California makes its case in Supreme Court gaming fight

State submits written arguments in support of violent game prohibitions; oral arguments expected this fall.

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California has taken the first swing in its Supreme Court fight against the gaming industry, as this week State Senator Leland Yee announced the filing of the state's initial arguments supporting a ban on the sale of violent games to minors. Yee expects oral arguments in the case to be heard this fall.

Justice is blind, hence the need for oral arguments.

"I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will help us give parents a valuable tool to protect children from the harmful effects of excessively violent, interactive video games," Yee said in a prepared statement. "The Supreme Court has never heard a case dealing with violent video games, and considering the precedent set by the high court, I am confident that they will uphold our law as Constitutional."

Among the precedents he referred to are rulings saying that states can limit minors' access to harmful materials like pornography, alcohol, and tobacco. The written argument also says that many states have enacted laws regulating both sexually explicit and violent material to minors, and that society has an understanding that both influences be equally harmful to children.

"This is further reflected in the fact that violence can strip constitutional protection from otherwise protected material," according to the state's argument. "Sexually explicit material that would be otherwise protected for distribution to adults can be considered obscene given the violent nature of its depiction. No rational justification exists for treating violent material so vastly different than sexual material under the First Amendment when reviewing restrictions on distribution to minors."

Signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 but challenged in court before it could take effect, the bill 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." Under the 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 two-inch-by-two-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.

Discussion

300 comments
weapon_d00d816
weapon_d00d816

Utterly pointless. There is already the ESRB which puts a big-ass rating on the front and back of the box. Why should we have to be 18 to buy or rent a T-rated game for 13-year-olds? I'm getting sick of the government thinking they know what is best for our children. Let us raise them and tell them what is inappropriate.

badkarma33
badkarma33

Figures this sort of legislation would come out of the democratic people's republic of Kalifornia where they give tax breaks to movie studios that shoot films that demonize American soldiers and sympathize with terrorists. With Obama nominated supreme court justices like Sotomayor, who lied about being pro 2nd amendment then voted to allow cities to ban firearms and nanny state Kagan who believes it's even under the government's purview to tell you what you can eat because you're too stupid to take care of yourselves. Do you think either of them are going to vote FOR your right to sit around on your butt and play violent video games? This is going to pass and there's not going to be a thing anyone can do to change it. So long ESRB, hello higher taxes, more government regulation and censorship, "does it praise Obama enough? are there enough wise latinas in the game?". Still believe the BS that the media sold younger voters about Obama not coming for your video games? Please, if you're a San Fran resident vote this clown Leland Yee out into the street where he can't do any more damage to the liberties of our nation. But if not and you don't believe in the first amendment, just go back to abusing it by burning books, bibles and American flags with your fellow communists and leave the rest of us alone.

fallen_rock2
fallen_rock2

Makes sense to me. You don't sell smokes and booze to little kids so why would you sell violent games? Just listen to the chat on xbox live and it shows the majority of minors don't have the maturity to view products such as the ones the restriction would apply to.

killer690
killer690

- We do a have a powerful tool for that, it is called the ESRB ratings, I mean, if I was a dad I wouldn't buy an M rated game -

Syrin23
Syrin23

What ?!?! Liberals try to limit freedoms ?!?! Who would have EVER GUESSED THIS ?!?!?!

painter015k
painter015k

shouldn't parents be doing the parenting instead of the government? This babysitting thing is really starting to get annoying.

Valtero
Valtero

I really don't understand what they're trying to do here. It's ALREADY illegal for a merchant to sell M-rated games to minors, just as it's illegal for a movie theater to sell tickets for R rated movies to minors. The law already stipulates that a parent or guardian must approve before the minor can be exposed to violent content. As long as a parent gives approval, it's just fine for an 8-year-old to go see the next Saw movie with their parents, but I don't see Senator Yee pitching a fit over that. R-rated movies are just as violent as M-rated games; more so because R-rated movies are far more realistic. Yee and his supporters are targeting the video game industry because they think they can paint it as a collection of smut-peddling evil companies; it's far harder to target neglectful parents who don't monitor their children and then cry foul when they realize they've been letting them partake of excessive violent and/or sexual content. If Yee's plan was to ban adults from purchasing M-rated games for minors and to enact strict punishments for those adults, much like tobacco and alcohol, he'd be hard-pressed to find ANY support. This is about pointing fingers, not about taking responsibility.

