By a 7-2 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a California law, authored by State Senator Leland Yee, which would have banned the sale of violent video games to children. We discuss the case.

Video Games on Trial 27 June,2011forum

Rich Taylor, senior vice president of communications and industry affairs for the Electronic Software Association
Douglas Gentile, director of the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University
Leland Yee, California state senator representing the 8th District and author of the California video game law
Christopher Ferguson, associate professor in the College of Arts and Sciences at Texas A&M International University
Margaret Russell, professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law

  • utera

    I wonder what video games hitler was playing;)

    sweet godwin!

  • Bob

    Leland Yee’s “Walmart” comment was idiotic.  Scalia is the closest you’ll get to a First Amendment absolutist.  He’ll anger liberals while voting with the majority in Citizen’s United, and anger conservatives voting to uphold flag burning in Texas vs Johnson. 

  • Megan

    The video game industry is already doing an excellent job helping parents control which games their children are playing. The ESRB rating system is actually better than the system used for movies because not only does each game get a rating, but if you look on the back of the case you will see a list of specific reasons why that particular game received that rating. The new consoles also have extensive parental controls. Parents can set the console so that M rated games won’t even play. There are a lot of parental controls for online play as well.

    Legislating this issue just isn’t necessary.

    • utera

      Furthermore who pays for the expensive tv, video game consoles, computers, and games?  Parents, unless the kid is a genius or is at least 16 so they can have a job, these things are inherently limited access products.  The original launch price for a ps3 was about 500 dollars!!  Even today it is about 300 dollars just to get started with a ps3 system. Folks concocting a fantasy where children are handed free violent video games under the nose of parents are just basing their outrage on anything but reality.

  • Christinabozzini

    I am an early childhood mental health specialist and am so disturbed and outraged by the argument that video games have little effect on children. The implication of Mr. Ferguson that the outcry over children’s exposure to today’s realistic, violent video games is equitable to that in the past over comic books, etc is ridiculous. If a child becomes frightened or overwhelmed while reading a comic book, they can put it down, in great contrast to the visual and auditory assault of violence on a TV screen. I see the negative impact of exposure to violent media on my young clients on a daily basis. Young children do not yet have the cognitive skills, and often lack appropriate parental support to understand the violence they are seeing. Their confusion can result in aggressive behavior, as well as trauma symptoms such as nightmares, fearfulness and withdrawal. Parents lack sufficient information about how children are impacted by the media, and some just plain don’t care. I am disappointed that the courts couldn’t do more to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

    • Joe

      Or why doesn’t the government leave people alone and let them raise their kids as they desire?  It’s a grey area.  How much do you want them prying into your private life and choices?

      Just like you wouldn’t let your 8 year old kids look at pornography, you wouldn’t let them play video games made for adults.  I feel that going after video games alone is disingenuous.  Let’s go after movies that are violet or promote fantasy.  Let’s go after romance novels.  Let’s go after television.  Let’s go after the internet. 

      I think it would be more advantageous to promote good parenting instead of going after those who produce content for adults.  

    • Nancy4Roberts

      I’m acutally very interested in your opinion here. However, I imagine your observations stem largely from your professional experience with patients, or children being treated for mental health issues.  So I wonder if your sampling indeed does not represent an overall cross section of the general population.  I wonder what that overall data would suggest?  I wonder if for some kids who may already be predisposed to aggressive or other undesireable behaviours, if for those children, violent media may have a more significant negative impact then for children who may not have any such predisposition?

    • utera

      Your outrage has NO basis in fact, we’ve had generations of children weened on video games become adults already, and they have not been plagued with violence or criminality, no exactly the opposite has happened, youth crime has decreased.

      Don’t let the facts affect your opinions though… “mental health specialist” should know better than to deal with reality.

      The argument that young children don’t have cognitive skill to tell reality from fantasy holds no water, if your child is at that level, it is your job to limit their options, these are 50 dollar a pop products, the game consoles are hundreds of dollars, but folks like you act as if they were handed out on the street for free, i’m sorry, but if a toddler wants a video game, they gotta get mommy or daddy to buy it.  The hysteria is unfounded. If the kid has hundreds to spend on video games, they are at the age where they can tell reality from fantasy, if not, they would take cartoons for reality, and jump off cliffs like willy coyote and the rest. You are setting up an absurd scenario for your outrage that does not exist in reality.

