back to article California ban on violent video games killed on appeal

A California federal appeals court on Friday a state law criminalizing the sale of violent video games to children is a violation of the right to free speech. The law was first penned by Democrat senator Leland Yee and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005. But shortly thereafter, it was blocked by a …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Mmmm.. Frontal Lobes


  2. stolennomenclature

    violence preferable to sex

    Funny how violence seems to be so much more acceptable than sex. Apparently viewing a man having sex with a woman is bad, but viewing a man blowing a womans brains out with a shotgun is ok. [sarcasm mode] Still, I guess violence is not a significant problem in America, so there is no urgent need to control kids exposure to violence. [end sarcasm mode].

    I have to laugh at these men of great stature, deliberating how to protect our children, and they do not seem to possess one iota of common sense, or any other kind of sense for that matter. If they do not have enough intellect to figure that violence in the media can have a negative influence on children watching it, then they ought to be confined to some sort of instituion - they desperately need some kind of help.

    Odd how people readily accept that adverts on TV influence people, but somehow the programs themselves do not. So 30 seconds of a commercial showing an adult viewer something they dont really want to see can influence them, but hours of violence in a TV program show to a child who wants to watch and is intensely watching, will have no effect. Yeah, right.

    What society really needs are laws to prevent morons getting into high office.

  3. Dave

    Make Love, not War

    I guess this is what's wrong with US society nowadays, extreme violence is acceptable and yet an exposed nipple on TV attracts outrage.

  4. Allan Dyer Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Population Control

    Making people = Bad

    Killing people = Good

    Well, they've got a strategy to address overpopulation, but wouldn't contraception be less gory?

  5. kain preacher Silver badge

    A California federal appeals court

    Never heard of such a creature . Now the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals I have heard of . They cover Alaska ,Arizona ,Nevada , Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Guam, Hawaii , Mariana Islands, and yep yous guessed it California.

  6. Paul
    Thumb Up


    In a 3-0 ruling, Judge Consuelo Callahan said California could only justify the ban if the state could not only prove violent video games caused actual psychological harm, but that the best way to prevent it was through criminalization. The court also shot down the act's labeling provision because it doesn't require the disclosure of purely factual information but compels carrying the legislature's "controversial opinion."

    "In evaluating the State's asserted interests, we must distinguish the State's interest in protecting minors from actual psychological or neurological harm from the State's interest in controlling minors' thoughts. The latter is not legitimate," the ruling stated.

    Sometimes judges totally rock compared to the rest of government.

    (Other times they deserve to be shot )

    But never the less.

  7. Luke Kandia

    Parents just don't get it - its all about the money

    Its illegal to sell alchoholic beverages to minors. A fine for those who disobey. What's the difference between a 17 year old and 18 year old kid? The 18 year old, in most places, is felt to be responsible enough to cast a ballot to decide how the country should be run. The 17 year old, though close, isn't trusted to do the "right" thing just yet.

    Thats pretty well where the sale of violent video games is at. We say that kids shouldn't be exposed to violence, because very likely, they will either become violent themselves or insensitive to it. But woe to the judge that lets that baby pass legislation. For where would it stop? Television stations would eventually become liable for showing CSI to their young audiences. And PG-13? Try and name me a movie these days that DOESN'T have violence in it and ISN'T a chick flick.

    You quickly see, its all about the money. Not so much about protecting your freedom of speech.

    The video game industry is quickly becoming the #1 Entertainment industry out there. Sure movies make a lot, but who wants to watch a movie, when instead YOU can become the leading actor/actress in one instead? And kick a few heads in to boot!

    As far as the raw violence goes, most parents, just don't get it. They see video games as "games". Not much more. The ones that DO take the time to sit down and actually watch what it is that the games portray, fall into two categories. They either become hard liners and never let their kids see another M or R game again OR they simply "let it slide", because they're enamored with the genre themselves. They just don't realize the effects that these games have on their children. They just see it as a way of getting the kid out of their hair. They don't realize that the gaming industry has basically "sold their soul" a long time ago, in order to reap a single benefit - the all mightly dollar. That the gaming industry doesn't give a damn about "their kids", otherwise they would welcome legislation with open arms. If the bulk of their sales comes from 18+ adults, then what do they possibly have to fear?

