Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here we go again...

Depending upon where you get the news, and what you consider to be news, you may have heard a little or a lot about a certain piece of legislation called AB 1179 more commonly known as "anti-violent video game bill (number goes here)". This bill was written by State Senator Leland Yee of California to prohibit the sale of what he views as "ultraviolence" in video games to minors. Senator Yee is also a formal child psychologist who claims on his website to be for "children, working families, seniors, civil rights and other nice-sounding things. His bill was ruled unconstitutional and now it's going to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. This is a sort of climax for what has been a decade-long culture war between the video game industry and family values special interest groups. Like the bills it before it this one is both needless, ineffective legislation and unconstitutional.

In fact newly everything in this bill is questionable and it can be read here.
Instead of playing super Street fighter for, which I rather do, I am going to EXPLAIN why this bill is both unnecessary and unconstitutional.Since I just linked to the bill itself I will only quote the exact parts that I am responding to.

"(c) "Video game" means any electronic amusement device that
utilizes a computer, microprocessor, or similar electronic circuitry
and its own monitor, or is designed to be used with a television set
or a computer monitor, that interacts with the user of the device."

This bill's definition of "video game" is a piece of hardware. According to this bill my PlayStation 3 is a video game by itself. Not only that but most peoples personal computers can also fit under this definition. I'm sure I'm not the only one who uses their computer as their in-home music player. Also the bill says "interacts with the user" instead of "that the user interacts with". So what this paragraph is describing is an artificially intelligent multimedia computer that directly interacts with the user somehow.

"(i) A reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would
find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors."

This could be interpreted as anything and there is no definition of "a reasonable person" and it is not the place of government to decide this. (ii) is the same.

"(iii) It causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary,
artistic, political, or scientific value for minors."

There are video games that communicate ideas to the player and this alone puts them under first amendment protection. The First Amendment Simply says "speech" and this is separated from "press". it is NOT the governments place to determine what artistic value is.

"(2) For purposes of this subdivision, the following definitions

The terms described below are slightly vague and overlap.
They can also be found on some television programs.

"(b) Proof that a defendant, or his or her employee or agent,
demanded, was shown, and reasonably relied upon evidence that a
purchaser or renter of a violent video game was not a minor or that
the manufacturer failed to label a violent video game as required
pursuant to Section 1746.2 shall be an affirmative defense to any
action brought pursuant to this title. That evidence may include, but
is not limited to, a driver's license or an identification card
issued to the purchaser or renter by a state or by the Armed Forces"
of the United States.

It is store policy at most retailers now than individual suspected to
be underaged show proof of being 18 years or older to be allowed to
purchase an "M" rated game.

"Each violent video game that is imported into or
distributed in California for retail sale shall be labeled with a
solid white "18" outlined in black. The "18" shall have dimensions of
no less than 2 inches by 2 inches. The "18" shall be displayed on
the front face of the video game package."

The ESRB already requires something similar. The readings are represented
by a black letter against a white background and measure 1.5 mm wide and 2.2 mm high.
these ratings are in the lower left corner on the front and the lower right on the back
measuring 4 mm x 2 mm. The ESRB ratings or in plain sight and there is no need for the
state of California to do a job that someone else is already doing.

And finally section 1 at the start of the bill justifies itself with a body of research
done mostly by family values special interest groups. Carrying out a study with a political bias
is simply bad science. It also states "Even minors who do not commit acts of violence suffer
psychological harm from prolonged exposure to violent video games." there is no good evidence to suggest this.

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