The Terminator vs. the Constitution

California’s video game law does violence to the First Amendment.

Does a zombie count as “an image of a human being”? What about an android or a shape-shifting alien? If his arm regenerates when you hack it off, does that still amount to “maiming”? Are you “killing” him if he comes back to life after you incinerate him with a flamethrower?

These are a few of the questions raised by California’s law against selling “offensively violent” video games to minors. But the most important question is this: Should the Supreme Court, which considered arguments for and against the law in November, create an exception to the First Amendment at the behest of moral crusaders who, like earlier critics of dime novels, motion pictures, and comic books, see a newly popular medium as an intolerable threat to the youth of America?

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in violent movies that have inspired several violent video games, nevertheless argued that the Court should uphold the law (which he proudly signed) by extending the logic of a 1968 decision that allowed states to impose age restrictions on sales of pornography. But that ruling was based on the obscenity doctrine, which holds that certain kinds of sexual material are beyond the scope of the First Amendment even for adults.

The Court has never taken such a position with respect to violence. Furthermore, as two industry groups note in their challenge to California’s law, “Depictions of violence, unlike obscenity, have played a longstanding and celebrated role in expression properly consumed by minors, from Greek myths to the Bible to Star Wars and Harry Potter.”

Although California’s law applies only to video games, the principle espoused by its defenders would authorize censorship of other media as well—a point that several justices made in their questions during oral arguments. “Some of the Grimms’ fairy tales are quite grim,” noted Antonin Scalia. “Are you going to ban them too?” Ruth Bader Ginsburg had similar concerns. “What about films?” she asked. “What about comic books?” In light of research indicting cartoon violence, Sonia Sotomayor wondered, “can the legislature…outlaw Bugs Bunny?”

California Deputy Attorney General Zackery Morazzini had trouble locating a constitutional basis for distinguishing between video games, a form of artistic expression that tells interactive stories, and books, movies, or TV shows. The psychological evidence that California cites to support a video game exception has failed to persuade any of the federal appeals courts that have considered this issue. As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit noted when it overturned California’s law in 2009, “Nearly all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology as they relate to the State’s claimed interest. None of the research establishes or suggests a causal link between minors playing violent video  games and actual psychological or neurological harm.”

The research also does not support the distinctions California wants to draw, since it implicates TV shows as well as video games and cartoonish as well as realistic violence. The trade groups challenging the law note that the state’s main expert witness “admits that even viewing a picture of a gun has the same aggressive effect as playing a violent video game,” while “one of his fellow researchers claims to find nearly identical links between aggressive behavior and reading violent passages in the Bible.”

Although California says it is only “reinforcing parents’ authority,” there is little evidence that parents need the state’s help. They already can use the industry’s rating system, backed up by parental controls built into game consoles, to regulate the games their children play. Unlike the industry’s age-based ratings, California’s law treats 17-year-olds the same as preschoolers. Its vague standards, which Morazzini conceded would be clarified only after people are punished for violating the law, would encourage the industry to err on the side of labeling games as off limits to teenagers, while its penalties ($1,000 per violation) would discourage stores from stocking such games, thereby affecting adults as well as minors.

Despite the far-reaching implications of the constitutional license California seeks, it complains that it cannot reasonably be expected to supply “empirical proof of how expressive material impacts such nebulous concepts as one’s ethics or morals.” It could avoid this problem if it stopped using such nebulous concepts to justify censorship.

Senior Editor Jacob Sullum (jsullum@reason.com) is a nationally syndicated columnist.

© Copyright 2010 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  • ||

    Three hours into Dead Space 2. Happy so far, but I want my Force Gun. :-(

  • ||

    Been playing Torchlight; critical kills explode the victim. Not violent at all.

  • Gritz||

    Look up the weapon you unlock from beating the hardest difficulty. Best weapon ever.

  • Old Salt||

    I just fired up Postal 2 again and I can't wait until Postal 3 comes out in first quarter 2011!

    Yeah, it's a fucked up game but every time I play the Postal Dude a nanny stater has an aneurysm!