    About a year ago, I had the good fortune to read the book "Playstation Nation". Amazing. It was about video game addiction. The author barely touched on the subject of violence. Her premise was that video (or computer) gaming was addictive to the point that people who were seriously hooked, did ONLY video gaming, to the exclusion of everything else. The only cure, was cold turkey.

    Violence in video games? That should ONLY be an option for Adults. Kids should NEVER see it until they can understand the difference between right and wrong / good and evil and be able to elucidate those differences both orally and on paper. And of course be of legal age.

    You simply have to ask yourself ONE simple question:

    "What am I trying to teach my child by letting them play violent video games?"

    You will quickly see that there is absolutely NO merit to allowing little ones to experience them. Unless we're training our kids to be soldiers. But then even the government waits until they're 18 to sign them up to train.

    Ask little Johnny, what he finds fun about violent game "X"?

    "Its fun!" goes his reply.

    "Whats fun?" asks the parent.

    "Shooting things" replies the little one.

    So this is where we have come as an advanced society. When 9 out of every 10 new games that come out, are VIOLENCE based (killing something is the ultimate goal). That the absolute BEST and ADVANCED graphics games out there have KILLING something as a central theme.

    Pretty pathetic. Especially in the light of where the rest of our society could be if we concentrated on BUILDING things, relationships, entities instead of destroying them.

    But hey. That wouldn't sell would it?

  8. Chris C

    Sex-based censorship

    While I agree with this ruling, I wish we (society in general) would stop propagating this nonsense that anything sex-based (and even more so, that anything simply showing the nude human form) is "harmful" to minors. Watching people have consensual sex is not harmful. I'd imagine a lot of kids have seen people having sex, either catching their parents (inadvertently, or purposely because they were curious) or by looking at a magazine (or, nowadays, the Internet).

    Let's be honest about it -- we don't want minors to see anything sex-based (or anything showing the nude human form) because if they see it, they may view it as normal, not something to be hidden or covered up. And what could be more detrimental to our society than people realizing that sex isn't the work of the devil, and that sex and sexual urges are normal? Hey, we still live in a society that says masturbation is bad, that a 17-year-old female taking a nude picture of herself is child porn and she must be locked up in order to protect her from herself, that a half-second image of a nipple is going to bring about armageddon, and that if we don't talk to our kids about sex then it'll be as if it doesn't exist.

  9. Andrew Taylor
    Paris Hilton


    Arnie, who made his millions from gratuitously violent films, objects to violence, surely not.

    Paris because at least she knows what hypocracy is.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Land of the free sicko

    What a load of crap this judgement is. People having sex is BAD, people killing each other is ENTERTAINMENT. No wonder America is such a bloody mess.

  11. David Wilkinson
    Thumb Up

    Parental Responsiblity.

    How about parents who think their child might be being harmed by the video games they play ... actually do some actual parenting. Require your kids to get approval before they can play any new games ... if you catch them playing games you feel is harmful take away their game systems.

    If a kids parents can't be bothered to take an active interest in their child's life ... then that kid has a lot bigger problems than violent video games.

  12. Bunglebear
    Paris Hilton

    Don't understand...

    Does the US already put age restrictions on video games like they do with DVDs?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    degenerated society

    depictions of the act of making love can be censored and banned, but video 'games' of killing and violence are protected by the right of free speech. What ill degenerated and corrupt society...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mind body dilemma still not solved

    Why are people rather ignorantly assuming that it is?

    Frontal lobes, and aggression in the mind, have they actually got proof that all thought exists in the brain? No, they have not, pseudo scientific quakery at its most damaging.

  15. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "If they do not have enough intellect to figure that violence in the media can have a negative influence on children watching it, then they ought to be confined to some sort of instituion"

    Actually, they have been.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    What about...

    "In a 3-0 ruling, Judge Consuelo Callahan said California could only justify the ban if the state could not only prove cannabis caused actual psychological harm, but that the best way to prevent it was through criminalization."