uncannyone53543
uncannyone53543

Next law: A $1,500 fine to grandmothers who buy violent games for their grandchildren.

dancingsmurfs01
dancingsmurfs01

im tired of the government trying to babysit us on what we can and cant do just let us live our lives with out the government interfering

wiiplay1
wiiplay1

It is not the governments job to be doing these types of things. Who is raising your child; you, or the government? "I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will help us give parents a valuable tool to protect children from the harmful effects of excessively violent, interactive video games." Just what exactly are those harmful effects, Yee? I know plenty of people that played those games as a child, but they didn't grow up screw ups.

twentymooseman
twentymooseman

I guess the first amendment doesn't hold any weight in our society anymore. I guess it died with the parental advisory stickers in the 80's, and we all see how well that worked out with explicit record sales increasing after the parental advisory stickers were introduced. The difference is that this heinous abuse of power that has been proposed is government regulation. Why don't you stop trying to think of the children and let parents do their job. If you don't think that the current system works well enough, what makes you think the new one will work any better? Stop butting into other people's personal business and let parents raise their kids. All you're really doing is criminalizing bad parenting. "MIND YOU'RE OWN F*CKING BUSINESS!" sums up my argument pretty well.

SuperYeti22
SuperYeti22

Mr. Yee, please do us a favor and shut the f**k up. I think that parents should step up and start raising their own kids, rather than let games raise their kids. Its just a game, its not serious. Everyone should be allowed to play whatever game they want to play, but learn to turn it off sometimes. And this is violating our first ammendment rights. And I played M-Rated games since I was 7. And they're doing us to "protect" kids under 18, which is really the opposite. I remember my bro and my best friends would come over to my appartment, and we would play Halo, Gears, Crackdown, Resistance, GTA. We had a lot of fun, and thats what we did most of the time. We're off to college now, and we still play through Xbox Live and PSN. Violent video games brought us gamers together. Without those violent games, what would we do? Madden NFL? Hell no. Go outside? We lived in the city, and it rained like crazy. Play with toy lightsabers? We're not 8 anymore. Board games? Please be joking. These violent games brought all of us gamers together, and that's how we had fun. Mr. Yee, PLEASE do us all a favor and keep your filthy hands to your self, but more importantly, off of our rights and off of our GAMES!!!

Buck_Swaggler
Buck_Swaggler

This is either idiocy, or lunacy, or both. There are already labels on these games rating their content, attempting to accomplish the exact goal this case is after. If a kid wants a game and the parent doesn't see any harm, they'll just buy it for their kid, regardless of the rules. That's how it is now, and either way this goes, that's how it will be. This is an utter waste of time and resources.

Coolyfett
Coolyfett

This sounds like what happened to 2 Live Crew in the 90s....The stickers, the fines, the law suits....just like that 2 Live Crew situation....this will not stop kids from seeing and wanting to play these games. What about youtube and internet sales?? Its a lost cause...they need to invest tax dollars into something else...I am curious to what the folks in San Fran and San Diego have to say about this.....since many games are made there.

jamyskis
jamyskis

@jay2rockusa: The problem is that parents do not or cannot raise their children properly, either because they are working too much in order to keep a household going, because they are too career-obsessed or because they simply can't be bothered. They don't take an interest in what their children are doing, and retailers show little restraint when selling games to minors, so it's no wonder that this bill has so much sympathy among politicians. What bugs me here is that this article seeks to label the bill as being a ban on the sale of the games outright. This isn't true. It is a ban on selling these titles to minors, a ban which is effectively in force everywhere else in the world - including the UK, Australia, Portugal and Germany. I would only wish that Germany would stop at banning the sale of these games to minors - we have to suffer a lot of total bans and have to import a lot of the titles or face using heavily censored versions. Some of the censorship is outright dubious - for example, WW2 games are not allowed to use the word "Nazi", so they replace them with "Deutscher" (German) or the various forms of it, effectively denying that the Nazis were responsible for the atrocities of WW2. Stick that down your first amendment pipe and smoke it. [Edit: That last sentence was a general statement and not directed at anyone in particular.]

