Utah Seeks To Team Up with Video Game Industry to Overturn California’s Violent Video Game Ban

Utah teens can keep playing violent games, like Red Dead Redemption.

Politics and violent video games make for strange bedfellows.

In a surprise move (to this blogger anyway), Utah is joining forces with the video game industry to persuade the Supreme Court to strike down a California law banning the sale of violent video games to minors.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the law into effect in 2005, but the video-gaming industry won an injunction in federal court enjoining its enforcement.  Earlier this year, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in the case, Video Software Dealers Ass’n v.  Schwarzenegger.

Now, Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wants to file an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to rule that California’s ban on the sale of video games to minors in unconstitutional.  Who knew that Utah’s stance on the sale of video games would be more measured and wiser than California’s?  Shurtleff’s explanation for siding with the video game industry is interesting:  “If we do file [a brief with Supreme Court], it will be narrowly tailored to deal with two things: free speech and our law enforcement concern at handing a Supreme Court-recognized defense to every criminal out there: ‘Oh, yeah, the video game made me do it. ’” [Source]

It is refreshing hear a politician (especially one from Utah) properly classify video games as protected speech.  Too often, people characterize video games as frivolous and juvenile.  Roger Ebert just recently received criticism for stating that video games cannot ever be considered art.

And too often the news media and politicians try to blame society’s problems with youth violence on video games and other entertainment that comprise kids’ culture (e.g. music, television and movies).

But it is important to remember that you don’t do kids, or society, any favors by sheltering them from pictures of violence.  As Judge Posner wrote in American Amusement Machine:
No doubt [people] would concede this point if the question were whether to forbid children to read without the presence of an adult the Odyssey, with its graphic descriptions of Odysseus’s grinding out the eye of Polyphemus with a heated, sharpened stake, killing the suitors, and hanging the treacherous maidservants; or The Divine Comedy with its graphic descriptions of the tortures of the damned; or War and Peace with its graphic descriptions of execution by firing squad, death in childbirth, and death from war wounds. Or if the question were whether to ban the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, or the famous horror movies made from the classic novels of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley ( Frankenstein) and Bram Stoker ( Dracula). Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault is aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.

Judge Posner and Utah’s Attorney General aren’t the only ones who feel like this.  Shurtleff predicts ten other states will join in the brief opposing the law.  But, on the flip side, eleven states (Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia) have filed a brief to support the California law.

This case will be an interesting gauge of where Justice Kagan stands on the First Amendment.

Bonus Link:

Nicholson Baker podcast on video games.  Mr. Baker wrote on this subject for a recent issue of the New Yorker and recorded some his thoughts on playing video games.

Photo Credit: PitsLampPhotography

Source:  How Appealing

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~ by siouxsielaw on August 26, 2010.

4 Responses to “Utah Seeks To Team Up with Video Game Industry to Overturn California’s Violent Video Game Ban”

  1. Members of the gaming industry are currently contesting the decision by the California Assembly citing existing ESRB measures as sufficient. Other Video Games

  2. Nice Posner quote.

  3. Nicholson Baker is great. I liked the podcast. Thanks for the link.

  4. Interesting read. I would be very upset if criminals started getting lesser penalties for using an excuse such as “the video game made me do it!”.
    -Jack

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