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Is Calif. Ban on Violent Video Games Legal?

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By Jason Beahm on October 29, 2010 6:55 AM

Are violent video games analogous to literature, which is not restricted by age, or is that a silly comparison? The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to hear a case regarding California's state ban on the sale of violent video games to minors.

Those in favor of the ban say it is important and necessary to protect the children. (You always hear a lot about "the children" around election time.) Publishers and filmmakers say the kids are going to be just fine, but restricting video games is wrong and could have a chilling effect. California officials and their defenders say the ban is important to protect children. Publishers and filmmakers argue that if the Supreme Court sides with California, the action could chill creativity in other media.

"Many games today have deep stories and draw heavily from our literary heritage," says Los Angeles video game developer Ted Price, founder of Insomniac Games.

Naturally California Democratic Sen. Leland Yee, who sponsored of a state ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, sees the issue quite differently. Yee says that violent games that simulate death and destruction harm the fragile minds of our nation's youth. "[T]o burn a woman, you have to kill the cop first ... No parent can just play the game and know everything in it," Tee said. The politician says games that simulate the maiming and killing of human beings harm the psyches of young players and can cause them to be violent, USA Today reports.

After California passed a ban on selling violent video games to minors in 2005, the video game industry sued, arguing that the ban was unconstitutional as an infringement on free speech rights. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed with the video game makers and overturned the ban.

The U.S. Supreme Court surprised many pundits when it agreed to take up the case.

Soon it will turn to nine Justices who will be asked to weight the arguments on each side and make a decision. They don't pay me to make predictions, but I expect the decision to be close.

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