Monday, August 13, 2007

Taken To Task

I haven't discussed this because it just seemed like Part 10 of a long-running series, but there was an interesting twist today.

Let's start at the beginning,

In 2005, the California legislature passed a law banning the sale or rental of "violent" video games to minors. Here's an excerpt from an article written by Dean Takahashi on October 7, 2005:
...the bill bans the sale or rental of "violent video games'’ to minors, where such games are defined as those that include killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being. It further notes the game’s sale to minors would be banned if a "reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors.'’ The law classifies a game as subject to the ban if the violence in it is "patently offensive,'’ "cruel,'’ "depraved,'’ or "heinous.'’

The bill would have subject retailers to up to $1,000 in fines for each violation.

What's particularly interesting is the tone of the article, and where we were in 2005 with video game legislation. Here's another excerpt:
The signing of the bill, AB1179 proposed by Assembly Speaker pro Tem Leland Yee, shows how far the video game industry has fallen out of political favor in a few short months. California joins Illinois and Michigan in passing an anti-violent video game bill in the past year alone, and similar bills have been proposed in just about every state, even though the courts have found prior prohibitions as unconstitutional.

One more excerpt:
"I think the reality of the California video game law will hit the video game business like a sledgehammer,'’ said Dennis McCauley, editor of the web site "I mean, this is California, the heart of the game industry.'’

Grim, wasn't it?

It was also quite amusing that Arnold Schwarzenegger, a man who never shied away from a body count in films, played the role of protector of children. Right.

So fast forward to this week, and the clearly unconsitutional bill was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. Again, it wasn't a surprise, and I still wasn't going to write about it, even after The Moronator said that he was going to appeal the judge's decision.

The twist, though, is that the L.A. Times got involved. Take a look at these excerpts from an editorial that appeared in today's paper:
Having made a career off fantasy violence, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is an odd advocate for the regulation of violent video games. After all, his face (and, sometimes, his voice) helps to sell a number of electronic kill-fests. Yet there he was last week, pledging to appeal a federal judge's decision against a state law banning the sale of such games to minors. "Many of these games are made for adults," Schwarzenegger said, "and choosing games that are appropriate for kids should be a decision made by their parents."

Of course parents should screen the games their kids play. Parents should also limit the amount of time their kids watch TV, and shield them from all sorts of content they may be too young to process critically. But those are parental duties, not governmental ones. And the more lawmakers try to take over for parents on these issues, the more they run afoul of the Constitution.

...with Whyte's decision, the courts have now thrown out attempts by seven states, one county and one city to regulate violent video games. There's no reason to believe that appealing his ruling will change the outcome, or that it should. The governor shouldn't waste tax dollars in a relentless pursuit of certain defeat.

What a difference two years makes. Nine "regulation" laws overturned as unconstitutional. Mainstream publications taking a governor to task.

It's entirely possible that the number of restrictive laws passed by various state legislatures made the gaming industry get off its ass and take a real look at this issue. Partnerships with the PTA and better-point-of-sale education at retail have both happened in the last year.

Of course, any of these states could have reached out to the gaming industry for a partnership instead of trying to shove regulation down their throat. But for a politician, cooperation gets you on page eight. Confrontation puts you on the front page.

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