    Now that would be news.

  18. John Savard Silver badge

    I'm surprised

    I thought the Constitution gave no protection to speech aimed at minors, only to speech aimed at adults.

  19. John Savard Silver badge

    Mind-body what???

    We know that the muscles of your arms and legs are controlled by electrical signals sent out from your brain.

    We know that information sensed by your eyes and ears is converted to electrical signals that go to your brain.

    And we know about how brain injuries affect people's ability to think adversely.

    So of course there is no reason to suspect anything but that the control of behavior, and conscious thought take place as electrical and chemical activity in the brain. What else could they possibly be? People would have to believe in... ghosts... or something to think otherwise.

  20. Paul

    Two Points:

    1. I know it looks silly for judges to say violence can't be restricted but sex can. You have to remember though, these particular judges have no choice in the latter, that decision has already been made and could only be overturned at the supreme court level. These judges just declined to create a NEW first amendment exception.

    2. In the US, films are rated by the MPAA. It is a common misconception (even among Americans) that this is required by law. The MPAA is is just trade association of movie studios, and their ratings don't officially have any legal power. Game ratings are done by an outfit called ESRB, pretty much the same deal.

    Of course giving "harmful matter" (AKA pr0n) to a minor can be illegal, and presumably that would apply to a pornographic game as well, but it doesn't officially have anything to do with the ratings. Though most people would probably assume anything rated less than the highest on either scale would be legal, if not necessarily advisable, for children.

  21. Roger Heathcote


    "have they actually got proof that all thought exists in the brain? No, they have not,"

    Well your brains might be in your arse but I believe the rest of us agree that ones thoughts happen in ones head.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Luke Kandia

    Heh overreact and over think a lot do you?

    "What am I trying to teach my child by letting them play violent video games?"

    Who says that they have to learn anything? Do every movie, book or thearter play have to be educational for you to experience it?

    Considdering the amount of gaming that is being done world wide there arent that many cases of kids that has been harmed by it and usualy there are other factors than gaming conserned when they act out. Blaming gaming for anything is silly. There simply arent enough evidence to blame gaming for anything. Sure make studies and do ovserne your kids reactions and ussage of games but dont start blaming the games when kids act out.

  23. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    It is all still a throwback to the power of the priesthood:

    Control the most powerful human urge by making it semi-illegal (or only legal when in a priest-sanctioned form (marriage)) so you can channel the pent-up tension to get all the guys to wage war on the tribe next door who worship the wrong god/goddess/great green argleseizure (and rape any surviving women in the process, THAT'S OK).

    Now some form of sexual restraint is a good idea, or else we would never get any work done ;-), but glorifying violence is less so.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    don't get why they need a ban...

    ... when they have age ratings anyway, either a shop is being stupid and sellig to minors (think even there that has a fine) or the parents are being stupid anywayand buying the game cause little tommy swears its got nothing bad in it.

  25. Thomas Bottrill

    You don't get it

    In America, games and DVDs are given ESRB ratings. As far am I'm aware, there is no obligation for retailers to refuse to sell ESRB-rated content to people of any age, although most retailers do abide by the rating. It's like the PEGI rating in Europe.

    This law, from reading the article, would legally obligate retailers to sell violent games only to those over the age of 18. This has nothing to do with parental responsibility - it merely prevents children from buying violent games, which surely has to be a good thing.

    I don't believe that there is anything comparable to the BBFC rating system, as laws restricting the sale of media to certain age groups have been declared first amendment violations - restrictions on free speech.

    The headline is a bit misleading really.

  26. Pyrrho Huxley

    Making sense of lunacy

    Of course it's bonkers that making love is censored while making hate isn't censored, but reason why the Christians feel that sex is more evil than violence is that sex is regarded as the mechanism for transmitting a non-existent thing called "original sin". The idea is that if there was no sexual activity, then no one would be born with "original sin" (because there would be no births at all). Thus the Christians think that killing people is bad, but that sex is the ultimate road to damnation becuase it promotes "original sin". Does the lunacy make sense now?

