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US Supreme Court to decide future of violent games law

Monday, 26 April 2010 16:08 GMT By Johnny Cullen

gtaiv33

The US Supreme Court is to decide if a law that bans the sale and rental of violent videogames towards minors is against free speech.

Supreme justices in California agreed to a hearing following an appeal from an appeals court that’s based in the state.

The law also imposes game labeling requirements from the ESRB.

Quick, do something before Arnie comes screaming through a wall with a shotgun like The Terminator.

Thanks, Reuters.

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56 Comments

  1. theevilaires

    If thats the case then you might as well let them buy porn too. I swear theres a damn conspiracy to destroy human kind. One way or another.

    #1 5 years ago
  2. Benjo1981

    How are they defining ‘violent’? I presume a ‘violent’ videogame would have an ’18′ rating anyway, which means it’s already illegal to sell it, or rent it, to minors.

    #2 5 years ago
  3. Gheritt White

    Not in the USA it’s not, Benjo.

    #3 5 years ago
  4. Benjo1981

    @3

    Oh right, ok, did not realise that.

    So there is a ratings system in the US, but it’s not legally enforced?

    #4 5 years ago
  5. Gheritt White

    Yes. Apparently, it’s the same for their cinema ratings too, it’s just that cinemas (or “theatres”) voluntarily observe and enforce them.

    #5 5 years ago
  6. Phoenixblight

    It is enforced shit I still get carded every so often. THis is just California trying to make the money that they blew away. THey were in a 500 billion dollar debt the government gave them money next few months they ask for 800 billion.

    But on topic it is enforced there is even kids (kids of Government workers) that ask for GTA or a violent game and if the cashier sells it to them the company gets huge fat fine.

    #6 5 years ago
  7. Benjo1981

    Wow. Did not know that either.

    With all due respect to the american games industry (or whoever deals with this malarky), that’s the dumbest system I have ever heard of. Why rate a game for 18 year olds (and older) but not enforce it by law…and then protest that content unsuitable for minors…is being consumed by minors.

    #7 5 years ago
  8. Gheritt White

    @7: Because it’s the consumers that don’t want the ratings enforced by law. They view it as some kind of “slippery slope” to ever more legislation on personal entertainment.

    #8 5 years ago
  9. Phoenixblight

    Its not going to fly its unconstitution there have been many states that have tried to do the same thing none of them pased.

    I am not sure what different then the system that is already involved. Go to any store that sells or rent video games and they will card you and not sell the game if you are under 17. I know because 10 years ago, I went to Blockbuster to rent COnker’s Bad Fur day, the cashier wouldn’t allow me to rent it so I called the old man, he came to the store and got it for me. Also had to tip my cousin to buy rated “M” games for me like SIlent Hill 2.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/02/21/california_violent_video_game_ban_appeals_rejected/

    #9 5 years ago
  10. Benjo1981

    @9 Why is it considered unconstitutional?

    Sorry, I’m no expert on American society.

    #10 5 years ago
  11. Benjo1981

    @9: So the ratings system in America is merely used as a guide? Who penalises retailers who do not enforce the ratings system?

    #11 5 years ago
  12. Phoenixblight

    First Amendment:
    The amendment prohibits the making of any law “respecting an establishment of religion”, impeding the free exercise of religion, infringing on the freedom of speech, infringing on the freedom of the press, interfering with the right to peaceably assemble or prohibiting the petitioning for a governmental redress of grievances.

    @11

    Yes it is a guide to the parents that say “Hey stupid there is a rated M on the game for a reason”

    #12 5 years ago
  13. Benjo1981

    @12

    I’m guessing it’s the ‘freedom of speech’ criteria which Americans consider to be violated by making it illegal to sell mature content to minors?

    Assuming it is, whose freedom of speech is being violated?

    #13 5 years ago
  14. Moonwalker1982

    Minors? Whew…here i thought they meant violent games compleyely for anyone. Stupid thought of course, cause then basically all gaming should stop instantly cause videogaming these days IS ‘violent games’ , simple as that.

    #14 5 years ago
  15. Benjo1981

    @14 I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Tim Ingram, from CVG here in the UK, who went onto a day-time ‘chat’ show to defend gaming (citing a source which escapes me right now) states that only 11% of games are classified as ‘violent’. That leaves a whopping 89% of gaming which consists of non-violent games.

    So, I’m thinking that gaming IS NOT made up of merely ‘violent games’.

