As GamePolitics indicated yesterday, an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief has been filed in support of California's petition requesting that the U.S. Supreme Court review the constitutionality of the state's 2005 violent video game law. To date, two lower federal courts have deemed the measure unconstitutional.
The brief was filed today on behalf of State Sen. Leland Yee (D), the sponsor of the contested statute as well as the California Psychiatric and California Psychological Associations. Yee himself is a child psychologist by profession. He also notes in the brief that he has authored several bills protecting free speech rights in circumstances other than violent games.
In seeking to explain to the Supreme Court why it should approve California's petition for a full hearing, the 15-page document maintains that the state has a compelling interest in restricting children's access to such games. The oft-heard argument about the interactivity of video games is among the theories put forth:
The interactive nature of video games is vastly different than passively listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a book. With interactive video games, the child becomes a part of the action which serves as a potent agent to facilitate violence and over time learns the destructive behavior.
This immersion results in a more powerful experience and potentially dangerous learned behavior in children and youth...
The brief also suggests that video games present a new type of challenge for parents in their efforts to monitor their children's media diet:
Parents can read a book, watch a movie or listen to a CD to discern if it is appropriate for their child. These violent video games, on the other hand, can contain up to 800 hours of footage with the most atrocious content often reserved for the highest levels and can be accessed only by advanced players after hours upon hours of progressive mastery.
And, while federal courts have not to date been swayed by research suggesting that violent video games lead to real-world violence, the brief points to such studies in support of its position:
Just as the technology of video games improves at astonishing rates, so to does the body of research consistently demonstrate the harmful effects these violent interactive games have on minors. Over three thousand peer-reviewed studies, produced over a period of 30 years documenting the effects of screen violence (including violent video games), have now been published...
These data suggest very strongly that participating in the playing of violent video games by children and youth increase aggressive thought and behavior; increase antisocial behavior and delinquency; engender poor school performance; desensitize the game player to violence...
Surprisingly, GamePolitics comes in for a mention in the brief. GP's Legislation Tracker feature is referenced as a means of pointing out the wide variety of legislation aimed at video games around the United States.
Sen. Yee's office has issued a press release on the filing of the amicus brief, including a link to the brief (15-page PDF). The Supreme Court is expected to consider California's petition in the fall.