  27. Anonymous Coward

    The sad part

    Is that the supremes allowed any restriction on S-E-X at all. If it weren't for the horrendous blue streak running through the history of the states (going all the way back to the "puritans") I doubt the country would be as messed up as it is. The mere fact that most of this is owed to the undue influence of "the church" over the years and their desire to control each and every person's every waking moment, thought, and action is a truly sad testiment to the bad influence of organized religion.

    It's really quite simple. You don't want your kids to see or play the games...dont' buy them and don't allow them in your home. That, of course, won't stop little johnny or suzie from going to their friends houses and playing the games, but you can rest assured they will be "completely safe" in your home. Ditto for S-E-X. How you managed to "do it" and have children is surely a mystery. Make sure the kiddies don't know anything about it to keep them "safe", too.

    Just give up the pseudo-science (ooooo, it's bad for you,'cuz somebody told me it was) and the busy-body nosiness and keep your insane ideas to yourself and try not to infect the rest of society with your general level of stupidity.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Violence acceptable, sex not?

    To the comments about violence being more acceptable than sex, at least from my point-of-view (and I am a father and former military vet; however NOT a christian):

    Violence is easier to refute's a helluva lot easier to tell my son that "killing people is bad, period." then "sex is bad until you're: over 18, married, want to have kids, or use protection (and for gods sake be sure she's of legal age)." It also works better since you're dealing with an absolute (violence is bad, mmmkay?) than a conditional (sex is not always bad...regardless of what the church/government/local populace think).

    Hence why when we go to see a movie/buy a game, some violence is okay (so long as it's not too much: SAW-type violence is way over the line), however sexual content is an almost instant dis-qualifier. But then again, my wife and I appear to be of the minority that actually try to parent our child...he doesn't play games in our house that I haven't played/seen first (and as a life-long gamer, my wife trusts my judgment), and he understands that if I catch him going around my rules is to suffer the loss of his video games.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    1st Amendment?

    What 1st amendment issue? This isn't a ban on selling the stuff, it's just a ban on selling it to children. There is no issue here at all, let alone a constitutional one.

    Even if there was, who cares? Why should a bunch of dead people get to run the country anyway? Written constitutions solve nothing and create problems as they drift further and further out of date and out of touch. The government just does the unconstitutional stuff they want to do in secret while forcing everyone else to obey the rules.

    The real issue is that America was founded by soldiers and has been ruled by the military ever since, one way or another. Violence is good for them - it's their job - and of course serious amounts of terror are great for making sure that they're the ones everyone else turns to for "leadership". Sex is bad because it's fun and cheap and happy people aren't scared and if they're not scared they might stop listening to the fucking nutcases who insist on having control of a budget of 1.4 trillion dollars per year in the face of NOT A SINGLE serious military threat of any sort.

    War is big, big money. That's why it's packaged as entertainment. Sex is (mostly) free, that's why it's frowned on in the land of the almighty dollar.

  30. Andy Bright

    Extreme violence has nothing to do with it

    If you think it's a great idea to let the same people that regularly ban toys and activities from daycares based on nothing more than personal opinion decide what should be considered extreme violence, I guarantee that games like Mario Bros, Spiro and Rayman will carry 18 certificates.

    I don't think very many people here understand the type of person that will be making these decisions. These are the same people that would like to see parents arrested for allowing their kids to play on swings or run on the grass (they might fall over).

    Those are the sort of people you want in charge of deciding what extreme violence is? Good luck with that.

  31. BioTube

    Of the ESRB and MPAA

    The MPAA ratings(G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17) effectively have the force of law since any theater wanting to show Hollywood's movies has to agree to enforce the restrictions(and video rental stores require you to be 18 anyway due to the required membership). The ESRB's ratings(EC, E, T, M, AO and more), on the other hand, are not enforced because companies selling video games are not required to do so(though some, like Walmart, will refuse to sell M games to minors and few stores carry AO games). Attempts have been made to legislate the prohibition of selling M games to minors, but courts frown upon industry consortiums being given governmental authority.