    P.S I can get you a vid of the interview.

    #15 5 years ago
  16. Phoenixblight

    @13

    THe minors or the stores. Politics and laws is not my strongsuit.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9939160-7.html

    #16 5 years ago
  17. Benjo1981

    @16 Cheers Pheonix :)

    #17 5 years ago
  18. mightyhokie

    “Yes it is a guide to the parents that say “Hey stupid there is a rated M on the game for a reason””

    Phoenixblight…how DARE you expect people in America to have personal responsibility. Don’t you know we now have a leader who will tell us all what we can and cannot do? =/

    Seriously, the winds of change are blowing hard and fast…in the end it all comes down to the parents, though. My wife is a teacher and she shocked the hell out of me one day last year when she told me that one of her students was talking about how much fun GTA4 is…and he is like 14-15. GTA4 is one of my favorite games ever and one of the best games ever…but UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES would I let my 14-15 year old play it. It is filthy. Which is great for me because I’m a 40 year old man, but not for kids. Where did they get the game, you ask? Their parents. They tell their parents ‘i want this’ and the parents say ‘okay its better than a fight’ and then after they walk in the room and hear a radio ad where a woman says ‘when we women are sexually harassed you know we really get wet’ they call their senator to complain. Lazy and stupid…like you said, its rated M for a reason.

    #18 5 years ago
  19. Benjo1981

    @18 That is the exact problem which desperately needs addressing: parents, and the populace in general, NEED to be educated about gaming, and what it entails.

    I talk to so many people who have such an outdated conception of what gaming is. Gaming isn’t Tetris anymore.

    Americans may consider it unconstitutional to make it illegal to sell age-rated content to minors but it’s one way of protecting children from content, as you say, they should not be seeing.

    #19 5 years ago
  20. Khanivor

    California supreme court ain’t the same as the US Supreme Court.

    #20 5 years ago
  21. Gheritt White

    If “it’s rated M for a reason”, then why not legislate for it? I mean, how could it not be a benefit for these ratings to carry the weight of law *unless* you wished to flout said ratings?

    #21 5 years ago
  22. Phoenixblight

    @19

    No what California wants is to ban it from being sold the system in place today fines the companies for selling rated “M” games to minors and IDs them.

    @21

    It is.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-10784_3-9939160-7.html

    Do people not read anymore. ~_~

    #22 5 years ago
  23. Benjo1981

    @21

    I totally agree. As to the “slippery slope”: who cares if it does lead to other content being legally age-gated? It’d just mean that that content isn’t suitable for minors.

    #23 5 years ago
  24. Phoenixblight

    Again it is enforced. A minor goes to any store and buys a rated M game the said store gets fined along with the minor. All Stores I have gone to do follow the law and card minors and will not sell it if they are not 17 or older.

    #24 5 years ago
  25. OlderGamer

    This is one of those issues that will never be resolved and will not go away.

    It is counter productive.

    Political leaders speek about protecting minors(as spured on by constituants and civil groups). The games industry, stores, and rental places lobby the same political leaders to NOT take action. In the end it is about money, and has very little to do with the actual said minors.

    And you don’t get “carded” everywhere you go. My kids can and have both bought M rated game(both of them teens). Plus a teen can easily have a parent or older family member/friend buy it for them. Online stores and renters have no way of checking what age the player is.

    Also there is a hell of a difference between something Mrated like Halo and a Mrated game that contains sex mini games, or the shear level of gore that say a GoW game has. Not all Mrated game is the same level of Mrated. Many parents don’t have a clue.

    And a rant that I always come back to is that when I look down my FL or my kids FL(we own three xb360s/Live) most of the Mrated games being played are done so by minors. An overwhelming majority of them playing games from Dante, MW2, Gears, to others. Voilent, gore filled, sexual ladend, yea that type of game is clearly aimed at the 12-25 yr old male.

    The game idustry knows what it is doing and they know how to move their games. They do not want anyone to establish laws restricting that. They really gamers around a call of losing freedom, but really, if you look past that, it comes back to money.

    I am an adult. If I want porn, I can go find porn. I don’t need a flash of TnA or to get my avatar laid in a video game. And should things get really bad, I might actualy spend some time with my, oh, I don’t know…Wife! Gasp!

    If I want an action filled gorefest. I can rent, buy, PPV, or go to a movie. Clearly many of the so called “offending” games are aimed squarly at teens that arn’t adults and as such can’t explore those things in any other medium.