  • ||

    Minecraft has walking shrubbery called Creepers that when it sees you runs right at you then, when it gets close, blows itself up.

    they are also, unlike the other monsters in the game completely silent and can survive in the day light. So in the morning you will go out of your little fortress and start doing your mincraft work then suddenly BOOM!!! You and what ever you were working on gets blown to smithereens.

  • Gritz||

    those guys are dicks. like literally. they arent shrubs. theyr giant diseased green dildoes

  • ||

    until you played baby seal brain f*ck-rape, with machine guns that use baby koala and panda bears as ammo, you havn't played violent...
    due to all the inter species sex, it should be restricted to adults.

  • ||

    Fallout: New Vegas, which I'm currently playing, has practically no violence.

    Well, maybe a little.

  • Wind Rider||

    Yeah, but what gets splattered and spews brains all over in New Vegas stays in New Vegas

  • ||

    Sounds like someone needs to take the Bloody Mess Perk.

  • ||

    It's pretty damned bloody without that, thank you very much. My three-year old wanted to sit and watch me play, and I kept covering her eyes.

  • ||

    The world doesn't need more sissies, PL.

    A nightmare is just your mind telling you how weak you are.

  • ||

    You raise your children, and I'll raise mine. At least until parenting is an MMO, then everyone can raise each other's children.

    Say, maybe Clinton was on to something in her book, It Takes Some Pillage.

  • ||

    I don't have children. I have HORDE!

  • ||

    Must be a bitch for birthdays.

  • ||

    HORDE NEEDS NOTHING!

  • ||

    Just wait until they're older, and you want them to call or to help you out in your dotage. You'll regret not getting them the occasional gift.

  • ||

    If you're having trouble coming up with a good gift, I understand that hordes like yurts.

  • Thrall||

    Lok'tar ogar!

  • Ogre||

    NERRRRDS!

  • omg||

    Just wait till the Cass/Veronica/You 3-way that happens later on.

  • Ska||

    Until FISTO shows up...

  • He-Man||

    What's he doin' in New Vegas? I thought he was a Master of The Universe!

  • db||

    That would be so sweet.

  • db||

    It's all in how you play the game. Except there's pretty much no chance of peace with the Vipers, Fiends, or Nightkin.

    And who the fuck would let a Legion swine breathe?

  • JohnD||

    Unlike Fallout 3. Very violent. Great game. It's even more fun if you imagine the ghouls are Dems.

  • ||

    They didn't even have video games when the First Amendment was ratified.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    You know, you're right. I'm going to send all of my games to Congress for disposition.

  • ||

    You should only be able to have the video games they had in 1787.

  • ||

    I'm afraid that's the only possible interpretation.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Not even ones made of wood and iron?

  • LarryA||

    They didn't even have video games when the First Amendment was ratified.

    Their games were played with real redcoats (v 1776, v 1812), Indians, yankees v rebels, etc. In between shooting practice and hunting they took their kids to see hangings.

  • Pip||

    I too, long for that simpler time.

  • ||

    I know you're playing devil's advocate, but they did have toy soldiers at that time, which were (obviously) used for games of pretend-killing.

    If anything, I'd think being graphically exposed to blood and gore in war-based video games is going to prevent young men from romanticizing war as they often did in the past.

  • Tim||

    Meanwhile the left denounces these games for being a gateway drug to ...the military.

  • Gregory Smith||

    And why is that a bad thing? The military is a great institution! If you're fit enough to join you have the opportunity to fight for freedom and do something bigger than I don't know, being an accountant.

    Libertarian doesn't mean pacifist, but if you think it does, then let me tie you up while I torture you with electricity. ;)

  • Pip||

    Why do you hate accountants?

  • Jim||

    Is that what we're doing all over the world, "fighting for freedom"? Man, I've been reading the wrong news articles.

  • JohnD||

    Maybe you have been reading the wrong paper.

  • omg||

    Libertarian should mean anti-initiation of force. This wouldn't necessarily preclude military service outright, but it should prevent military service in light of how America's military is used at the moment.

    If you think the initiation of force is fine and dandy, then you don't really have any business calling yourself a libertarian, as it would undermine the main moral argument that can be used against the state. Although this is probably an accurate label, judging by the contents of your website there...