Falcon084
Falcon084

Two words "First Amendment".

Arauder
Arauder

How old are you all? Five? Surely when you were a minor yourself you've encountered that situation where you were FULLY AWARE that you were playing an M rated game? Or were you so oblivious to it because you were a victim of poor parenting? I understand certain people's disposition in blaming the parents, but many minors (including myself) know that's not entirely the truth. My parents are great parents, and they've taught me well about what is wrong or what is right. However that didn't stop me from killing rival gangsters (GTASA) or witness an airport massacre (MW2). What many people fail to realize is that maybe it is the teenagers who are playing what they shouldn't be playing, or the stores that are selling M rated games to ineligible customers who are to blame (I've purchased Thief III and the ENTIRE GTA collection up front without an I.D. check). This new 2 by 2 sticker standard would definitely filter many more transactions, although the size is a bit much. Anyway, I don't care. I'm finally turning 17 in a few days, meaning I would finally be able to legally take a crack at that Metal Gear Solid game everyone's been talking about from 1998 or Manhunt 2, but OH WAIT! I already have.

jay2rockusa
jay2rockusa

I am getting a little tired of people wanting the government to raise there children. Parents should be raising there children. If parents cannot tell there kids NO, then there is deeper issues then M rated games being sold to minors.

Kou-Nurasaka
Kou-Nurasaka

First; parents already have tools to limit what content thier children view. The ESRB is the currently accepted method for appraising which kinds of violence and content is applicable in a games context. Saying parents have no options to deal with which content thier children view is ludricris at best. Generally, minors under 16 will be dependant on thier parents for money, which gives parents a clear cut way to deal with what content thier kids are exposed to. Remember parents; Console George says "Just so 'No'". Seriously, take some inititive. You, as the parent and older generation have created this violence soaked entertainment medium. Your generation is responsible for whatever problems you perceive your children to have. Your parenting skills are at question here; not whether Jimmy will want to knife a peasant in the back, or step on a turtle because a game told him to. Blame whatever you want to; but blame yourself first.

TheBigKabosh
TheBigKabosh

"I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will help us give parents a valuable nanny tool to be lazy and keep on being incompetent parents" Fixed.

Incrognito
Incrognito

I love the 'subtle' ways in which our politicians try and impose their beliefs upon their constituents. ESRB ratings already accurately describe game content, if parents choose not to filter the video games they purchase for their children, then why should anyone else try and overturn their judgment? The only real problem is the occasional disregard for age requirements by retailers, but Mr. Schwarzenegger's bill covers much more than that. Society needs to realize that video games are an art form, as much as television and cinema are, and that if the content of a game presents an supposed lack of restraint or moral or portrays controversial subject matter, why should it be treated any more harshly than a television show of a similar nature?

Spygamesrock
Spygamesrock

Shouldn't the parents be doing this,not Commando?

ktseymour
ktseymour

California Is broke and all they can think of doing Is wasting money on a useless lawsuit. Maybe we should pass a bill against morons In government.

KaizerJinn
KaizerJinn

here we go again... =/ ....WELL, glad i'm over 18yrs! ^_^

NColdhardt
NColdhardt

So.... Movies and television are OK but video games aren't? Let's look at Dexter, one of my favorite shows. It's about a sociopath serial killer who the audience ends up empathizing with -- more than that, it makes his cause seem righteous. The argument against this is that the show is on HBO, prime time television and that viewers are warned -- Isn't it the same with ESRB and videogames (considering you're purchasing the game). Go clean up television and the movies. It's much worse than videogames could ever be.

erencubu
erencubu

@GBPakersRule.......... srry meng..... hate to correct you........ BC has the best herb........ who do you think you get your primo for??????? we keep the good SH** for ourselves...... i dont deny that you got it good on that front, but dont forget who gives it to you, cause you sure as hell dont make it yourself

Onyx3173
Onyx3173

I dunno if it's an actual law but Gamestops in Oregon check your ID when you buy M rated games. Which is rather annoying when EVERYONE in your local Gamestop knows you and still checks your ID... If it's only a law making it so retailers check your ID when you buy an M rated game I have no problems with it, it's about the same as going to a theater to see an R rated movie. They check your ID before selling you the tickets. It should be up to the parents to make sure the kids don't get violent games but the parents don't care.. Until their kid acts on it in which case they don't want to take responsibility for it. I honestly don't see how violent video game make kids violent though, I've been playing Doom since I was 6 (16 years of playing it!) and I'm one of the least violent people you'll ever meet.