    Did I just call your 27 yr old shelf an imature adolecent teen age wanna be? No, not really. But one thing you will, if you have not already discovered, is that as you age your prespective changes. Alot. In my 50s, I do not play the same games that I used to just ten years ago, or even five.

    I just don’t see legislation as an attack on me or video games. I see too many kids exposed to games that they shouldn’t be exposed to. Same goes for movies, music, porn, and other mediums. It is never truely going to be fixed.

    Should it be? In most cases I can’t see where the harm is. In most cases a flash of boobies in a video game isn’t going to hurt anyone. Headshots/sniping making kids into killers? No, I don’t think so.

    But then again if anyone can remember it, I am reminded of the Chocolate Milk YouTube thingie I saw awhile back. Kid got really messed up playing Counter Strike(I think, not too sure). For most normal well adjusted teens its no biggie, but for some …

    Right now things are getting worse, because many games are searching for the limits and bounderies and trying to push and extend them. In a sense it is a marketing thing to gain more noteriety and drive sales. Again it comes back to money.

    In the end I am not for banning anything. But placing restrictions on the sales of over the top games? Maybe. To kids? Yes.

    Then again, good luck with that.

    Edit – sorry about the typos/spelling. Meds have kicked in, head is swimming, so I am going to let it stand as is. But ya get the general idea.

    #25 5 years ago
  26. Phoenixblight

    @25
    “Also there is a hell of a difference between something Mrated like Halo and a Mrated game that contains sex mini games, or the shear level of gore that say a GoW game has. Not all Mrated game is the same level of Mrated. Many parents don’t have a clue.”

    What parent’s can’t read? they state on the label what it contains.

    “Online stores and renters have no way of checking what age the player is.”

    Uh yeah Blockbuster cards and so does Hollywood video can’t defend mom and pop shops though. ANd if you are going through Online stores they obviously have to card because the need Mom and Dads visa or debit card. It comes down to lazy parents not doing what they are supposed to do, parent. You can block M games from being played on Systems.

    Its not the governments job to protect minors thats the parents job thats why they are called parents and not sperm donor or egg holder.

    #26 5 years ago
  27. Benjo1981

    Slightly off-topic: is pornography illegal in America?

    #27 5 years ago
  28. Phoenixblight

    @27

    Just need to have ID stating you are 18 to buy magazines or videos or you know use the internet.

    #28 5 years ago
  29. Benjo1981

    @28 Ok. Who polices stores who do not observe the age ratings? I.e by selling an M game to a 12 year old. Who administers the fine?

    #29 5 years ago
  30. Phoenixblight

    @29

    Federal Trade Commission

    #30 5 years ago
  31. Benjo1981

    @31 Ok, so at least there is a system of consequences if the age-ratings are not observed.

    #31 5 years ago
  32. blackdreamhunk

    one look at MW2 from infinity ward and the fates have already been chosen for games

    #32 5 years ago
  33. OlderGamer

    @26

    True they do state it on the label. That tiny little box that has multiple abreviations indicating what lies within. Then again demos don’t. I DL’d Dante not knowing that they had full frontal nudity a scene or two in. My kids turned so red they left the room. Wife was ticked.

    Also as to labels, they are very incositant. Nudity could mean a wide range of things. X-blades caries that label and shows a female avatar in a thong. You can’t see the thong in most cases mind you, but it is there. Dante(not picking on it, really) as well as GoWIII also carry the same label. But there is a huge defferance between the levels of skin in those games and X-blades.

    Gamefly doesn’t check ages for each rental. They being the number one Online renter in NA. Once a parent sets up the account, its game on.

    Look you, and lots of other(often younger and childless males), love to point the finger at the folks. Fair enough. It is their job. However it is not as black and white or easy as it sounds. I could throw a ton of what ifs at you. But I am not going.

    However, you have a 9nth grader, he is 14/15 yr old. On the Football team, is well liked, well adusted, and heads over to a friends house. You as a perant don’t allows him to play Mrated games. But the friends house is loaded with them. Handle that one, and calculate the kids reaction in there. Go through all of the possible outcomes. It is a nightmare for parents.

    In the end a lot of parents say “when in rome, do as the romens do”. In otherwords, while they could do something about it, they chose not to. They feel like they can’t.