  • Old Salt||

    Not necessarily. War can get tricky when it comes to Libertarian philosophy but initiation and aggression, while similar at first glance, are VERY different in practice. For example:

    Anti-aggressive: By today's standards, a Libertarian would most likely have been against World War I since it wasn't our fight and had little to do with us, as it was mostly just a giant dick waving contest between Europe with everyone else getting pulled in. There was no moral or ethical compass to be found in WWI, just a bunch of asshole leaders making the world suffer because they all had scores (real and imagined) to settle.

    Anti-initiation: You average American would have fallen into this camp at our entry in World War II, someone who prefers to avoid getting involved but isn't afraid to throw down once someone starts some shit. Since self-defense is at the core of most Libertarian values, your average Libertarian would find little fault for going after the Axis. How WWII was fought by the U.S. is another matter entirely.

    Anti-intervention: Here is where Libertarians really start swearing at each other; some people see a girl getting raped in an alley and they just ignore it, since it isn't they're business, while others will drop hot brass all over the place in prosecution of a obvious injustice and, yes, maybe they stumbled upon a married couple engaging in rape-play but you don't always have the kind of time you wish you did to think things though when the shit hits the fan right in front of you! Being for or against intervention (and I mean a REAL intervention like we should have done with the Khmer Rouge and not the bullshit intervention we usually engage in like with the Shah of Iran) is an emotional response that can only be guessed at UNTIL IT HAPPENS!

    There were PLENTY of my fellow Libertarians in the military (which is where I turned to the Dark Side, as my Democrat parents like to say) and most of us were fine with going to Afghanistan but were pissed about Iraq (which was when a lot of people in uniform started moving towards Libertarianism and that was true for me also). Being a Libertarian in the military doesn't make you a hypocrite but that doesn't make you happy either; most Catholics are unhappy with their organization but that doesn't make them hypocrites for staying!

    Besides, VERY LITTLE of the U.S. Military engages directly in fighting of any kind and a lot of what they do could even be described as charitable. The Navy's Seabees are a great example of this, since a great many of them spend their entire twenty years of service building schools and hospitals in the middle of hell holes that Google Earth couldn't find and God himself couldn't force a missionary to go to!

    Some people avoid trouble, others go looking for it, and some will curb stomp the hell out of it but not until the second it pops its head out of the gutter!

    Aggression, Initiation, and Intervention; it isn't a question of philosophy but one of instinct and everyone reacts their own way in each set of circumstances with little ability to predict until it's all said and done!

  • Gregory Smith||

    Thanks, I'm glad there are some patriotic people here instead of the usual pseudo-Quakers. Talk about a cowardly religion, they won't fight so others fight for them.

  • ||

    nice post.

  • db||

    Have you ever done anything bigger than lick boots?

  • Wind Rider||

    Oh, yeah, sure, It's all fun and games as long as the kiddies are shooting Nazi Zombies in Castle Wolfenstein, but anything else and people have a poop in their pants fit over it.

  • ||

    I'd like to see a game set in 1930s India, where Gandhi has a lot of guns and has to get rid of the British all by himself. Castle Bollystein.

  • PIL||

    It was Gandhi who said that the cruelest thing the British did to the Indian was deprived them of firearm ownership. That's right, so Mr. Peacenik Gandhi had a lot of common sense, he knew unarmed people were defenseless, so his "non-violence" was only a political strategy, nothing more.

  • ||

    Add Gandhi to the list of people I never believe a quote from without proof, due to them being constantly misattributed to. That quote is simply not plausible.

  • db||

    Gandhi did once say "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest."

    However, taken in context, it appears he was speaking specifically of the British disarmament of the Indian state, not its people.

    As a fan of firearms rights, I had in the past used Gandhi's quote but upon reading its context had to reconsider. Turns out he was just another statist fucker who just wanted the local state to rule instead of the overseas state.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    That quote is simply not plausible.

    And yet, it's true.

    In this instance of the fire-arms, the Asiatic has been most improperly bracketed with the native. The British Indian does not need any such restrictions as are imposed by the Bill on the natives regarding the carrying of fire-arms. The prominent race can remain so by preventing the native from arming himself. Is there a slightest vestige of justification for so preventing the British Indian?
    Comments on a court case in The Indian Opinion (25 March 1905)

    And...

    Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.
    Gandhi, An Autobiography, p. 446 (Beacon Press paperback edition)
  • Gregory Smith||

    See? I'm not full of shit like you people say.

  • JohnD||

    Well PIL, of course it was a political strategy. But it worked, didn't it?

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Sonia Sotomayor wondered, “can the legislature…outlaw Bugs Bunny?”

    I will fucking take up arms if they try that shit. Make me buy health insurance, yeah, ok; ban 30-round magazines, alright; tell me how much salt I'm allowed to eat, well... ok.

    Ban Looney Tunes? TYRANNY!

  • Cyto||

    Actually, it dovetails very nicely with her own confirmation hearing. She opined that congress had the authority under the commerce clause to require you to eat your broccoli, even though that would be a dumb law...

  • R||

    I thought that was Kevin James Kagan.

  • ||

    Release the Kagan!

  • Zeus||

    Hey! That's my line.

  • ||

    Back in the 70s, some fuckin' watchdog/nanny entity banned explosions from the Bugs Bunny/Warner Bros. cartoons. When I was a kid, I saw the butchered TV episodes--before and after their editing--and could not fuckin' believe that had actually transpired.

    At the same time,"they" -- this time in cahoots with the PTA -- banned my torture models before I could complete the collection too.

    Assigning power or magic to inanimate objects or symbols is akin to a belief in witchcraft.

  • ||

    When ABC picked up Bugs Bunny from CBS, I believe they did some major violence editing.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Yeah, you see Elmer Fudd carrying a radio instead of shotgun.

  • ||

    i have a friend who works for a catholic hospital and they banned the use of the term "bulletpoint" in powerpoint presentations.

    seriously

  • JohnD||

    Never underestimate the idiocy of idiots.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Does a zombie count as “an image of a human being”? What about an android or a shape-shifting alien? If his arm regenerates when you hack it off, does that still amount to “maiming”? Are you “killing” him if he comes back to life after you incinerate him with a flamethrower?

    If a human sires another human but cedes to the State responsibility for raising it, is the State then required to pass endless laws and regulations that effect the others who are willing to actually parent their own brats?

  • BakedPenguin||

    Of course, they wouldn't consider banning strategy war games where millions or even billions of digital human cyphers die.

    If I can paraphrase another politician: 'One gruesome video game death is a tragedy. One million is a statistic.'

  • ||

    Back in the CGA era, I used to play some nuclear war game. Killed off most of the planet on multiple occasions.

  • ||

    ProL is Joshua?

  • ||

    You know, I hate to even suggest this, but I could see a time when truly horrible games might find an audience. Like a Holocaust game where you're a Nazi. And not one of those kinder, gentler ones, either. Etc.

    While they shouldn't be banned, there are some really creepy possibilities. We're protected socially from such things by the high cost of making a decent game these days, but that won't necessarily be the case down the road.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Like Postal?

  • Old Salt||

    Postal and Postal 2 is like shooting smack...bad for you but it's just sooo much fucking fun!

  • ||

    Like, for example, the technology might soon exist for me to make a realistic video game.

  • ||

    The greatest horror of them all, of course.

    Pick whatever upsets you the most--a world with SugarFree as the author, the Holocaust, rape, whatever--and there will likely be a game or virtual experience for it, eventually. Hard not to find the possibilities repellent, though that's a different statement than to suggest they should be banned.

  • ||

    Steve Smith: The Rapening

  • ||

    I think that's already been released, but yes, that's the idea.

  • Old Salt||

    So, who would he get to do the in game advertisement?

    Trojan?

    Vaseline?

    The guys who make roofies?

  • ||

    Steve Smith always wants his victims to remember every detail with crystal clarity.

  • Old Salt||

    So were down to the first two sponsors then?

  • DK||

    What's the point here? There always has been and always will be media through which crazies can tout their crazy beliefs. If we just stick by the usual "allow them to be ostracized by society" response, I don't see how crazies making video games is any different than crazies distributing their fucked up literature.

