This fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision about making it illegal for minors to purchase violent video games.
The state of California has been trying for many years, unsuccessfully, to pass a law that would make it illegal to sell violent video games to minors. This law would allow the state to fine, up to $1000 per violation, any business that sells violent video games to minors.
Not satisfied with the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) classifications of games, California has decided to set their own guidelines for what violent video games are, exactly. They have decided to take the definition of a violent video game into their own hands.
This is taken directly from California’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court: A game is violent if, “(1) A reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find that it appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors; (2) it is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the community as to what is suitable for minors, and; (3) it causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”
Another argument that California brings to the table is that violent games do harm to minors. There have been many studies that say violent games do have a negative effect on minors. However, there are also studies that say there is no conclusive evidence that violent games affect minors at all.
The book Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games And What Parents Can Do, is about studies like those and their result.
So what exactly does this mean for us gamers? How will one state’s little law effect out hobby? It’s very simple. This is a free speech issue. If California were to win this case, then that would mean that games are no longer protected by the First Amendment, protection that even excessively violent movies have.
It would allow other laws to be passed in states where they have previously failed to pass. The gaming industry could be hurt to the point where we wouldn’t see thought-provoking, although violent, games like Bioshock.
Maybe those games would still be developed, but do you really want to buy your games from a red room with a beaded curtain with a sign above the door that says “No one under 18 allowed”?