Scholars File Brief Opposing California Videogame Law

Eighty-two scholars and researchers signed their name to a brief voicing opposition to the California law at the center of Schwarzenegger vs EMA.

Noting that the issue now awaiting a Supreme Court ruling is subject to strict scrutiny because it attempts to regulate the sale of games based on content, the scholars’ brief argues that California has neither provided “substantial evidence” that games cause psychological or neurological harm to minors playing them, nor does the state “demonstrate that the restriction will ‘alleviate these harms in a direct and material way.’”


Indeed, California does not offer any reliable evidence, let alone substantial evidence, that playing violent video games causes psychological or neurological harm to minors. California confesses it cannot prove causation, but points to studies that it says show a “correlation” between the two. But the evidence does not even do that.

Furthermore, the brief states that California and Senator Yee “ignore a weighty body of scholarship undertaken with established and reliable scientific methodologies, debunking the claim that the video games California seeks to regulate have harmful effects on minors.”

The brief then systematically dispatches research cited by California, including that of Douglas Gentile, which was billed as “rife with methodological flaws”, and Craig Anderson, whose research was labeled as “no help to California.”

Research leveraged by Senator Yee was additionally labeled as reliant on a “one-page statement of scholars,” while his mentioning of “recent research,” “new data,” and “hundreds of studies” to back his claims were deemed “broad assertions,” with citations appearing “rarely.”

Those signing on to the brief included Texas A&M International University Assistant Professor Christopher J Ferguson and Harvard Medical School’s Cheryl Olson.

View or download the full brief (PDF) here.

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  1. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s got a history of making more than their fair share of dead-ass wrong decisions. See, e.g., Korematsu, Plessy, Dred Scott, etc., etc.  

  2. 0
    vellocet says:

    And even that argument is wrong (that they can’t conduct the studies)… from page 34-35:

    "At minimum, the scholarship that California and Senator Yee ignore belies the notion that the “substantial evidence of causation” standard imposes an “insurmountable hurdle” on science or legislatures. Pet. Br. 52. These studies show unequivocally that the causation research can be done, and, indeed, has been done. The problem confronting California and Senator Yee thus is not the constitutional standard; it is simply their inability to meet that standard in this case because validated scientific studies prove the opposite, leaving no empirical foundation for the assertion that playing violent video games causes harm to minors."

    I really don’t see how California can win.  They can’t win on science, they can’t win on first amendment… are they ahead on anything other that "common sense" and "think of the children"?


  3. 0
    Monte says:

     Indeed. If i recall i think part of California’s argument is that they admit they lack strict evidence because they can’t conduct the kind of studies they would need to do that would prove a casual link. Afterall such a study would not only take multiple years but also require that maintain strict control over the subjects’ media consumption and social interaction to avoid the effects of outside factors, and that is just full of serious ethical problems; especially if you need to use minors… So they are trying to use that excuse to get by without the need for absolutely strict evidence. And so they are trying to exaggerate and distort the results of their studies just in an effort to build even the most minimal link.

  4. 0
    JDKJ says:

    Call me cynical if you want to, but I suspect that counsel on brief know full and well that their "studies" don’t establish the required causal link but nevertheless attempt to cast them as doing just that. It’s what’s known in the legal profession as "bullshitting the court."

  5. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    Shows you how much California lawmakers read.

    Also shows how they failed reading comprehension.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra. Hell will stay frozen over for quite a while since the Saints won the Super Bowl.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

  6. 0
    NecroSen says:

    From the brief, page 17:

    "Even if the Gentile survey were relevant, it simply does not say what California says it does. California states that the survey “suggest[s] a causal connection between playing violent video games and aggressive behavior.” Pet. Br. 53. It does no such thing. The survey makes absolutely no finding that exposure to violent video games leads to physical aggression. To the contrary, it explicitly cautions against making that inference: “It is important to note . . . that this study is limited by its correlational nature. Inferences about causal direction should be viewed with caution.” JA 638 (emphasis added)"
    [bold emphasis added by me]

    Lovely. Simply lovely.

    The further question that the Gentile survey asks, as well:

    "Are young adolescents more hostile and aggressive because they expose themselves to media violence, or do previously hostile adolescents prefer violent media? Due to the correlational nature of this study, we cannot answer this question directly."

    Shows you how much California lawmakers read.

    [edit] And hey, in the footnotes on page 18, a reference to Grand Theft Childhood. 😀

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