Outlawing video game sales - attempt 10

There are two bills currently in process in the New York legislature, both of which would make it illegal to sell a video game to children that has been deemed "adult" (either before the fact by the ESRB or after the fact by a court of law). You can read the legislation here and here.

If one of these bills pass, New York would be the tenth state to pass a law of this nature. New York would almost certainly also become the tenth state to have that law struck down by the courts before it can ever go into effect. To add another feather to its cap, New York could then follow up with becoming the third state ordered to pay the legal fees of the Entertainment Software Association because they tried to pass such an obviously unconstitutional piece of legislation.

I wrote an editorial (see below) about this a little over a year ago when Utah was considering a similar law, and although some of the anger in it may seem childish, it wasn't insincere. Until these laws, I really was one of those people that believed that legislators, despite all their politicking, were interested in the greater good. But looking at the facts of this issue, that simply cannot be the case. They absolutely know these laws will be unsuccessful, and yet they persist in proposing them. If they were truly concerned about keeping violent video games out of the hands of minors, they would pursue achievable strategies, not these completely indefensible attention-grabs.

My editorial:

I used to be optimistic about politicians. I gave them the benefit of the doubt. When others said their proposals and bills were only to make them look better, I said that maybe they really cared. But I was wrong.

The Utah video game law is ridiculous, and every politician knows it. They know that if it passes, it will immediately be challenged in court, the court will grant an injunction, and the law will never go into effect. They can figure that out because most of the politicians have at least a high school education. I’m sure they have figured it out. And I’m sure they aren’t going to mention that to anyone, because all they are worried about is making themselves look good.

In case you’re unsure why the law is ridiculous, I’ll explain. Laws nearly identical to the one proposed in Utah have been passed in six states. But you won’t find those laws in operation there. Why? Because in all six cases, the laws were struck down in court as a violation of freedom of speech. The laws were found unconstitutional. They didn’t violate a particular state constitution, they violated the U.S. constitution. You know, the one that applies to every state in the union (which includes Utah, if you weren’t sure).

Here’s a little thought experiment for the politicians: If a law that is passed in Michigan is declared unconstitutional (remember, based on the national constitution), will that same law be found unconstitutional in Utah? Cue the Jeopardy music while the politicians ponder. And what do they answer? “But it will make us look good!”

There really isn’t anything else to say. There’s no need to mention that most of these politicians, by their own admission, have never even played the games they are railing against. There’s no need to mention that youth violent crime has been steadily declining over the past decade, coinciding with the rising popularity of video games. There’s no need to mention that video games have one of the best rating systems of all rated media. There’s no need to mention that the average age of video game players is now 30, clearly indicating video games are not “just for kids”.

Of course, maybe I do need to mention those. Because I’m starting to doubt that the politicians ever will.

There's a more reasoned editorial about the New York laws here.