Tag Archives: Leland Yee

On Politicians and Villains, Real and Imaginary

i.1.jake-rush-vampire

There’s been quite the kerfuffle the past day or so about Florida U.S. Congressional candidate Jake Rush, a 35-year-old Republican who also apparently plays Camarilla, a live-action vampire role-playing game, in his off time. From the sounds of it, Rush plays some sort of villain in the game, one who’s prone to making upsetting, sexually violent threats against other characters. I won’t quote those threats here; you can click through if you want to see them.

I wrote pretty extensively about role-playing games and LARPs in The Columbine Effect, and interviewed adult gamers who had played with a local Camarilla group in their teens and 20s. Although some people who play seem not to have strong boundaries between their in-game roles and their day-to-day lives, as I mention in the book, for the most part that doesn’t seem to be the case. I don’t know much about Rush and can’t tell you whether he behaves like his Camarilla character on a day-to-day basis. What I can tell you is that there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that you have a curiosity about villains or evil people, and finding a safe and harmless outlet through which to explore that curiosity.

Through play-acting. It isn’t real life. It’s pretend.

By contrast, let’s look at California Senator Leland Yee, who was arrested last week for allegedly conspiring to traffic weapons and also for taking political contributions (bribes) in exchange for favors. (You may recall that Yee was a vocal opponent of allowing minors to play violent video games, sponsoring legislation that was ultimately overturned by the Supreme Court). Yee was allegedly affiliated with a San Francisco-based organized crime gang, who knew him as “Uncle Leland.” Yee apparently told an undercover agent, who was pretending to be a gun runner, “There’s a part of me that wants to be like you. You know how I’m going to be like you? Just be a free agent [in the Philippines].”

That wasn’t pretend.

Some legislators play the villain in real life and just hope they don’t get caught. Some find a harmless way to do so instead. Why should we attack the latter as though it’s the former? Doesn’t make sense to me.

Parents respond to violent video games ruling


Will playing Grand Theft Auto make kids into real car thieves? Parents, mostly, say no. Photo by Flickr user Szili.

Last week, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the sale of violent video games can’t be restricted — even to minors. The Internet has been awash in responses since the ruling, and parents have been among the loudest voices in the room. Since this blog is so often written with parents in mind, I thought it would be good to check in with other parents and see what they’re saying about the decision.

WFMY News in North Carolina interviewed one mom who has been letting her son play Grand Theft Auto — under close supervision. She says, while the game is indeed gory, it doesn’t make him more aggressive. In fact, she notices the opposite:

She instead explained that allowing her son to play these type of games acts as a stress reliever. “I think sometimes it takes out some of the aggressions because he can come in here and play it when he’s pissed and not take it out on anybody around,” expressed Hicks.

On the flip side, NewsOne ran a piece by mom Tamika Mallory saying the ruling “makes parents’ jobs harder.” As a working mom, she says she doesn’t have the time to supervise her kids the way Hicks does:

While we may restrict gruesome video games in our homes, who will protect the kids when they set foot into the outside world? Knowing that my son wasn’t running around in the streets, I took comfort in the notion that video games at least provided an alternative, safe form of recreation for young people. But what are we teaching them if these games are inundated with nothing but guns, shooting and graphic violence? How different is that from what’s tragically out on the streets? And what kind of subliminal impact are we having on these kids if we flood them with these messages?

On that point, Mallory seems to be in the minority. InForum, a news Website in Fargo, North Dakota, found that “903 of 1,079 participants in The Forum’s online poll, nearly 84 percent, favor placing the responsibility of managing children’s’ access to video games with parents, while 10 percent said it was the business owner/gaming industry’s role. About 5 percent believe the government should be responsible.”

Another poll, conducted by Rasmussen Reports, also found that “parents are more responsible than the government — 79 percent to 4 percent — for limiting the amount of sex and violence children are exposed to in video games.”

And yet, their respondents paradoxically said government should be involved: “67 percent … said states should be able to prohibit sale of violent video games to children … 28 percent of U.S. adults said states should be barred from enacting prohibitions of sales and rentals of such games to minors.”

The differences in these polls undoubtedly relate to the questions that were asked, as well as the folks who answered.

Gabrielle Cullen, a mom in San Rafael, Calif., offered a balanced look at the ruling, but ultimately agreed that the responsibility rests with the parents:

It seems that gaming does have some adverse effects but can be easily contained and/or offset by conscious parenting. Violent video games will NOT turn your child into a cold-blooded killer and trying to prevent a child from buying a video game isn’t going to create more involved parents. It is similar to any aspect of raising a family, be aware of what’s going on in your house, attempt to engage in interesting conversation and simply limit the amount of time spent in front of the TV, computer, etc.

