SCOTUS to weigh violent video games

Paul Smith, who will argue the case, spoke Monday at the University.

Paul Smith, who will be arguing this fall before the Supreme Court, speaks about the regulation of violent video games on Monday night at Cowles Auditorium on the West Bank.

Jason Kopp

Paul Smith, who will be arguing this fall before the Supreme Court, speaks about the regulation of violent video games on Monday night at Cowles Auditorium on the West Bank.


Jake GaveâÄôs roommates donâÄôt consider him a violent person.
Gave plays video games like âÄúHaloâÄù and âÄúCall of DutyâÄù every day for three hours. To him, itâÄôs his primary hobby. But in two weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing a case that could determine whether the sale of those and other violent video games should be regulated by the government.
Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, a case surrounding a California statute that would ban the sale of violent video games to minors, will go before the court on Nov. 2. The state argues that violent video games produce violent youth.
Paul Smith of Jenner & Block, a law firm from Washington, D.C., will testify on behalf of the entertainment industry, arguing that a state law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors violates the First Amendment right to free speech.
He explained his case to more than 250 people as part of a media ethics and law lecture series at the University of Minnesota on Monday evening.
A plethora of studies in the past decade has tried to make a connection between violence and video games, but such research has yielded results that are simply too vague, Smith said.
âÄúI donâÄôt believe in [a relationship between violence and video games],âÄù Gave, a biomedical engineering first-year, said. âÄúI shoot people all the time in video games, but that doesnâÄôt make me want to grab a gun and go shoot people. I think it is easy to tell from what is real and not real and what is accepted in reality.âÄù
Smith, who has appeared before the high court 13 times previously, will argue âÄúHistory repeats itself.âÄù He pointed to similar debates on censoring content to minors that have been prevalent since the early half of the 20th century when the government looked to regulate comic books and television. Those restrictions were all shot down, Smith said.
âÄúNow weâÄôre back seeing the same things again,âÄù Smith said.
The impact of violent video games on youth was first hypothesized 15 years ago. Ironically, Smith said, youth violence has steadily declined since.
Chad Marsolek, psychology professor, firmly believes in a relationship between violence and video games to some extent.
âÄúEverything we do changes our brains whether weâÄôre conscious of it or not,âÄù Marsolek said.
First-year student Nathan Heffernan disagrees.
âÄúIt might desensitize people to [violence] to a certain degree, but unless they have previous issues with violence, I donâÄôt think they are all of a sudden going to commit violence in reality,âÄù Heffernan said.
Heffernan and his roommates all agree that the Entertainment Software Rating Board is already doing a good job of preventing youth from getting a hold of mature video games.
First-year student David Anderson said he believes the responsibility should fall on parents to follow the voluntary rating system provided by the industry âÄî not the government.
âÄúThere is no one saying that the ESRB rating system is not working,âÄù said Smith, who said the ESRB system is superior to the Motion Picture Association of AmericaâÄôs ratings system.
Smith points out that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of California, it could change the way many people live.
âÄúI donâÄôt know where the line will be drawn âÄî itâÄôs a very dangerous prospect,âÄù Smith said.
âÄúI donâÄôt see a cogent attack on the rating system, and I donâÄôt know if anything the government can do will make it better,âÄù Smith said. âÄúThey just want to win.âÄù