Regardless of whether you agree with it, Friday’s striking down of California’s law barring the sale or rental of violent video game to minors should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed the issue. Similar laws have been passed and struck down in other states, and there’s pretty clear legal precedent at this point that video games will be treated like R-rated movies, rather than like pornography or cigarettes. So long as a game isn’t ruled obscene, in which case it’d be covered by existing fedearl law, appeals court after appeals court has ruled that retailers can’t be punished for making it available to minors.
State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who sponsored the 2005 bill, urged state Attorney General Jerry Brown to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, but don’t hold your breath. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco was unequivocal in rejecting the state’s argument that playing violent video games was as emotionally damaging to children as viewing pornography. With the dismal track record of similar laws around the nation, as well as California’s current fiscal difficulties, can we justify rolling that Sisyphusian stone up that hill one more time?
If you’re a parent who’s disheartened by this ruling, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the parental control features for the Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation 3 that I blogged about back in January. Technology has evolved to the point that, depending on which machine your kids use for gaming, parents willing to put in an hour or two can keep their children from playing the most violent games using existing tools.