    Wanna nother one? Split families. You say no to the Mrated games, maybe even to owning a Xbox360, but the kids fires back … “But mom lets me”… There you have two parents competing for the the same kid.

    For a lot of people this is black and white. Simple soulution is blame the parents.

    I am a parent of game playing teens, trust me, this isn’t simple.

    #33 5 years ago
  34. Phoenixblight

    Again systems now a days have a rating system you can block M games on them from being played.

    If this ban were to be signed, parents can still buy the game for thier child or having adult friend buy it for them. What do you want the government to do? Treat M games as if they were selling ALcohol or cigarretes so we fill up our already full prison system with people that sold a violent videogame to a minor? Or put the kids in jail? Come on Really?
    California has wasted millions and millions of dollars on trying to pass this bill and every time the Supreme COurt of California says sorry not going to fly.

    Best way to shelter your kids from reality don’t let them go outside.

    #34 5 years ago
  35. Benjo1981

    @33 I agree with you, it’s not a simple issue and I fully appreciate how difficult it is to be a parent. I’m not a parent myself (as of yet) but my brother is a single-father who has many of the problems you mention regarding his kids playing him off against his ex-wife. So, I think we all agree that it’s not a simple issue and that blame, in any form, is not the answer.

    As a counter-point, however, I’ve heard a lot of parents attack the gaming industry for allowing minors to get hold of mature content. When, as you say, many parents could do something, but choose not to, and THEN go ahead and blame the industry for their own failing, it becomes quite hard to take.

    But no, the issue is not black and white, far from it. Education about the evolving nature of games is essential, in my opinion.

    #35 5 years ago
  36. Benjo1981

    @34

    Here in the UK, this bill is a reality. Selling an age-rated videogame to an underaged child is illegal. So, in your own terms, videogames are indeed treated like cigarettes and alcohol. And movies. And music.

    I don’t think the prisons have filled up because of it, and the kids don’t go to jail. I’m not sure of the exact procedure, but the retailers are the ones who get prosecuted. As a result, the retailers take the age-ratings very seriously.

    #36 5 years ago
  37. scuz

    what the fuck?

    #37 5 years ago
  38. Phoenixblight

    As they do here we have a system putting another one in place of it is just stupidity. There will always be cracks in the system but the numbers are down. As stated in the website I put in my previous post.

    California just has idiots for politicians, I mean come on its fucking Arnold from Terminator. The state is so fucked that in some schools they have fired 8 teachers and compacted 60 kids in one class.

    #38 5 years ago
  39. Phoenixblight

    THis hearing is just for California not for the entire country and it won’t be decided until in the fall.

    Great article to read btw.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/04/26/BA3V1D524A.DTL

    #39 5 years ago
  40. OlderGamer

    “But no, the issue is not black and white, far from it. Education about the evolving nature of games is essential, in my opinion.”

    This is a great place to start.

    #40 5 years ago
  41. Benjo1981

    @39 Thanks for the link Pheonix, interesting article.

    One thing puzzles me: if there is already a system in place which restricts the sale of mature content to minors and, if not adhered to, the offenders are punished (i.e by the FTC), then what is the difference between this system and the one being proposed?

    Why is one constitutional but the other unconstitutional?

    #41 5 years ago
  42. Phoenixblight

    I am not sure both systems can easily be avoided by a parent buying the video game or a kid asking an adult to get the difference is I assume the fines the ban that they want make the companies that sold the violent videogame up to 1000$.

    Here we go:

    Federal judge Consuelo M. Callahan has ruled that the 2005 statewide ban, which has yet to be enforced, violates minors’ rights under the US Constitution’s First and 14th amendment because even the most graphic on-screen mayhem, video game content represents free speech that cannot be censored without proper justification.

    The Court has ruled that there’s no convincing evidence it causes psychological damage to young people. The 3-0 judgment has affirmed an earlier ruling by a U.S. District Court, which barred enforcement of the law on the basis that it was “unduly restrictive” and “used overly broad definitions,” and that the state failed to show that the limitations on violent video games would actually protect children.

    #42 5 years ago
  43. Benjo1981

    @42

    So it’s the violation of the rights of minors, as well as the censorship of content.

    Contentious, definately.

    Thanks for all the info Pheonix :)

    #43 5 years ago
  44. Phoenixblight

    Also the lack of evidence supporting Violent video games have an effect of the minors.

    #44 5 years ago
  45. Benjo1981

    Yep. Kinda makes British law on this matter seem extreme, even though I don’t feel as though it actually is.