  • cynical||

    There are already games made for the express purpose of being controversial -- but that sort of thing will never be popular unless society itself is already filled with creeps. And if some niche games promote Nazism or whatever, is it that much different than skinheads passing out crude pamphlets?

  • ||

    fwiw, those games DO exist. they just don't find much of an audience.

    the japanese also introduced a virtual rape game a while ago that got feminists all a frenzied.

  • DDavis||

    I agree with all the objections to the law, and think it goes beyond dumb to pernicious, but I don't see the constitutional issue.

    We have all kinds of restrictions on minors. They're forced into government labor indoctrination camps (public schools). Can't buy booze, can't buy porn, can't have sex, can't create nude pictures of themselves. They have even less medical freedom than adults.

    You can make any violent video game you want, you just can't sell it to someone else's kid. That doesn't infantalize everyone in some public square argument. It's only prohibits sales to kids.

    Was it ever assumed that you have a first amendment right to sell any written or video materials you want to kids? Was it ever assumed that children have the right to purchase any written on video materials they want? For good and bad, parents have been set as the stewards of children, and children are not free to do what they want in contradiction to their parents wishes.

  • ||

    My feeling is that they want an outright ban of violent video games period. If you talk with, and dig deep enough, into people who are strong critics of violent games or imagery, one gets the vibe that they'd be fine with that solution....

  • ||

    Children are not fully free adults, but they are also not the property of their parents. It's a gray area that libertarianism (and any other attempt at a consistent political philosophy) always has trouble with.

    We would never support a bible belt state, say, Oklahoma banning the sale of books about evolution or cosmology to minors, would we? If that is the case, we're tacitly admitting that children have the freedom to expose themselves to the expression of others even if their parents don't cooperate.

  • DK||

    It's a gray area that libertarianism (and any other attempt at a consistent political philosophy) always has trouble with.

    I've never been convinced by the claims that libertarianism necessarily falters on the question of the rights of children. I found this essay by Rothbard which I assume does a pretty decent job (it is Rothbard, after all). Haven't read it yet, but I will at some point.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Children are not fully free adults, but they are also not the property of their parents.

    Um... wut? Until the parent treats them in a way that demonstrates they are unfit and that the child should be taken away from them for the child's own safety and welfare, how are children not "property" of the parents (to use your term)?

    Who else has the ultimate say over what the child will or will not learn, be exposed to, etc.? Who has a greater right to have that say, other than the parent? Again, provided that the parent is not being abusive in any way.

  • ||

    there is a difference between "property" and wards. parents have great latitude in their authority over children. they can enforce arbitrary rules, use physical force to punish their kids or "correct" them (according to my state's laws) that falls w/in certain guidelines (spanking ok, burning not ok for instance), they can restrict their liberty significantly. but children are not PROPERTY.

    pets are much closer to property than children, but the law even sets limits about how we can treat pets. we can't schtup them (bestiality) for instance. we also can't treat them "cruelly" however ... unlike children... we can kill them for any reason we choose AS LONG AS we do it humanely.

    i also agree that there is somewhat of a rift in libertarianism about how far the rights of children extend. obviously, the farther their rights extend, the more we are limiting the authority of parents. the perfect example would be - at what age can a child get an abortion w/o parental consent, or even notification? can a child get a tattoo and/or can a tatto parlor tatto them w/o parental permission? what about breast implants, etc?

  • European||

    Well, in Europe they can legally drink alcohol (but they can't buy it), they can create nude pictures of themselves and even have sex between themselves. I don't see that lack of those restrictions have any impact on society.

  • ||

    in most states in the US kids can legally drink alcohol, as long as it is provided and monitored by a parent in the home.

  • ||

    You can make any violent video game you want, you just can't sell it to someone else's kid. That doesn't infantalize everyone in some public square argument. It's only prohibits sales to kids.

    And yet we have the example of 4Loko and flavored cigarettes to point to, where something was banned for everyone because it was possibly marketed to "kids."

    So actually these types of things do sometime lead to things infantilizing everyone.

  • omg||

    I saw congresscritters talking about violence and games and such once (it might have even been posted in H&R). Many of them actually said they played games, and the standout that nearly every one said was "Civilization".