At the opposite end of the state, parents in Altadena chimed in on a similar discussion of gaming among teens and how parents should be involved. The comments include this one from a 15-year-old gamer who said even some of the most gruesome games can have positive messages, and that kids are paying attention to those messages:

For example, Metal Gear Solid, a popular shooting game, is all about how terrible and unnecessary war is. Grand Theft Auto 4 (the game where you can kill prostitutes) even has a good moral message. The main character spends the whole game searching for a man to get revenge. At the end, when the player finds this person, the game shows that revenge does not solve anything. In fact, almost games try to communicate messages such as these, and this law would put those views out of reach of minors.

Troy Wolverton, a parent and columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, said he felt conflicted about the Supreme Court’s ruling. On the one hand, he supports freedom of speech. On the other, he worries how these games might affect teen players.

[California’s] law didn’t attempt to outlaw violent games or prevent adults from accessing them, which would have been clearly unconstitutional. It didn't even attempt to prevent children from playing them. It merely said that kids ought to have an adult's permission before they can buy or rent one. As a parent, I find that reasonable.

Unfortunately, for parents who do choose to be involved with their kids’ gaming habits — as many parents and others agree is the best course of action — there’s always someone out there telling them that’s not such a great idea, either. For example, British parenting coach Sue Atkins quotes author Reg Bailey, who has published a new book called Letting Children Be Children.:

“One father said it was OK that he played Grand Theft Auto with his 13-year-old son because it helped them bond together.” He added that there “must be easier ways of bonding” with a child than playing a game that allowed “gangsters to run over prostitutes”.

“That doesn’t seem to be a very healthy balance in a relationship between father and son.”

Parenting is not an easy job. Each parent must determine what’s best for his or her own kids. We do the best we can to keep an eye on their activities, and to make decisions or set limits when necessary. Ultimately, the government decided to butt out of this one. What goes on between informed, involved parents and their kids shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.

Parents, what’s your take on the ruling? Are you happy to have the decision left up to you, or are you angry that you don’t have that extra layer of protection?

Why teens do — and should — play violent video games

The Supreme Court today struck down the law banning sales of violent video games to kids in California. In light of that, I wrote a piece for Wired.com on teens and their use of — and need for — these games. You can read it online here.

Will the Supreme Court bar minors from buying violent video games?


Silent Hill: Downpour, unveiled at this year’s E3, is the newest game in the series that pits humans against monsters. Will an upcoming Supreme Court ruling ban its sale to minors?

As game journalists decompress from this year’s E3, word from the Supreme Court on a California video-game law is still pending.

Justices heard the case, Brown vs. EMA (formerly Schwarzenegger vs. EMA), Nov. 2, but have yet to issue a ruling on the law, which bans the sale of “ultraviolent” video games to buyers under 18. California courts found the law unconstitutional in 2007, so it never took effect. Among the cases before the court, this one has been waiting the longest for resolution.

That’s giving many the opportunity to speculate on just what is going on behind the scenes. For example:

The longer a case has been awaiting resolution, the longer the decision is likely to be, and the greater the number of justices weighing in with dissenting or concurring statements. One case handed down on the last day of the last term, involving gun-owner rights, ran for more than 200 pages over five separate opinions.

Readers may recall that in March, Michael McConnell, director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center, said, “The Supreme Court is not likely to say that this statute is constitutional. I think they’re going to strike it down. But I don’t think they’re going to go as far as say these types of statutes are unconstitutional — they might uphold more narrowly defended statutes in the future.”

A recent United Press International analysis scrutinizes both sides of the argument, including the fact that California is asking the Supreme Court to consider applying this law in the same way as the 1968 ruling that barred the sale of “obscene” material to minors:

California wants the Supreme Court to review the law under the standard set by 1968’s Ginsberg vs. New York: “Under the Ginsberg standard, the act must be upheld so long as it was not irrational for the California Legislature to determine that exposure to the material regulated by the statute is harmful to minors.”

Although McConnell thought this law would be struck down, some have argued that the delay in issuing a ruling means the Supreme Court might uphold it. It’s also possible that they’ll strike it down, but their ruling will include information on how a narrower, rewritten bill could be constitutional.

What do you think the Supreme Court will do? Will they let minors continue to buy violent video games, or will they make such sales illegal?