    #45 5 years ago
  46. BanHer

    @ Benjo1981 (in general)

    I live in America and have both bought from and worked in a Gamestop and have never in my life not seen them card a person who is trying to buy an M-rated game (which is 17+). To sell an M-rated game to a person under 17 is illegal and the person who did it could get fired/go to jail. In certain other stores, it is not so heavily enforced – I’m not sure what kind of example I can give you that you might recognize, but stores that sell CDs, games, clothes (Target? Walmart?) aren’t so strict about carding.

    I can also say that it is illegal for someone, in America, to see an R-rated movie if under 17. Again, the possible consequences of allowing a person to do this are to be fired/go to jail (or at least get fined). Porn is also 18+ to actually buy it, unless, as another pointed out, you know how to use the Internet to your own advantage.

    I do think the rating system is kind of skewed and extreme. Quite frankly, I disagree with #18 and think that GTA IV would be pretty much fine for someone 14, 15 years old. It’s not like a kid doesn’t realize, at that point, that a game is just a game. (And beyond that, GTA IV is a wonderful satire of American culture). People just tend to get nervous about potentially offensive material, even if it is a broad statement. I actually think we tend to be uptight here in America when it comes to such things in comparison to certain European countries.

    #46 5 years ago
  47. BanHer

    Oh, and some parents do buy their young children games they probably shouldn’t. And some parents don’t buy games for their kids that it would be perfectly ok to buy. For instance, when working at Gamestop, a woman was trying to buy a game for her kids on 360 and I recommended Oblivion (a game which I have thoroughly experienced). The woman flat-out refused because of the M rating, even though her kids were relatively older (there were two and the youngest was most likely 14 or older). The woman seemed convinced that Oblivion would lead her children to drugs and violent crime. I had to refrain from arguing with her. It wasn’t easy.

    #47 5 years ago
  48. BanHer

    And there is no evidence that unquestionably proves, beyond a doubt, that video games create violence or in any way harm the player. The worst case scenario is the kid who stupidly plays WoW for a few days without eating or going to the bathroom and dies (yeah, it did happen). And that’s not the game’s fault.

    #48 5 years ago
  49. Benjo1981

    @48

    Thanks for the info Banher. So it’s illegal to sell age-rated material to someone beneath that age? Is that across all states? It’s been suggested in the comments that it isn’t illegal, just an assumed agreement.

    I totally agree that the general public needs educating about games and game content.

    I also agree that there is no compelling evidence that suggests a causal relation between videogame play and aggression. I think more research should be conducted upon how games are used, rather than any inherent negative properties.

    #49 5 years ago
  50. Benjo1981

    @48

    It doesn’t seem to be illegal in Arnie’s state, certainly.

    #50 5 years ago
  51. Phoenixblight

    The system I mentioned is in place in California. Arnie is just grabbing at straws to pull themselves out of the debt they have put themselves into by issuing stupid laws.

    Not sure what he is trying to do come fall his ass gets booted.

    #51 5 years ago
  52. Benjo1981

    Ah, ok, so it’s just California which is lagging behind the rest of the states?

    #52 5 years ago
  53. Phoenixblight

    @52

    They have the system of Rated “M” on the games, Stores carding minors for those games.

    Arnie wants to just go to the next level.

    #53 5 years ago
  54. Uncontested

    I’m glad my parents kept their noses out of my entertainment growing up. Some of your kids must hate you lol. Seriously I’ve been playing M rated games since the ESRB came out.

    Now I’m a former US Marine and soon to be Police officer. Yet those evil gore and sex laced video games must have ruined me, right?

    #54 5 years ago
  55. theevilaires

    hey Chanel go fuck yourself

    #55 5 years ago
  56. BanHer

    @49
    It is illegal across the U.S. to sell M-rated games to anyone under 17 unless someone over 17 is there to get carded, basically. I’m pretty sure that’s also true in California. What I think the governor is trying to do is up the age to 18, or perhaps make the law stricter (harsher punishment). There are AO (Adults Only) rated games here, as well (GTA San Andreas got re-rated as AO after the Hot Coffee mod). What I believe the governor to be doing is just pushing for more censorship and regulation, which is thoroughly unnecessary.

    Basically, if a store sells an M- or AO-rated game to a minor, the employee gets fired, the store gets fined, and there is a possibility of further legal action.

    #56 5 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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