Webcomic Illustrates CA Violent Video Games Law

Webcomic Virtual Shackles wryly illustrates how California’s violent video games law might work when put into practice.

During Tuesday’s oral arguments, Justice Sotomayor pointed out what could easily be viewed as a rather large loophole in the law at the heart of Schwarzenegger v. EMA.

The law seeks to prevent children under 18 from purchasing games in which the player can “virtually inflict serious injury upon images of human beings.”  But what about characters that are almost, but not quite human beings?  Here’s the relevant exchange:

JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: Would a video game that portrayed a Vulcan as opposed to a human being, being maimed and tortured, would that be covered by the act?


MR. MORAZZINI: No, it wouldn’t, Your Honor, because the act is only directed towards the range of options that are able to be inflicted on a human being.


JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR: So if the video producer says this is not a human being, it’s an android computer simulated person, then all they have to do is put a little artificial feature on the creature and they could sell the video game?


MR. MORAZZINI: Under the act, yes…

Thanks to reader Arell for the tip!

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen

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  1. 0
    Thad says:

    Only if you think a low-wage clerk should be fined $1000 for forgetting to card a 17-year-old who wants to buy a game that’s been approved as appropriate for 17-year-olds.

  2. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    So much for not covering the nature of violence…lulz



    Anyway the law is a train wreck and seeks to do too much. Would it not b e better to define violence the way R and M dose and then use basic tobacco laws to set fines and such that only really target the employee that dose not watch who they are selling stuff too?

    I have a dream, break the chains of copy right oppression! http://zippydsmlee.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/cigital-disobedience/

  3. 0
    subminute says:

    another interesting point. do they have to be Earthling to be human? I mean, what if Vulcans didn’t have pointed ears, they just acted like Vulcans and say "I’m from Vulcan"? would this stupid law apply?

    Same can be said for Saiyans (dragon ball z). if they have their original tail then it would be ok to pee on their corpses, but once it’s cut off, like Goku’s, then does that mean they are now human in the eyes of the law?


    Or Hobbits, Elves, x-men mutants, etc

  4. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    Not up on my Star Wars lore.  Does that mean they’re not human or simply that they’re from the planet Mandalore?

    EDIT: Here’s what a friend of mine tells me: "The planet is Mandalore. Those born upon it are called Mandalorians.  They’re human though.  Well, nowadays. During the Old Republic, more than 5000 years ago, there was a reptilian race called Mandalorians as well, but they died out. It’s a long and convoluted history."


    Andrew Eisen

  5. 0
    Quarantine says:

    >> It’s ESRB rating makes no difference.

    No Way! No wonder why everyone thinks this law is ghey.


    "Because this town is under the stranglehold of a few tight eyed Tree Huggers who would rather play Hacky Sack than lock up the homeless" — Birch Barlow

  6. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    Far as I recall, this law only carries a $1000 fine, not jail time.  To answer your question, if COD or any other game was found to fall under the scope of the law, the retailer could be fined for selling it to a minor.  It’s ESRB rating makes no difference.


    Andrew Eisen

  7. 0
    deathvanquished says:

    I think a real problem for the law is the grandfathering.  CoD2 falls under this loose definition.  Even though it is rated T, would the retailer still be jailed for selling it to a minor?  Also, what if another Oblivion happened?  Where a T game was changed to a M rated game?  Would they arrest all of the clerks who sold the game while it was rated T?


  8. 0
    Dan says:

    No, you fool. Due to the time and cost of cloning, by the time of the Galactic Civil War most stormtroopers were ordinary conscripts and recruits.

    Usen’ye, gar di’kutla chakaar!

  9. 0
    lordlundar says:

    The starcraft one unfortunately won’t work, as "Terran" is simply a more modern version of "Earthling", and as such, are human.

    Just had to point that out.

  10. 0
    potatojones83 says:

    So does that mean there would be no problem with mowing down rows and rows of Stormtroopers? Because as we know from Star Wars Episode II, all Stormtroopers (orignally Clonetroopers) are just…clones. They aren’t really people. By the definition of the law, this would be okay.

    Also, violence against the Terrans in StarCraft is also perfectly acceptable. It’s in the name, they are Terrans not Humans. I guess that means the X-Men are still prime targets for violence, being mutants and not humans. Superman gets shafted too, being Kryptoninan and all. Or least he would get shafted if he weren’t nearly indestructible.

  11. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    Yeah, combination of not reading his comment very carefully and not being very clear with my point to begin with.

    Yep, today’s off to a nice start.

    Anyway, the point I intended to make is that if the sex (violent or not) is explicit, it would be covered by existing laws whether the character was a human being or not.


    Andrew Eisen

  12. 0
    Thad says:

    He said "sexual violence", which IS explicitly covered in the law — but, as he notes, in the context of the "image of a human being" language.

    So he’s right — according to the Deputy AG’s argument, all you have to do is say "That’s not a human, it’s a Vulcan/android/elf" and bam, loophole, the law does not apply.

    Of course, as we all know, games containing rape are pretty rare (Phantasmagoria and…uh…?), and graphic rape would likely garner an AO kiss-of-death and prevent a game from being released for consoles or sold at major retailers, meaning the California law is meaningless whether the victim is human or merely humanoid.

  13. 0
    Andrew Eisen says:

    The law doesn’t concern itself with sex, only violence.  Reason being, there are already laws against selling minors material (including video games) with explicit sexual content.


    Andrew Eisen

  14. 0
    Rodrigo Ybáñez García says:

    I already commented this before, but I think that if the law also looks for avoid children to play games with sexual violence, then, rape is OK if the victim is an humanoid alien? What about elf girls?

    The absurdity of the people who tailored this wreckage of bill uncanny and just proves how disattached from popular culture they really are.


    ———————————————————— My DeviantArt Page (aka DeviantCensorship): http://www.darkknightstrikes.deviantart.com

  15. 0
    Papa Midnight says:

    Good find, Andrew.

    Reminds me of the old arguments (which can basically be applied all kinds of ways):

    Human prison inmate shanked in the shower? Not cool.

    [Insert humanoid other race which arbitrarily (de/ex)sanguinates in the color green], beheaded by a [Insert arbitrary non-terrestrial weapon]? Perfectly A-OK.

    Papa Midnight


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