Teens aren’t buying violent games, but people keep buying bad science


Teens have an easier time buying M-rated games at Walmart than at other stores, but it still isn’t that easy. Photo by Flickr user afcool83.

The Federal Trade Commission once again sent its minions undercover shoppers to buy video games, and here’s what they found: only 13% of minors who attempted to buy M-rated games, which are intended for adult audiences, were able to do so. The rest were turned away. By comparison, 33% of teens who tried to buy an R-rated DVD could do so, 38% of teens who tried were able to get into an R-rated movie, and 64% were able to buy albums with “parental advisory stickers.” In other words, voluntary controls on the sale of M-rated games are working well — better, in fact, than controls on R-rated films, which are illegal for teens under 17 to see without adult supervision.

Which really just leaves one question: Why do we need Leland Yee’s game-sales ban, again?

Actually, among other things the numbers suggest that many teens aren’t playing these games, but when they are, a parent or other adult is purchasing it for them. It’s anyone’s guess whether those parents are paying attention to what they’re buying, but considering they’re plunking down $60 for these things, it probably crosses their minds to look at the box. In this way, not much would change if Yee’s law passes.

As Yee awaits the decision of the Supreme Court, researchers are finding new ways to say violent video games are bad for kids. This time, they analyzed the track records of the experts who signed briefs in the Supreme Court case. Unfortunately, their findings heap bad science on top of more bad science. Let’s break it down:

First, who authored the study? Brad Bushman, a researcher whose work consistently finds that violent media is linked with aggression; Craig Anderson, another researcher whose own work links media and aggression; and attorney Deana Pollard Sacks, whose primary written work seems to focus on pornography and corporal punishment of children.

Can you guess what they found?

The results showed that 60 percent of the Gruel brief signers (who believe video game violence is harmful) have published at least one scientific study on aggression or violence in general, compared to only 17 percent of the Millett brief signers.

Moreover, when the researchers looked specifically at the subject of media violence, 37 percent of Gruel brief signers have published at least one study in that area, compared to just 13 percent of the Millett brief signers.

Wow. They found that their side made more noise than the other side. What a surprise!

Okay, let’s break it down some more. This wasn’t an analysis of every study that has been published on the topic of video games and their influence. This was an analysis of who signed a court document. Given that those who oppose violent video games are in the weaker position before the Supreme Court, it makes sense that more of them would come forward.

Second, the research showing the positive side of violent video games is much more recent. That group, if it is indeed smaller, may be smaller because it’s still catching up.

Oh, but it gets better:

Results showed that signers of the Gruel brief had published over 48 times more studies in top-tier journals than did those who signed the Millett brief.

“That’s a staggering difference,” Bushman said. “It provides strong support for the argument that video game violence is indeed harmful.”

Considering none of these studies shows that violent video games harm kids, no, it doesn’t mean that at all. At most, studies are able to show a correlation between gaming and brief increases in aggressive feelings. Most of the studies don’t even show that much conclusively. I’ll say it again: correlation is not causation. There’s just as much evidence to suggest that kids with more aggression to burn are turning to video games as an outlet. Many researchers say so in their own conclusions.

Like I said, bad science on top of bad science.

Oh, and by the way? Juvenile violent crime is decreasing. It dropped 2% between 2007 and 2008 (the most recent years for which the federal Office of Juvenile Justice has statistics), “continuing a recent decline.”

Parents, when you’re shopping for games with (or for) your kids, do you look at the rating on the box? How does that shape your decision whether to buy the game?

How parents make sense — or not — of video-game studies, ratings

Two weeks ago, I sat in on a Commonwealth Club panel in which several experts weighed in on the question, “Should sales of violent video games be restricted?” One of the panelists was Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, who sat in for California Sen. Leland Yee. Steyer, like Yee, favors a law that would make it illegal for minors to buy “M” rated games on their own. Some of Steyer’s statements left me with lingering questions, particularly about the correlation between violent games and kids’ behavior. Fortunately, he was willing to answer those questions for Backward Messages. Here they are:

Q: At one point during the Commonwealth Club panel you said there were multiple studies showing “demonstrable evidence” that violent video games are harmful to kids. At another point, you agreed with Michael McConnell that those studies only show correlation, not causation. If studies only show a correlation, then how can they provide evidence that these games are harmful?

