Monday, April 03, 2006

Movement in Laws about Video Games

A number of states have enacted laws preventing the sale of violent of sexually explicit video games to anyone under the age of 17. These laws codify the rating system designed by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). Michigan has one of these laws, but the title link demonstrates that many of these laws violate various state and federal constitutional provisions. Many of these provisions impede upon the free speech rights of the game developers. That notwithstanding, these laws are superfluous. The ESRB rating system is like the film rating system initiated by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). These ratings, be it for movies or video games, alert the consumer to the content of the media. Any legislation mirroring the goal and operation of these ratings is unnecessarily repetitive. Moreover, the laws are ridiculously paternalistic. If parents don't want their children to play certain video games, then the parents should be responsible for determining when a game is not suitable for their child, and refuse to buy it. It's unreasonable to presume that laws like these will protect children since it's rarely the children who buy the games. Government intrusion into industry regulation in this manner prevents the advancement of the commercial market for video games. Like the film industry, video games do not need external enforcement. The rating system is sufficient on its own to alert consumers to what they are buying. Thankfully, state and the federal constitutions will likely not permit this sort of legislative over-achievement.

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