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Oakland — Fighting to protect children from video games featuring “killing sprees, torture and sexual assault,” Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold California’s law prohibiting the sale or rental of such brutally violent games to children.
“California’s children are exposed everyday to video games that glamorize killing sprees, torture and sexual assault,” Brown said. “In the face of this brutal and extreme violence, I am petitioning the Supreme Court to allow the state to enforce its reasonable ban on the sale or rental of violent video game sales to children.”
Brown today filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the state of California. If at least four of the nine Supreme Court justices grant the petition, the Supreme Court will take up the case and review the decision to invalidate California’s violent video game law.
The case stems from a 2005 California law that requires violent video games to be labeled with an “18”, prohibits the sale or rental of these games to minors, and authorizes fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.
The Video Software Dealers Association (now part of the Entertainment Merchants Association), however, filed suit in federal court to block the law before it could go into effect.
On August 6, 2007, the U.S. District Court for Northern California invalidated California’s law. Brown immediately appealed the ruling. On February 20, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court ruling.
Today’s petition asks the U.S. Supreme Court to take up this case and overturn the appellate court decision.
Brown’s petition contends that the same flexible legal standard the courts have applied to limitations on sexually explicit material sold to children – whether it is rational for the state to determine the material is harmful to children -- should be applied to violent material in video games.
Currently, states may regulate the sale of sexually explicit magazines to children, but they cannot place similar limits on the sale of violent video games.
Multiple studies conducted by Dr. Craig Anderson and other social scientists have found direct correlation between children’s exposure to this brutal violence and increased aggressiveness, antisocial behavior, and desensitization to violence.
The U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed the question of whether extremely violent material sold to children can be treated the same as sexually explicit material. Brown’s petition asks the Court to resolve this question and hold that states can place reasonable restrictions on the distribution of extremely violent material to children.
Self Regulation Ineffective
To date, video game industry self-regulation has proven ineffective. Children are still able to readily obtain violent video games, despite the voluntary rating system in place.
A 2005 Federal Trade Commission undercover investigation found that 42 percent of 13 to 16-year-old children were able to purchase M-rated games, and only half of cashiers asked the minor’s age.
Violent M-Rated games dominate industry marketing and sales. Last month, at least half of the top ten best selling games for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were M-rated. These included titles such as:
• Resident Evil 5;
• Call of Duty: World at War;
• Halo 3;
• Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena; and
• Killzone 2.
In “Killzone 2,” the industry admits the extreme level of violence in the games they sell and market to children. Their rating description reads: “Red blood spray emits from enemy soldiers when shot, and weapons such as sniper rifles and shotguns can be used to decapitate them. Post-mortem damage can be inflicted on soldiers’ bodies, resulting in pools of blood on the ground. During one cutscene, a gravely wounded character retrieves a pistol and shoots himself in the head.”
Another recent M-Rated release available, “F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin,” includes the following rating description: “Blood spray often explodes out of wounded enemies, while a slow motion effect allows players to see blood emission in a jelly-like, hanging form. Blood is also smeared on walls, the ground, and in pooled stains near dead bodies, which are sometimes torn apart and beheaded…A sexual assault is vaguely depicted accompanied by images of a writhing body and moaning sounds.” Online, a 39-second trailer for the game is devoted to “blood improvements,” depicting in graphic detail how blood splattering graphics have been updated from a previous version of the game.
A copy of the petition is attached.