A: That’s pretty straightforward. As you may recall, Professor McConnell also clarified his statement by explaining that it’s more or less impossible to conduct a study that would show causation, because it would mean subjecting human subjects –- in this case, kids –- to potentially harmful material, which gets into tricky ethical territory. The fact is that study after study finds a strong connection between violence on screen or in games and real-life aggression –- a connection that the American Academy of Pediatrics says is nearly as strong as the medical association between cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

At the end of the day, even the industry would agree that games like Call of Duty or Deadspace 2 were never designed or intended for kids. At Common Sense, we support the rights of game developers to create violent games, and we believe adults should be free to buy them. But we also support parents and believe they’re the ones who should be making decisions about their kids’ media use -– not the video game industry, which stands to profit from a larger consumer base. Therefore, we support reasonable restrictions that put parents in charge of those decisions.

Q: What do you make of studies showing that violent video games are beneficial to kids, particularly by helping them build skills for functioning better in high-stress situations? And what about other research that argues that kids and teens need playful, fictional outlets for exploring aggression safely?

A: The subjects in the studies you shared with me were all 18 and up. The researchers in the Ryerson study even cautioned that their findings can’t be generalized to include all age groups, and that kids may still be impacted by violent video games in a way that university students aren’t. That said, our focus here is really on the sale issue. We’re not suggesting these games should be banned. We’re supporting a law that empowers parents to decide whether they want their kids playing these games or not. If parents believe that playing an M or AO rated game will help their kids in some way, including helping them to explore aggression, they can still buy it for them under this law. But most kids are not able to judge the impact of ultra-violence on their own.

Q: You brought up the issue of corner stores in Hunter’s Point selling violent video games to minors. Why did you mention Hunter’s Point, specifically? Were you drawing any relationship between the availability of these games in Hunter’s Point and the prevalence of youth violence in the neighborhood?

A; I brought up corner stores to highlight the fact that the industry’s self-regulation, though it’s gotten better over the years, is not enough to limit the sale of M and AO rated games to minors. I’ve also worked in Hunter’s Point and seen these examples. The law currently before the Supreme Court would apply to any retail outlet, not just those large outlets which may be monitored by the game manufacturers and ESRB.


While I respect Steyer’s point of view (and generally agree that parents should be involved in their kids’ choice to play these games), he’s operating on a couple of assumptions that I find faulty, even troubling. First, he assumes that parents might be exposed to the idea that these games can benefit their kids. That idea is certainly out there, but for the most part the media has focused on faulty studies (ones even Steyer admits are faulty) that blame games for kids’ aggression and violence. Parents have to dig to find the good in these games, and why should they do so when folks like Steyer are happy to lead them in the other direction?

Also, it’s a mistake to compare the existing research on violent video games to the studies linking lung cancer to cigarette smoke. The science on the latter is very, very different, and quite able to prove that smoking — and the carcinogens in cigarettes — leads to lung cancer in many who smoke.

His second faulty assumption is that parents are currently able to make good sense of the ESRB ratings system. MIT’s Konstantin Mitgutsch, a scientific board member of Europe’s game-ratings group, Pan European Game Information (PEGI), has uncovered several ways in which the ratings are getting lost in translation:

1. Many parents think the rating describes how difficult the game is to play, rather than its content.

2. Some of the ratings are dated; “a game that was considered ‘shocking’ in the 1990s might appear harmless today,” but may still carry the same rating.

3. Ratings focus on game content, not context — and that context may make all the difference in whether the content is problematic for players.

You can check out Mitgutsch and his team’s first video studying these issues, called “‘Die!’ Censoring Game Violence,” at this link.

Panel: Should sales of violent video games be restricted?

Tonight, we join California Sen. Leland Yee and Blizzard VP/Chief Public Policy Officer George Rose, along with Michael McConnell, Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center, at the Commonwealth Club of California. Yee authored a bill banning the sale of “ultraviolent” video games to buyers under 18. Although the bill was passed into law, it was successfully appealed. The ultimate decision rests in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, expected to make a decision this spring.

First things first: Leland Yee isn’t here. He remained in Sacramento tonight to work on the budget proceedings. Instead, we have Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, who is an advocate of Yee’s bill.

Jim Steyer: The issue is straightforward from a kids perspective. Over the past decade, there has been a segment of the video game media creating ultraviolent and sexually violent games. The only issue we care about is whether you can sell it to some 12-year-old kid, or whether the sale should be to someone over the age of 17. There is demonstrable evidence that [these games] have a very bad impact on children. We believe the creators and developers have a total right to make games; we support the right to create. Our only issue is with the sales.