  32. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    @Luke Kandia

    > Parents just don't get it - its all about the money

    No, you don't, get it, it's about not inflicting *your* opinions (not facts) on others.

    This ban is simply another example of people trying to control what people may or may not see, just because they don't like it and you are tagging along with them.

    "Exposing minors to depictions of violence in video games, including sexual and heinous violence, makes those minors more likely to experience feelings of aggression, to experience a reduction of activity in the frontal lobes of the brain, and to exhibit violent antisocial or aggressive behavior," the legislation claimed.

    The only problem is that there is no credible proof of this being "more likely", nor of any of the other claims. There is a lot of questionable research, with dubious conclusions from flawed testing methods, but that is not a sound basis for law.

    As for "What am I trying to teach my child by letting them play violent video games?" do you pre-emptively check every book, tv show, movie or whatever else your child wants to look at to ensure that it only contains "acceptable moral messages"?

    You must be one hell of a killjoy! (Oh, hang on, that contains the word "kill" doesn't it...?"

  33. Luke Kandia
    Thumb Down

    Atta boy Graham - another one who doesn't "Get it"

    We're talking about kids. Not adults people. Kids. What you do as a grown adult, is up to you. As long as you don't hurt another person, the state allows it.

    We've legislated child pornography, why? To protect the kids.

    Yet we think NOTHING of slapping an 8 year old in front of a monitor and letting him/her snipe away at characters 6 or 7 times their own age. Let alone the language that goes on it those Internet games. Because, the story goes, there is no PROOF that it messes with their brains.

    Have you read "Playstation Nation"? Read it and then you can comment about whether games effect kids. You just have to be around them and actually "pay attention" to see that it does. Especially violent games.

    Parents should watch their kids. But they don't. Thats why there are child agencies, that eventually take children away from parents and make their wards of the state.

    We've legislated guns away from minors for a reason. They aren't responsible enough to handle them. We've legislated Pornography away from minors. We don't give them booze at 13.

    Because they're not responsible enough yet. We've done the same with cigarettes, marijuana (oops - big boys can't have that EITHER :), narcotics, etc.

    But its okay to put a virtual uzzi in their hands, to blow the head off the neighbor down the street. Because why? You don't have enough time in your day to spend with your kid? Or if you do, its at the other end of a sniper rifle?

    You like killing games and therefore you figure they should have the same rights? Its a great way for the kid to unwind - by blowing away a few hundred people before bedtime? What possible reason would you have to allowing them to play GTA, Unreal, Half Life, DOD, etc? They all depict people killing other people? What FUN is that?

    There are a LOT of useless games out there. In the beginning, lot of them made very little sense. Hand eye coordination was the excuse we used with our parents. Then the sports games. But killing games? How can they take THOSE skills and translate them into every day life?

    Don't you think they are a little young to make the distinction? Between Good and Evil and Right and Wrong?

    Do we check what they read? Yep. Do we check the movies they watch? Yep. Don't you? Kids talk to you much? Do you actually have kids?

    It may not ever keep them out of the state pen. Who knows what could happen in the next 10 years. But they're kids. They should laugh, play games, have fun. What fun is it to watch decapitations, maiming, dismembering, headshots, etc? Where did you get your definition of fun?

    You married? I would LOVE to hear your wife's opinion.

    What are you trying to teach the child by exposing them to violent M Rated games? It isn't a tough question. Answer it.

    I didn't have an answer. Because there isn't a sane one. Other than how to kill another human. And unless you're training them to be Marines, killing shouldnt be for kids. They should have a relatively normal "fun" life.

    And then decide for themselves when they're 18, whether that sort of thing is for them or not.

  34. Luke Kandia
    Thumb Down

    Studies on aggression and video games

    This study was done in 2000.

    This is the ongoing controversy on Wikipedia:

    Violence and video games:

    Even Microsoft appears to have a conscience:

    Someone else who doesn't get it:

    Violence begets violence

    Video game industry won't stand behind its own ratings system:

    Violence in video games: myths, facts and unanswered questions.

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