    I think that game is ruining the country, because it gives malleable congresspersons the impression that they can positively impact the state of the country through regulation. Therefore I propose this game be banned immediately.

  • ||

    Substitute it with this:

    http://boardgamegeek.com/board.....ivil-war-1

    When I went to purchase this at the local gameshop, all of the boxes had the front cover turned to the wall!

    It's a controversial game.

  • ||

    I would have thought SimCity would be popular with that set too. The constant demands from helpless, initiativeless citizens to DO SOMETHING!!!!1!!!! are probably music to their ears.

  • db||

    When I first played the original SimCity I thought it was cool at first, then realized how unrealistic the idea that a monolithic government could ever provide for the needs of people absent a thriving private sector. I was creeped out by the idea that the game presumed that all problems could be solved by a central planner. This, back when I was in 9th grade or so, was one of the first steps on my path to libertarianism.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    This is where Choadny's democracy gets us.

  • Tim||

    Under the 10th Ammendment we could all be required to buy these games.

  • ||

    I'm not necesarily a fan of this law, but I guess I'm a bit confused. If a government can mandate a movie theater to prevent 10 year olds from watching PG 13 films (most of them show harmless power ranger level violence), why is it unconstitutional for video game stores to not sell rate M games to minors without adult consent?

    I like how the industry sees a distinction between violence and sex (obscenity). I'm ok with 14 year olds watching typical R films. I'm not down with them watching graphic oral sex or some fetish bestiality film.

  • ||

    The movie ratings system is voluntary and not enforced by law. They are saying that's not good enough for video games.

  • ||

    What you're down with is utterly irrelevant. It's what the parents are down with, and how much effort they are willing to put in to enforcing what they're down with. But what people who like ratings system really want is to push off some of that effort onto stores and movie theaters and the like and make their own parenting easier at other people's expense.

  • ||

    Voluntary.

  • ||

    A ratings system in the arts --movies, albums, books, paintings, etc. -- is solely for mindless churchfucks and has no relevance in a civilized society.

  • Helen Lovejoy||

    Won't somebody please think of the children!?!

  • Tim||

    I was scarred when I saw Elmer Fudd discharge a double barrel shotgun pointblank, into Daffy Duck's face. In my nightmares I still see his bill spinning round and round his blackened head.

  • Pip||

    RACIST!

  • Pip||

    RACIST!

  • flye||

    I say it's Duck Season and insist that you shoot me now.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    Aha! Pronoun trouble.

  • ||

    Like a Holocaust game where you're a Nazi.

    Boring.

    Now, a game where you can seize control of an airliner, and fly it into the Capitol (preferably during the SOTU....

  • ||

    Same idea.

  • ||

    Are you comparing Holocaust victims to our elected officials? What an anti-Semite.

  • Cyto||

    I think the first thing everyone did on the original "Flight Simulator" game (c-64 version in my case) was to fly into the Sears Tower. Didn't make us all terrorists though. Just bad virtual pilots.

  • ||

    Yeah, the beginners challenge.

    The true test was to land on top of the sears tower. Complete stop.

    Then take off again.

  • MNG||

    Can someone tell me this: does the law ban selling the game directly to a minor? It still allows a parent to buy the game for the kid, right? If so I don't know what the big deal is. Libertarians often concede that minors shouldn't have certain fundamental rights, like the right to make contracts. Why not this one?

    Granted this is only a question on the constitutional level, I don't like the wisdom of such a law either (I don't think video games 'corrupt' or harm our youth).

  • MNG||

    Shit, DDavis above states my thoughts on this, and much better than I did.

  • Tim||

    It's the subliminal messages that upset people: we all know that PONG was a brutal metaphor for the Carter administration and it paved the way for Ronald (Asteroids) Reagan.

  • Jim||

    lol

  • ||

    Would you be OK with an Oklahoma law banning sales of books about evolution to minors?

  • ||

    Can someone tell me this: does the law ban selling the game directly to a minor? It still allows a parent to buy the game for the kid, right? If so I don't know what the big deal is.

    I'm surprised that you'd make that the point of difference, and that you'd expect that it would work that way. After all, the law in most states doesn't allow parents to buy alcohol for minors, and you're okay with that.