George Rose: How many in the audience think it’s easier for a minor to buy a beer than to buy an ultraviolent game? (Show of hands). The industry, at this point, has done so much — it should not be punished for something it hasn’t done. It should be held up as a shining example of self-regulation. Yee’s law is a perfect example of “legislation out of control.” It’s based on junk science. Just about every court and scientist in the country, including 82 that signed a petition to the court, said there’s no foundation to anything that would show that playing video games, watching movies, watching rock and roll, would turn you into a monster and make you shoot somebody. The problem isn’t the First Amendment, the problem is the Second Amendment.

Yee’s statute is both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. It doesn’t describe how to apply it. Even if this were true that games make teens violent, the staute would be useless.

We don’t want to piss off the parents. We want to do it right. The stores themselves enforce the ratings. The system we have right now allows parents to know far more about the video games than any other form of media. The statistics show — 90% of the purchases of game sales are done in the presence of the parents. The law would fine the clerk who sold the game $1,000.

Under the definition of “ultraviolent” in the law, most of Activision/Blizzard’s games would qualify.

Michael McConnell: In 1968, under a precedent written by Justice William J. Brennan, Ginsberg vs. New York, it’s not inconsistent with the First Amendment to prohibit the sale of material obscene to minors. In the Ginsberg case it was “girly magazines.” It’s constitutional because the state had some reasonable basis for concluding that those materials are harmful. The SCOTUS is going to start with that precedent and see if it applies to video games. It will apply criteria:

1. Content: Does it make sense to say that the First Amendment protects the right of 16-year-olds to purchase ultraviolent games when they don’t have the right to purchase girly magazines? But it does seem that the argument would apply to many other media — movies, comic books, even Saturday morning cartoons. There’s a lot of violence in ordinary American culture. I think the SCOTUS will be worried about how big a hit this will make in American culture.

2. Audience: Minors. But 17-year-olds are very different from 11 year olds, but this law applies the same standard to both. I think the SCOTUS is going to be very concerned about that. My guess is they’re going to be worried about making a serious new law on the issue of when are minors subject to a different law under the First Amendment. Right now, we don’t know which constitutional laws apply to children.

3. Medium: California conceded that interactive media are considered speech, like print media. In video games, the gamer is engaging in simulated activity. They’re not just receiving messages, they’re acting out the story. The gamer is actually beating people, slicing off people’s heads, on a simulated basis, but it’s an activity in which the person is engaged in the extreme violence. It’s not obvious to me that this is the same as a comic book. I think the court is going to be wary that the same standard is going to apply to interactive media.

The vagueness of the law is very troubling. It’s about not maiming or killing an image of a person. Is a zombie a human? Is a character like Road Runner a human-like image?

The Supreme Court is not likely to say that this statute is constitutional. I think they’re going to strike it down. But I don’t think they’re going to go as far as say these types of statutes are unconstitutional — they might uphold more narrowly defended statutes in the future.

Moderator John Diaz: George Rose, how is the regulation currently enforced?

Rose: We get people fired for selling M rated games to minors.

Diaz: Jim Steyer, where do you draw the line? What would be illegal under this law?

Steyer: First, I don’t think the American Academy of Pediatrics is “junk science.” The breadth of the bill is challenging. The vagueness — that’s going to be the key issue that the justices will wrestle with. But I don’t think we can trust the video game industry to self-regulate when it comes to the best interests of kids. The goal is to find a way to respect free speech, to craft laws that are appropriate.

Diaz: Let’s get back to my question. What would be legal and illegal?

Steyer: [Sales of] very narrow category of games, and it should be. It would be really limited. The challenge is on the issue of how do you define it specifically. The author of the statute isn’t here. I think it’s for the court to decide.

Rose: But then it’s “I’ll know pornography when I see it,” and you spend the next 10 years arguing it.

Is Call of Duty [Activision] an ultraviolent game?

Steyer: It’s a very valid question. In Black Ops, there is a good possibility that they would say the sale of that game should be limited to those over the age of 17.

Rose: If that game were prohibited, Call of Duty would carry a restricted label, no store would carry it, and that game would never be made.

Diaz: Why would the law change stores’ willingness to sell these games?

Rose: Because of the “Scarlet Letter” sticker, and the $1,000 fine. Why would they risk selling something to a minor? It’s chilling not only my speech, but the speech of everyone else.

Diaz: Why would this rating be a “Scarlet Letter?”

Rose: Look at what happened to NC-17. Nobody wants to show them in mainstream theaters and nobody wants to carry them in WalMart.

Diaz: To Michael McConnell — the Roberts court has been fairly broad in its definition of speech. A recent example includes the demonstrations put on by the Westboro Baptist Church.

