The Supreme Court, you may have read, rejected California’s law that banned the sale of video games to minors (kids under 18). This is a kerfluffly item. Many kers have been fluffled by the news.
Some things to keep in mind, as sides get unravelled on this.
- Comparisons are made to pornography, which is illegal to sell to minors. And we know that no minors get their hands on it, either. Phew! But – games that are rated M are not pornographic, for the most part. Some games are close but the argument here is about violence – violent video games. The correlate to most violent video games is violent movies. The correlate to the M rating is the R rating. The correlate to the AO rating is the NC-17 rating, except that some art movies get away with an NC-17 rating and other movies just have extra “unrated” versions that get around the theater release. But we know that minors don’t watch rated R movies, either. Phew!
- Only some kids buy games. Many of kids download them legally or illegally. Legal online age mechanisms are usually a joke. It would be more effective to ask kids about Back to the Future” than it would to ask them what day they were born, EVERYONE lies on that. Also, this article points out that lots of gaming happens casually – Flash games, free games, etc. Gaming has figured out how to proliferate the digital realm in a way film and music should envy and are trying to emulate.
- Part of California’s (the whole state, apparently, in the courtroom) argument was that violent video games have a negative effect on kids. The Supreme Court dismissed this research, stating that is was correlative. Correlative meaning just because the kids were agitated after playing video games doesn’t mean video games caused the agitation. It’s how the studies were designed that decide this, usually – if people want really good evidence of causation they need to change how they set up the studies. And let me know because I would totally be in that study. Back when I was a kid.
- An interesting approach from the court was citing violent literature and then being like, “Hey, they’ve read Hansel and Gretel, that’s not too different than Manhunt.” Which, actually, is not true at all, because Hansel and Gretel are in books, which only some kids read because it requires them to have them in their possession, open them, and then cast their eyes onto the page and read, which is difficult for many kids to do on Boring Stories Like Hansel and Gretel. The court simultaneously made a good point (“Kids grow up on violent literature”), date and class themselves (“Doesn’t everyone read Proust? I have 5 copies, in my car alone!”), miss the mark, (no one sits down and reads Grimm’s Fairy tales when they’re looking for horror. They read Stephen King.), then compare the message and not the medium (if reading was like playing video games, then kids would beg their parents for books the way they do the new Zelda. It’s a different medium (funner, kids think, generally)). Maybe they compare the medium and I didn’t notice.
- Seth Schiesel argues that the ruling means that video games are now art. This will come as a relief to people who have been trying to convince their friends to play Shadow of the Colussus, like people have to convince their friends to see Ikiru. He brings up a good point – video games are in fact pretty much taking over in terms of entertainment. Legitimate game purchases are only growing, even if most games are written like the worst Van Damme movies (my assessment, there). He thinks it leaves the onus on video game makers to grow up and be men (and a few women) who do great things, which they will probably get around to after they knock out a few more franchise hits that make ten gabillion dollars.
- The argument is made (and this is fodder for another post, really) that video games train kids to be killers because they do violent, anti-social things in games. This is a complicated issue, but when used in conjunction with the Columbine massacre, completely loses water and should be dismissed. My son likes to shoot everything he can with anything he can. The extension on the vaccuum hose that helps you get the little crumbs from the side of the sofa? This is a favorite. Once his brain is fully developed, if those skills he gained shooting at things … bah. That point is fodder for another post. Here are the links.
Overview: Supreme Court rejects ban on violent video games – USA Today
Pro Ruling: What Supreme Court Ruling on Video Games Means