Video Game Ban Heads To Supreme Court

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A California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors is heading to the U.S. Supreme Court. The law had been previously tossed out by a federal appeals court before it took effect in 2005.

The law was supposed to give legal teeth to the current video game ratings system by banning the sale or rental of games in California to any children under the age of eighteen. It would have imposed a $1,000 fine on any retailer selling violent games to minors. California defined violent games as ones where the player is given the choice of "killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being."

As defined by California, such interactive games are those in which the player is given the choice of "killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" in offensive ways.

The gaming industry sued in federal court and won an injunction halting enforcement of the law until the courts sort out the constitutional questions. Now the Supreme Court will decide the issue, after California appealed.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said of the appeal, "We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultraviolent actions, just as we already do with movies," the governor said.

Michael Gallagher, president of the Entertainment Software Association, said he is hopeful his industry will prevail and "the court will reject California's invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment."

California lawmakers argued that it was simply responding to parental complaints about too much violent material in games. They said the current ratings system was inadequate in properly filtering content. Also, they noted several operations where minor were able to purchase an M-rated game without a parent. Lawmakers also cited several studies that showed that children who play violent games become aggressive, antisocial and less able to distinguish the consequences of violence in real life.

The case is Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants.

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