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Sapere aude - dare to be wise
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Heat on violent video games
Posted 11:13 AM by Luke
Indy residents may remember Mayor Bart Peterson's attempt a couple years ago to regulate minors' access to video game arcades. He sought to protect minors from violent and otherwise explicit video games.

Now the governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, is seeking to ban stores from selling violent video games to minors under the age of 18.

This proposed law will be struck down by the courts for much the same reason they struck Peterson's arcade regulations down:
But children have 1st Amendment rights. "People are unlikely to become well-functioning, independent-minded adults and responsible citizens if they are raised in an intellectual bubble," Judge Richard Posner wrote in 2001 for the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in a challenge to the Indianapolis ordinance.

No doubt, Posner wrote, Indianapolis would concede that point if the material in question were "The Divine Comedy," or the stories of Edgar Allen Poe, or "The Odyssey," "with its graphic descriptions of Odysseus's grinding out the eye of Polyphemus with a heated, sharpened stick, killing the suitors, and hanging the treacherous maidservants ..."

Ok, fair enough, but this brings me to a point of public policy. If a film were made of the Odyssey, and that film graphically depicted the violent scenes, that film would be rated R and children would not be permitted in theaters to see the violence. But make a video game out of the Odyssey and suddenly children can not only watch the same cinematics but even participate in the violence.

I realize that movie theaters and not the government enact and enforce the rating system on minors, and I am not an advocate of government censorship, but I think it inevitable that our government try to "fix" this disconnect between exposure to violence from video games and from movies. Expect continued and increasing Constitutional tension on this issue.

As seen in the
National Jurist
and on

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