Violent Video Game Debate: Where Do We Go From Here?

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For both sides in the war over whether children should be allowed to play violent video games, today's U.S. Supreme Court decision on the issue seems to be an important battle but not the end of the war.

The ruling means that the state of California can't ban the sale of violent video games. The question now is where does this leave the debate over these types of games? And what's next for politicians and activists on both sides?

Activists Speak

"For today we're disappointed, for tomorrow there are some opportunities," says Alan Simpson, VP of policy for Common Sense Media, an advocacy group concerned with children's use of media. Simpson said that there were some signs in the ruling that a similar law aimed at the same issue that addressed the concerns of the court might still be approved.

Video game advocates were more skeptical on the possibility of a similar law being found constitutional. Michael D. Gallagher, president of the Electronic Software Association said "It is time for elected officials to stop wasting time and public funds seeking unconstitutional restrictions on video games. Instead, we invite them to join with us to raise awareness and use of the highly effective tools that already exist to help that parents choose games suitable for their children."

Sean Bersell, VP of Public Affairs for the Entertainment Merchants Association went even further. "I think that the Supreme Court decision today really put the kibosh on this type of legislation where you have an outright restriction on minor's access to video games based on their violent content," but he was quick to note that the battle wasn't over yet. Bersell said that he expects the bill's original sponsor, California State Senator Leland Yee, to craft a new approach to similar legislation, but Bursell added that he wasn't sure yet what exactly Senator Yee's strategy would be.

A court injunction in 2005 almost immediately blocked the law's implementation and after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found the law to be unconstitutional in 2009 California appealed to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's decision definitively marks the law as unconstitutional.

In a statement made just hours after the court announced its ruling Yee said "Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children. As a result of their decision, Wal-Mart and the video game industry will continue to make billions of dollars at the expense of our kids' mental health and the safety of our community."

The one thing both sides can agree on is that the future of this debate may be as much about public opinion as it is about court cases.

The Fight Goes On

Simpson of Common Sense Media said that, regardless of this decision, the issue would continue. "One of the points we've raised about it has been much more about the marketing and the sales than about the content itself. We're continually concerned with the aggressive marketing around violent games...Parents are going to continue to want better ways to keep inappropriate stuff out of the hands of kids."

Bersell of the Entertainment Merchants Association agreed that there was more to the debate than just court cases. "I think one of the things that is important to emphasize is that today was victory in the court of law, but we understand that parents have a concern about the content of some of these games. Retailers along with publishers and parents all have a role in keeping kids away from these games."

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