JHG6784
JHG6784

Hopefully they'll struck this law down, it another attempt of government trampling on our economic freedoms for 'safety of our children' if i don't want my child to play a M rated game then i won't buy or give the child 20+ dollars to buy it. I don't need a law hassling the children or the stores

shawn7324
shawn7324

Whatever not a minor so really dont care what happens, but you gotta be blind to miss ratings on game cases already.

toastisgood
toastisgood

For people saying it wouldn't change anything, selling M rated games to minors is legal, but stores choose not to. They shouldn't make any of these laws. I'm sure Arnold would have no problem with little kids watching predator or the terminator.

atlkenb
atlkenb

@HollowNinja I dont support this law, I just think parents should ultimately be held responsible for the mature content their children are exposed to. I dont think we need GOVERNMENT to help us with that.

Obreck
Obreck

The irony is I've worked at a game store. One thing I learned is it doesn't matter how big you make a sticker/label, parents won't read it. We stuck many kinds of labels on our products, including ones that had nothing to do with content. For example we kept our display boxes empty to combat shoplifting. We stuck a giant red sticker on all of them explaining why in great detail. People didn't read them, then they'd find out the box was empty and start panicking about it. These new warning labels will be just as useless: the people they cater to will be too lazy to even read what they say. And the sales of violent games will be near impossible to police. Even if this law passes it will be an absolute joke.

pukmok
pukmok

For those wondering why the ESRB rating isn't enough for politicians, it's because they want attention to gain approval. There are plenty of idiotic parents who ignore the giant M on games and say they are helpless in protecting their children.

KH3please
KH3please

AWWWWWW. Now how am I going to babysit?

Zzombielemur
Zzombielemur

So they will have to check my ID...w/e I'm cool with that. Maybe i'll buy games for little kids along with beer and cigarettes. Honestly I've always felt this is an issue for parents to handle, but if they aren't then I supposed it has to be done. As long as we don't end up like Australia I don't see how is anything but progress.

SuperYeti22
SuperYeti22

Video game violence is not funny! I've seen kids playing Halo and they ran around shooting covenants with laser rifles and energy swords, and after Gears, I saw them chainsawing through aliens and rocket launchers and attacked the Giant Enemy Crab's weak point for maximum damage IN REAL LIFE! Seriously, Mr. Yee is incredibley stupid. I've plaid violent games since I was 7, and I never killed people. In fact, I know a lot of good people who play violent games, and there are a lot of serial killers that don't play violent games at all! When people kill others, there are only two reasons why: 1) They was raised badly as kids. 2) They have some kind of mental disorder. And there's this thing called the ESRB. They give games ratings (E-6+, E10+, T-13+, M-17+, AO-18+), and most of the violent content is censored so it can be M(Because AO rated games aren't sold at most stores), and when parents pick out games for their kids, they're warned by the guy at the desk that it's violent. (In fact, when I was 13, and Assassin's Creed came out (Yes, I'm 16 now)the guy at the desk actually told my Mom, he told her that it's a game where you shoot people in the head and their brains explode, can u believe that?) Please California, PLEASE stop wasting tax money to make the sticker bigger and violating our 1st ammendment rights! And if this is America, Mr. Yee, why don't you listen to US? What we have to say? PS: Speaking of games, check out this funny video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWBfLOZ2CjQ

Appollyn
Appollyn

That's good. Less little kids playing CoD.

