News item on Yahoo about a case currently before the US Supreme Court. The justices are hearing arguments about a law passed several years ago in California that would criminalize the sales of “violent” video games to minors. The law has never gone into effect since it’s been declared unconstitutional by numerous local and state courts, which is why it’s been appealed all the way to the highest court in the land. What does the law say?

    According to the law’s wording, a violent video game would be defined as one “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a manner that’s “patently offensive,” appeals to a person’s “deviant or morbid interests,” and lacks “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.”

    As the article points out, the real danger of such a measure passing isn’t so much the limits on such game sales to minors, it’s that many retailers would stop carrying such games, which would lead developers to limit their artistic vision for fear of losing out on sales.

    “If video games are equated with pornography and it becomes a crime to sell them to minors, ‘family-friendly’ retailers might change their store policies and someone like Wal-Mart might ban all these games from their shelves entirely. This would in turn cause developers to tone down the violence in their titles to make sure that every outlet will sell them.”

    It doesn’t sound like any of Blizzard’s products would be impacted by this law, even if if it is upheld constitutionally; after all, they’re mostly about killing and dismembering demonic monstrosities rather than human beings. What do you think? Minors are notorious for wanting whatever their parents or laws deny them, but there’s already the ESRB to theoretically keep M-rated games from kids in the US. Unless, of course, their parents buy it for them.

    On the larger issue, do some games go too far? Are there some things younger gamers don’t need to see? And does it all depend on the game and the context? Jay Wilson’s nine year old daughter gets to play Diablo III, while Jay and his wife don’t let her play other violent games. Where do you draw the line?

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