Shouldn’t the Terminator be a character portrayed in a violent video game, rather than the guy who’s out to ban the games’ sales to minors? It’s certainly an out-of-character role being played by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who plans to dispatch lawyers to the Supreme Court in November to argue for reinstating a law in his state banning kids’ purchase or rental of the games.
Schwarzenegger says he’s acting with a parent’s eye toward protecting children from violent images. State officials’ contention is that the video-game industry’s rating system doesn’t serve as enough of a deterrent to keep kids from getting their hands on violent games. Trouble is, California’s well-intentioned 2005 law pretty clearly runs afoul of constitutional free-speech protections. Along with similar laws in several other states, the statute has been upended by legal challenges.
In a February decision striking down the law, a federal appeals court also said that the law was overkill. For one thing, the court ruled, there was no “causal link between minors playing violent video games and actual psychological or neurological harm.” More importantly, the judges concluded there are less restrictive ways to keep the games away from children — such as the ratings that already warn parents about a game’s content.
A quarter-century ago, Tipper Gore urged that the music industry be forced to slap warning labels on songs with explicit lyrics. Congress wisely deferred to voluntary industry efforts, and now such helpful ratings are commonplace. That’s where the high court should come down on California’s video-game ban.