The United States Supreme Court handed down a ruling on California’s video game law, opposing the rights of parents to keep their children safe from mature-rated adult video games.
The California law banning the sale and rental of explicit video games to minors without parental consent was passed in 2005, but was overturned by lower courts. The PTC and its members urged California to appeal the law…but now, despite our long-fought battle, the multi-billion dollar video game industry has triumphed.
In May of 2005, California State Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Mateo) introduced California AB 450, prohibiting the sale and rental of adult video games to children who are 18 years of age or younger, unless accompanied by an adult. The measure specifically targeted video games depicting serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel.
The PTC’s grassroots activism led to the passage of the law. The entertainment industry spent millions of dollars on powerful lobbying interests, which used every means possible to attempt to kill the legislation; but the PTC sent out an urgent call for help via e-mail, urging Californians to make their voice heard, and encouraging non-California residents to contact friends in California about the issue. Because of the activism of the PTC’s grassroots members, the bill was passed and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. When the law was overturned by lower courts, the PTC’s grassroots members were instrumental in urging the state of California to fight for the rights of parents over those of the gaming industry.
Many scientific studies have found a link between adult video games and aggressive behavior in children, and demonstrate a long-term harmful impact. Even the video game industry itself acknowledges this, since it established an age-based ratings system to begin with. Parents should be able to depend on the fact that a retailer will not sell an adult-themed product to children behind the parent’s back. And the PTC’s ‘Secret Shopper’ campaigns have routinely demonstrated an abysmal failure rate for video game retailers to uphold the industry’s own age-based restrictions.
Despite what the video game industry and media critics have said, the California law did not limit in any way what those in the game industry create. It did not limit what the game industry manufactures. It did not put any restrictions on any content in any game. The law did not even prevent parents from buying adult games for their children. It merely guaranteed that games containing extreme and explicit violence cannot be sold to children under age 18 unless a parent is present. The only ones affected by the law are retailers who choose to sell or rent harmful, adult-rated games to children. This would only affect the video game industry if was counting on large numbers of minor children buying games that the industry itself says are inappropriate for them to play!
Unfortunately, today’s ruling proves the United States Supreme Court believes the “right” of the video game industry to corrupt and endanger children is greater than that of parents to protect them. Now, retailers are free to openly, brazenly sell games with unspeakable violence even to the youngest of children; and the court has provided children with a Constitutionally-protected end-run on parental authority.
But the original author of the law, Senator Yee, has promised that, despite this defeat, he will re-craft the law in conformity with the Supreme Court’s stated guidelines, and will reintroduce the bill. This will also allow other state legislatures to craft their own, similar laws protecting children.
Make no mistake: this fight is not yet over. The PTC will not rest until there is a law protecting all children from adult video games.
But this new campaign will be an uphill battle. We have already faced tremendous opposition from the video game industry. Now, reintroducing a new law will be twice as difficult. We won’t let that stop us, but in order to succeed WE NEED YOUR HELP! Your generous financial support allows us to fight these battles – and protect YOUR children and grandchildren from violent and sexually explicit video games and other harmful media content. PLEASE consider assisting the PTC with a tax-deductible gift today!
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