  • ||

    most states? i'd beg to differ. i'm aware of 4 states' laws on this off the top of my head, and all of them allow parents to buy and provide liquor for their own children in their own household.

  • ||

    Libertarians often concede that minors shouldn't have certain fundamental rights, like the right to make contracts.

    Common misconception. Minors have the right to make contracts. Minors simply have the right to disaffirm contracts. However, upon disaffirming a contract, the minor must make restitution of the property of the other party.

  • ||

    Ooh- what about a game where you own a Welsh coal mine, and you win by sending the most urchins down in the mine with the lowest (nyuknyuknyuk) overhead!

    Sweet!

  • Tim||

    Or a game where you privatize the roads!*

    * 3D monocle sold separately.

  • Lucky||

  • ||

    Libertarians often concede that minors shouldn't have certain fundamental rights, like the right to make contracts.

    Whuuut?

    I just don't want them to be able to make a contract which can be shifted onto an unwilling third party (Dad).

  • MNG||

    I'm not trying to be a smartass here, are you saying we should have enforceable contracts regarding minors?

  • cynical||

    If not, how could minors buy anything? I mean, why exactly would games be treated differently, if the intent was not to attack certain forms of speech?

  • ||

    There's a difference between contracts and immediate sales transactions. Buying a video game is a sales transaction. No one's going to come knocking on the minor's door in a few months demanding he or she satisfy the contractual obligations.

  • cynical||

    Of course, but games are no different from any other sales transaction.

  • ||

    Incidentally, if you want to read what an actual libertarian legal scholar has said about contracts, here's Randy Barnett's Columbia Law Review article.

  • ||

    So you want the govt to enforce a contract where a 6-year-old buys a house with a 30-year-mortgage? As long as they don't make the parents pay?

  • ||

    All of you are wrong about contracts and minors.

    Contracts are enforceable with minors. Minors simply have the option of disaffirming the contract.

    If the minor disaffirms the contract, then the minor has to return any tangible goods or benefits obtained from the other party, or still face penalty of law.

    There is a "difference between contracts and immediate sales transactions," due to a legal fiction that it's not a contract (because there are no obligations in the future). If a minor buys something on credit, then someone absolutely can "come knocking on the minor's door in a few months demanding he or she satisfy the contractual obligations."

    The difference is that the minor can then disaffirm the contract and return the bought items. This is the duty of restoration.

    It's true that in the case of services and immediately consumed items, there's nothing to return. (In the case of property that can be returned but is damaged, minors can be liable for damages.) Some states actually do not let minors disaffirm in such cases, particularly if the minor misrepresented her age.

  • Gregory Smith||

    Parents should love video games, think about it.

    1. You can't smoke and play at the same time.

    2. You can't do drugs and play.

    3. Gamers don't generally eat and play at the same time.

    4. You can't have sex if you're playing.

    5. You're not out on the street meeting crooks and gangbanbers.

    What's more family-friendly than that?

  • Tim||

    Egypt could be restabilized today if Mubarak starts handing out X-Boxes...

  • BakedPenguin||

    Looking at a couple of things on your list, I don't think you've been trying hard enough.

  • Gregory Smith||

    Well, I'm not being PAID to try hard enough.

    http://libertarians4freedom.bl.....rians.html

  • db||

    I'm glad you remembered to blogwhore on this post. I was getting worried there, not seeing your link and all.

  • Gregory Smith||

    Well, you can't annoy people with the link all the time. Besides, what's your beef with blogwhoring? You against capitalism or something? Reason.com advertises, why can't I?

  • R||

    1. You can't smoke and play at the same time.

    2. You can't do drugs and play.

    Bullshit you can't. Anyone whose played WoW and listened to the stoners that inhabit trade chat can attest otherwise.

  • Geotpf||

    I am a video game addict. And drugs and alcohol adversely affect your skill level in such.

    Now, caffeine on the other hand...

  • R||

    Doesn't mean people don't do it.

  • Gregory Smith||

    I was talking about PS3. It's very distracting to hold a controller with both hands while smoking.

    As for sex, ask any woman how lucky she is getting sex when her man is playing Oblivion.

