Judge frags violent video game law

— 2:55 AM on July 16, 2004

US District Judge Robert Lasnik has overturned a Washington law that would have banned the sale of violent video games to minors. According to Lasnik's ruling, it wasn't clear what games would have fallen under the ban. Lasnik also feared that the law could have an impact on free speech.

"Would a game built around 'The Simpsons' or the 'Looney Tunes' characters be 'realistic' enough to trigger the act?" he wrote. "The real problem is that (a store) clerk might know everything there is to know about the game and yet not be able to determine whether it can legally be sold to a minor."

Lasnik also noted that violence against tyrannical or oppressive police officers would likely fall under the ban.

To obey the law, he said, store clerks would tend to be overly cautious in selling games to minors and game makers would tend to be overly cautious in designing them - resulting in a chilling effect on free speech.

And there's more. Lasnik also acknowledged that there is no evidence proving that games that "trivialize violence against law enforcement officers" incite violence against officers in the real world.

Despite being pleased with Lasnik's ruling, the games industry is apparently still encouraging retailers to only sell M-rated games to adults. That seems like the responsible thing to do, especially since many development houses claim to design games for adults. And let's be realistic. Minors have little problem getting their hands on beer and cigarettes; scoring M-rated video games probably wouldn't have been a problem.

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