Flen15
Flen15

... I'm confused. Haven't they heard of the ESRB rating system? There's already a logo on there that rates things Ao-adults only, M-mature, T-teen, E-everyone, K-A-kids through adults. Do they really need a second sticker to tell them what the first one already told them? Where I live you're not allowed to buy M rated games unless you're 17 years or older. I'm okay with that. I don't think some punk 10 year old should be allowed to waltz into Best Buy or Gamestop and buy Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or something. I thought this was already the rule everywhere. Are they trying to take it a step further than that? I always had to get my parents to buy M rated games for me before I was old enough to get them for myself. Are they trying to say parents can't buy them for their kids anymore or something? That I would have a problem with. If a parent wants to buy their kid an M rated game I say let 'em. If the kid goes into a murderous rampage with a gun at his school then he (or she I guess. lol, it'd probably be a he though) had problems before he even started playing those games. It's up to the parent and others who are close to the kid to notice something's wrong with him and stop things before they can happen. They're the ones at fault. They're just looking for something to blame other than themselves. Lol, didn't mean to rant for that long. Someone else can take the soapbox now...

mrhagane
mrhagane

okay, how about this i'm not live in california but, in there, there are bunch of gamer who love gow (gears of war of god of war) GTA, cod or the other violent games, i'm a gamer to, so WE are in one family and i know what are you feeling with that stupid california government. how about this, california government have to take a vote to ALL of california kids who play violent game, and then comparing them to drug users+alcoholics+criminal, to see just how many violent gamers turned became criminal, lol, i bet the government will surprise there are so few(even almost none) of them, turned became criminal.

GameBeaten
GameBeaten

I can list a number of reasons why I have hate for the state I live in known as California. One being my hometown... I just came up with a speculation of why some parents don't pay attention to what their kids play: 1. They don't take stuff seriously. 2. They have no idea what is going on around them with their kids. 3. They want the government to take care of everything they don't feel like. 4. They're busy doing drugs. This is all speculation, of course.

sithodah
sithodah

Why dosent the Californian government use that money to educate the "affected" childrens dumb-ass parents for buying or allowing them to buy these games, if the parents give a damn about the content, they'll just allow them to have, but the ones that do care, have to stop they're own children from playing "barbie does paper folding" and start giving a sermon to the governator. Even better, use the money to buy a choppa' and a s*** load of guns, and put the governator on it, play some heavy metal, and watch him become president by force and just blow up some more s***. That's better than regulating a form of art. Yes I consider games art (well some of them anyway) we consider movies an art. And Ive seen far more gruesome and realistic violence in films. I'm not saying violence dosent affect children. I'm saying that no-one has a right to regulate someone else's creation.

Philly1UPer
Philly1UPer

So Kids can't buy violent games, But they can read about WWII and the deaths from that in great detail and they can watch the Passion of The Christ, which is 2 straight hours of a man getting maimed? REALLY?

kami_amaya
kami_amaya

"ban the sale or rental of "violent video games" to children. ...Under the law, retailers that sold such games would be subject to a $1,000 fine." That sounds fine by me (label bothers me, ESRB already has M+ rating, just use that). But how much of a difference would it make considering today's parents don't even bother researching what's in a game their kid asks for? Instead of complaining and demanding the government do something, how about parents start taking responsibility for what their kids play.

zerocool397
zerocool397

Please stop making the argument that since you played violent videogames and you turned out alright there is no reason for this law. There are examples like this for both sides and both of them are useless. Most places already do this with music and movies so I don't understand why this is so shocking. As long as the parents have the final say on what their children can or cannot purchase than I don't see any problem.

SirMordredX
SirMordredX

So this is all about "children" not playing violent games huh? Two things: A. 18+ Games are rated 18+ for a reason. Idiotic government, can't you read? B. And yet you don't do this to movies do you? Are you bought? Did Warner pay you a large sum do not sue them? I bet.

sebetai
sebetai

this is ridiculous. violence just happens. it could just be blamed on what is going on with the individual. what's going to get blamed if violent video games were censored or movies? still going to be the same but in the event crime decreases (has a slow month or year) they will say the ban helped.i remember as a child being afraid of mortal kombat. now i know pretty much the entire story and have almost all the games. i have yet to hurt anyone.

acerox96
acerox96

You know what is funny? That the governor's movies were mostly very violent.

sidious360
sidious360

ive played countless games where i kill enemies in violent ways ive never harmed anyone nor had the urge to its complete stupidity according to those people it sounds like gamers who play violent games are a threat to society

GBPackersrule
GBPackersrule

@Lerotz I wish it was as easy as that. Cali is all I know. As much as I hate certain aspects of Cali, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I am happy here, just not going to say its perfect either.