McConnell: It’s one of the strongest free-speech-protecting courts. They struck down a federal statute prohibiting the distribution of “animal crush” videos. There’s also the Citizens United case. If you had to be a betting person, my guess is that George’s side is going to prevail.

Diaz: An audience question regarding Bowling For Columbine. Are violent video games just a scapegoat for the culture of violence?

Steyer: To blame all the violence in the US on video games would be silly. The interactive nature of games is important. Very legitimate scientific data shows that games are different. The repetitive play contributes, but also becoming inured to violence.

Rose: This country is somewhat schizophrenic to begin with. If you look at sex, it’s quite OK to go out there and engage in consensual sex, but it’s not OK to show it on TV. In the case of violence, you can go to prison and be sentenced to death for the acts it’s OK to watch on TV. I’m more concerned about what my child sees on the nightly news, the real violence. I think my kid can recognize the difference between a virtual human being and a real human being. The people in Columbine were storing and stockpiling weapons in their bedroom. Their mother ignored loads and loads of ammunition and guns. That’s where the fault lies. It doesn’t lie with the state. Those kids would have done what they did, one way or the other.

I don’t agree that video games are special because they are interactive. The Bible is one of the most interactive works in history. People go to war over it. If that’s not interactive, I don’t know what is. What drove Charles Manson if it wasn’t the Beatles song? It’s a very simplistic way of looking at video games, and at art.

Diaz: An audience question. If this law survives the SCOTUS, what other precautionary laws might follow?

McConnell: Violence could become treated similar to pornography, which it never has been. Under another theory, minors are subject to more regulation with less constitutional protection. Under another theory, this interactive is considered as something less than pure speech. I can’t see it being treated as non-speech, but it could be subject to some lesser degree of protection under the First Amendment.

Steyer: Think Michael’s analysis is on point. This case had a positive impact on the video game industry. In the past 5-6 years it’s become much more responsible about the sale to minors, and that’s a very good thing.

The kids out in Hunter’s Point are buying these games in liquor stores. I don’t think the industry is getting clerks fired out there.

Diaz: Who is the average gamer?

Rose: The average gamer is 32. About 60% are male, 40% are female. Only 5% of games sold last year were rated M.

Violence among kids has steadily declined. I think it’s mostly thanks to good parental care. To say that all we’re doing is plotting how to sell our dirty little games to little kids, that’s pretty myopic.

Diaz: What about the sales at corner liquor stores?

Rose: Don’t know what liquor stores Jim hangs out in. We sell to WalMart, we sell to Best Buy, we sell to GameStop. The same liquor store that sells these games to kids is the one that would sell a 12-pack of beer to a minor.

Diaz: Which studies do you consider “junk science?”

Rose: One study asked kids the question, “Do you play video games?” “How often?” “Did you have a fight with your teacher?” “Are you depressed?” Is this how you want to decide how to restrict a whole class of people and deprive them of their constitutional rights? The statute is that broad. It’s not just about video games. It could be about anything.

McConnell: All of the studies show correlation and not causation. I don’t think that’s going to matter. You can’t show causation when you’re talking about human subjects. It’s virtually impossible to conduct the kind of study that would show causation because it’s unethical to subject people to certain stimuli. The SCOTUS is going to assume that this kind of game can or might cause harm. Then, given that assumption, they will look at whether the statute is constitutional. I don’t think they’re going to get into the question of the studies. Also don’t think they’re going to get into the issue of self-regulation.

Steyer: I think there’s clear evidence about correlation. There’s no question that there’s potential harm.

Diaz: Audience question: Why should the government get involved at all? Is this a failure of the industry or of parents?

Steyer: A major portion of the public and the medical profession feel there’s harm involved. At the end of the day, this is a nuanced case. It’s not all the video game industry’s fault. It’s not all the parents’ fault.


Post-debate analysis: It’s a little disappointing that Leland Yee couldn’t be there tonight, since so much of the debate focused on the vagueries of the bill and how, exactly, terms such as “ultraviolent” and “human figure” would be defined. His stand-in, Jim Steyer, does side with Yee on many points but wasn’t able to answer questions about the bill very well. I think one of the key — and most worrisome — aspects of this issue is one McConnell raised: What, exactly, are the constitutional rights of minors, particularly when it comes to the First Amendment? Should they be allowed to purchase violent video games in a country where they can’t legally purchase pornography? Or is this yet another category of media that the government is interested in “protecting” children from?