The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) has announced plans to collaborate with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) to fight a recently passed California law that would fine retailers for selling violent video games to minors.
The VSDA is a trade association for the home entertainment industry. Its members include retailers, distributors and other related businesses. The ESA is the public policy group for the video and computer game industry.
The ESA has overturned other state laws that would have prohibited the sale of violent or sexually explicit video game material to minors, successfully arguing that such efforts have infringed Constitutionally protected rights. The ESA is currently pursuing a case against Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who signed a similar law earlier this year.
The legislation — known as Assembly Bill (A.B) 1179, was sponsored by Assemblymember Leland Yee of San Francisco and signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It goes into effect on January 1, 2006, and creates a penalty of up to $1,000 for any retailer who’s caught selling games that depict extreme acts of violence to buyers under 18 years of age.
In a statement announcing the VSDA’s intent, VSDA president Bo Andersen called the legislation “a clear violation of the First Amendment” and added that it “provides no meaningful standards to know which materials are covered.”
While the law describes a three-part test for “offensiveness” for the video games, it leaves it to juries to decide what ultimately constitutes a ‘violent video game’ on a case by case basis. With such an arbitrary standard in place, Andersen said “no-one could ever know with certainty whether a particular game would be found to be a ‘violent video game.’”
“Instead of passing laws that are destined to be overturned by the courts, the state of California should be encouraging parents to use the existing video game ratings and content descriptors to make informed choices about whether to bring a particular video game into their home,” said Andersen.