  • ||

    Any real wife would blow you while you were playing oblivion, and would hold your blunt and pass you your drink upon request.

    Game. Set. Match.

  • RM||

    I'm pretty sure you can smoke/do drugs/have sex (though with some difficulty) while playing video games. And eating? Pfft. Pizza+Halo?

  • cynical||

    "4. You can't have sex if you're playing."

    I think that has more to do with opportunity than physical capacity.

  • DK||

    Pretty sure a lot of us have done most of those things while playing video games.

  • ||

    I think I've disproven 1,3, and 4. 5 is possible with the advent of the DS, PSP.

  • ||

    are you saying we should have enforceable contracts regarding minors?

    What's the point of an unenforceable contract? That would be like playing H-O-R-S-E for "a million billion dollars".

  • ||

    The point is that minors are, from the pov of the law, presumed to be incapable of making decisions that incur future legal obligations.

  • ||

    I agree with all the objections to the law, and think it goes beyond dumb to pernicious, but I don't see the constitutional issue.

    We have all kinds of restrictions on minors.

    Sadly, this is true. The First Amendment states only that "Congress shall pass no law restricting the freedom of speech or of the press unless it for teh chilluns.

    Libertarians often concede that minors shouldn't have certain fundamental rights, like the right to make contracts. Why not this one?

    Children can enter into contracts. They can also "disaffirm" them. However, a completed contract (that is, where the minor has forked over the money and received his/her copy of Castle Rapenstein 2: Steve Smith Returns! cannot be disaffirmed.

    So, yeah, this does infringe on traditional contract rights.

  • ||

    Wait, doesn't that mean a minor can buy a gift card and then return it for cash?

  • ||

    Yes, a minor could have a plausible legal case for not understanding the terms and conditions of the gift card, such as not understanding that the card has a monthly charge for non-use on it or expires. The minor would have to return anything already bought with the card, though.

  • ||

    Thanks for chiming in as an actual lawyer, RC.

  • ||

    California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in violent movies that have inspired several violent video games

    according to IMDb he voice acted in in the video game Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

    10$ says it had violence in it.

  • ||

    Definitely check out Posner's opinion in American Amusement Machine for a good takedown of Cali's arguments in the Supreme Court Case. http://openjurist.org/244/f3d/.....rick-et-al

    As for the Supreme Court decision, I would be really surprised if they upheld the law.

  • Rusty Shackleford||

  • Edwin||

    Arnold is just angry because there is no cake :-(

  • ||

    Although California says it is only “reinforcing parents’ authority,”

    reinforcing =/= usurping.

  • El Duderino||

    I played mortal combat for hours on end as a kid and I turned out just fine.

  • Gritz||

    Are you sure about that? you havn't secretly been turning into a dragon and eating people have you?

  • Elmew Fudd||

    Outwaw that wascawwy wabbit awweady!

  • ||

    So you want the govt to enforce a contract where a 6-year-old buys a house with a 30-year-mortgage? As long as they don't make the parents pay?

    If some dumbass sells his house to a six year old, without checking the kid's credit...

  • ||

    Banning video games will do nothing to stop violent crime anymore than gun control would.

  • ||

    The only way the government will take my Grand Theft Auto is by the same way they'll take my guns....FROM MY COLD DEAD HANDS!!!

  • Dan||

    This will ALSO stop adults from buying violent games. Since this will make games teh same as porn. Do Best Buy, Target, Gamestop and other stores that sell games and movies sell porn...umm NO they don't. So because of that adults will be banned from violent games as well. Since no store will stock them anymore. Since they would be considered obscene and evil and vile in the eyes of the government and no big box store sells porn.

  • ||

    is this satire? fwiw, the porn industry is fucking huge. so, IF violent video games became like porn that would mean they would be doing very very well

  • Gregory Smith||

    Well, thank God for Gamespot and EB Games.

  • Hillary||

    Why does the government always feel the need to step in and play the role of parents? If you're not old enough to work, whatever you're buying is with your parent's money. Most parents like to know what their kids are buying with their money, so if their kids are buying inappropriate video games, it's the parent's job to take it away or not let them buy it in the first place, not the government's.

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