  • kathy irwin

    I am curious as to the funding sources for your guests research into violent video games

  • gibson

    why do you guys think that youth need to be censored. youth are often ignored. even if its dangerous the Constitution does not care. im 13 and been playing for years but not kill one thing  

    • Joe

      I don’t think you have a grasp on the conversation.

  • Mikehihz

    I don’t buy the argument. As a well functioning, successful 45-year old male professional working in technology, I grew up on violent video games. Heck, I grew up on video games in general and the fact of the matter is that you can make the same argument with other entertainment choices:

    – Violent movies increase aggressiveness.
    – Fantasy fiction increase detachment from real society and relationships.
    – Dining out as entertainment increases weight.

    It’s all entertainment and as an informed consumer there is no difference between an adult and a child indulging in entertainment except the child should have an engaged parent to parse the experience and monitor the child. 

    At what point should the state step in for neglectful parenting? It’s a very slippery slope (notwithstanding the 1st amendment issues.)

    • utera

      Yup and before video games there were the video nasties and comic books that led politicians to campaign based on fear and hysteria over the corruption of the youth.  As always, these things were never based on any actual evidence…  generations weened on mortal kombat are now well adjusted adults.  Such facts are just ignored by folks on a moral crusade.

    • utera

      Yea the folks on the anti side are grasping for straws, the simple fact is reality argues against them.  Generations of kids have already gone through this real world test, ending up as normally functional adults, so what is it with the relentless need to believe that video games have some kind of profound effect.

      What the folks who condemn video games don’t seem to realize is that video games are games, games are built on rules, and people play them to learn and exploit/master the rules.  To master a game you abstract the game play, just as people playing chess think of strategy, not murder, games don’t play the way some people think they do.

  • dstv

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    Does this decision leave open the argument that other items may someday be consumed by youth or become easier for youth to obtain by virtue of some freedom decision? 

    A violent video game is active participation and is even used by the military in combat and drone attack training? Could alcohol, also participatory, tobacco and other pornographic media become easier to obtain? Actual and cyber reality have a lot in common and the defining line between them is becoming blurred.

    Many youth spend more time in the cyber world than in actual reality. When they do step into reality do they see through cyber eyes? From a law standpoint, the decision may be correct, but are we as knowledgeable as we should be between the cyber and real world? It isn’t just aggression, it is a slight change in perception of the whole world.

  • Devon

    Science is already aware of pleasure center chemo/neuromotor connections formed by the brain under the influence of drugs. Addictions like gambling, porn,cocaine, even shopping(!) can form powerful bonds in the brain and loss of control for the victim. Video games are no different and have exerted a questionable but real effec during the most vulnerable period of brain development for the 30 years. 
    I think that the researchers may be using the wrong hypothesis and looking for too broad -easy pickings-for evidence of incidence. Frankly the term children should be dropped because it’s young boys using the media and that is where the damage is done. 

  • gibson

    a young person is still a person and should have rights

  • I was disgusted at the parents who called in complaining about their kids playing 2-3 hours of video games a day. How about those parents do some actual parenting, instead of crying to the government to “think of the children”?

    It’s the parent’s job to say no, to control what sort of media their kids are and are not allowed to consume, and for how long. And the video game industry actually makes it relatively easy to decide what is and is not appropriate, with their rating systems.

    But I guess it’s just easier to blame The Evil Media Corporations (TV, movies, video games, phones, etc) than it is to be an informed and firm parent.

    • Megan

      My mouth actually fell open during her comment. When my mother said no she meant it, and it was up to me to provide a compelling argument if I wanted to change her mind. Maybe that’s why all the video games I’ve played in my life haven’t turned me into some sort of drooling, basement-dwelling sociopath with a rage problem.

  • Megan

    In an effort to be constructive and not just critical, here’s something for the parents out there. The following are the official Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo websites where you can download .pdf versions of the console manuals in case the one that came with your child’s console is lost. It shouldn’t take too much time to simply download the one you need, read up on the parental controls, and implement those you deem appropriate. You’ll do more to protect your child than this waste-of-resources piece of legislation ever would have.

    Microsoft (i.e. Xbox 360)

    Sony (i.e. Playstation)

    Nintendo (i.e. Wii)

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