The US Supreme Court won't start hearing arguments over California's law banning game sales to minors until November 2. However, the ruling in the court of popular opinion is already in, according to a new poll.
This week, parent watchdog group Common Sense Media released the results of a survey it commissioned on children's access to violent games. Conducted by polling firm Zogby International, the survey asked 2,100 adults whether they would support a law that "prohibits minors from purchasing ultraviolent or sexually violent video games without parental consent." Of those surveyed, some 72 percent said they would approve such a law.
Common Sense Media CEO and founder James Steyer, whose nonprofit organization is lobbying for game-restriction legislation in many states, hailed the poll's findings. "We hope the [state] attorneys general will take a look at these poll results and that they'll side with families over protecting the profits of the video game industry."
Zogby also asked those parents that were polled some more general questions about violent video games and their children. Some 65 percent said they were "concerned about the impact of ultraviolent video games on their kids." A full 75 percent of parents would give the game industry as a whole a "negative rating when it comes to how they protect kids from violent video games." Over half of both adults and parents would rate the industry's efforts as "poorly" in the latter matter.
The studies come just weeks before the US Supreme Court will begin a process that could decide once and for all the question of whether states can restrict sales of violent games to minors. 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.
Penned by California state assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), CAB1179 sought to ban the sale or rental of "violent video games" to children. A "violent" game was defined as a "game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." If it becomes law, retailers that sold such games would be subject to a $1,000 fine.
The bill would also have required "violent" video games to bear a 2-inch-by-2-inch sticker with a "solid white '18' outlined in black" on their front covers. That's more than twice the size of the labels that currently adorn game-box covers and display the familiar Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating.
In 2007, a circuit court judge struck down the law as unconstitutional but admitted he was "sympathetic to what the legislature sought to do." Last year, an appellate court judge backed up the original ruling. Months before the appellate court's decision, in an appearance on GameSpot's HotSpot podcast, Yee predicted that the dispute would be pushed to the Supreme Court.