California Video Game Law Smacked Down, Again

By  |  Monday, February 23, 2009 at 4:19 pm

gavelBack in October, a federal appeals court listened to arguments on a three year-old bill that would put government labels on mature video games and ban their sale to minors. At the tail end of last week, the court ruled that law unconstitutional.

Judge Consuelo Callahan said while the games that concerned lawmakers are “unquestionably violent,” there are ways for parents to keep them from children, such as parental blocking features on consoles and the voluntary ESRB labels that appear on every retail game. Further, Callahan dismissed studies that suggest a link between violent games and aggression. None of it establishes or suggests a casual link between playing games and real mental harm, she said, according to the AP.

State Sen. Leland Yee, who wrote the bill, wants the case taken to the Supreme Court, but it’s not known yet how the state’s attorney general will respond.

The original hearing was one of the first stories I wrote about for Technologizer. Fresh-faced, I let out some of my pent-up frustrations with these kinds of laws, which have failed numerous times in the past. In short, sealing off mature video games as “harmful to minors,” along with cigarettes and pornography, can really hurt a medium that does address serious topics in new ways. Bioshock, Mass Effect, and Fallout 3, while violent, are great examples.

Entertainment Software Association president Michael D. Gallagher called the laws “an exercise in wasting taxpayer money,” which sounds funny given that the trade group is taking some of that money back — Californians were already forced to pay $282,794 to the ESA after the legislation was originally sticken down. Still, the industry does have the right to recoup its legal costs, and when it says a Supreme Court battle would only hurt taxpayers more, the anti-game crusade becomes even tougher to justify.



4 Comments For This Post

  1. Bill McMinn Says:

    Minors are banned from seeing movies rated NC-17 and nobody has said anything about any first amendment implications. I don’t see any problem with age restrictions on Mature rated games. This is just the ACLU trying to justify their existance.

  2. Jared Newman Says:


    NC-17 is a voluntary rating system imposed by the MPAA. The issue here is whether the government should be stepping in, which I don’t think they should.

    Also, people do criticize NC-17, as it renders a movie dead in the water because most stores won’t carry it and many newspapers won’t advertise it. The same thing happens with AO-rated video games, which in my opinion are more on par with NC-17, while M for Mature is more the equivalent to R.

  3. Nick Says:

    Isn't there bigger fish to fry in California? There are countless actors and actresses who are getting away with murder (literally in some cases) but yet they worry about video games setting a bad example? I think California's judicial system does a good enough job at that.

  4. Today's Top Products Says:

    Hey, this is a really great article…. Good work.

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