the word Schwarzenegger means 'sploshuns and machine gun fiyah...get to deh choppah!

idk95
idk95

@Bortson actually the very 1st game was made in the 50s look it up not being rude just letting u know the facts