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The Courts Games

Supreme Court To Rule On State Video Game Regulation 278

Posted by Soulskill
from the incrementing-scalia's-frag-count dept.
DJRumpy sends in this quote from an AP report:"The Supreme Court will decide whether free speech rights are more important than helping parents keep violent material away from children. The justices agreed Monday to consider reinstating California's ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, a law the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out last year on grounds that it violated minors' constitutional rights. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the law in 2005, said he was pleased the high court would review the appeals court decision. He said, 'We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies.'" SCOTUSblog has a more thorough legal description of the case.
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Supreme Court To Rule On State Video Game Regulation

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  • by 0racle (667029) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:00PM (#31989004)
    Parents have a responsibility to be parents and raise their children as they see fit. I do not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Millennium (2451)

      This. It would be nice to see the courts regard kids subject to "media influence" as prima facie evidence of parental neglect, but that would mean actually holding someone to their responsibilities, and we can't have that, now, can we?

    • by zero_out (1705074) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:20PM (#31989264)
      But parents can't be aware of what their children are doing 100% of the time. It's a LOT easier to control distribution at the point of sale, rather than at the point of consumption. If a parent tells their kid they are not allowed to purchase or play a certain game, can that parent ensure that their 15-year-old kid won't still buy that game when said parent tells their kid "yes, you may go to the mall with your friends"? 1,000 parents, enforcing a self-ban on violent games for their 1,500 kids isn't nearly as effective as 100 retailers being banned from selling them to those kids. If the parents want their kids to have access to those games, then they can still buy GTA 9 for Johnny's birthday.
      • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:34PM (#31989486) Journal

        Parents SHOULD be aware of what their children are doing 100% of the time. When I was growing up, I didn't go anywhere without letting my parents know. Even when I'd sneak out at night, I was sure to leave a note, because I knew my mother would call the cops if I was missing. That note would detail where and who I was with, and what time I expected to return. This was enough to satiate my parents.

        When my parents let my older brother play GTA2, but not me, it felt quite unfair, but my brother is 4 years older than me. When I came of what they deemed a proper age, they went and purchased UT2K4 for my birthday and I was happy to have their blessing, rather than trying to sneak-play a violent game. I knew there would be hell to pay if I was caught playing a game I wasn't allowed.

        It's really not that difficult. You keep the entertainment in a public room in the house, computers, TV's, etc. Then you tell them what they can and can't do. Then you punish them if they break the rules.

        Putting a restriction at the point of sale is about as effective as stopping kids from downloading music. The whole issue is a parenting problem, and it wasn't a problem over a decade ago, so why are we proposing a new fix?

      • by databank (165049)

        You may not be able to tell what your children is doing 100% of the time but it seems to me that its a lot easier to control the distribution of money at the parents end. If your kids don't have money then they can't buy the game or have to ask you for it.

        The exception IMHO is if kids get a job. Ultimately, if they get a job and make their own money then they are already showing the signs of maturity to becoming independent and have the right to make a decision with the money they make.

        I would never tell

      • by rts008 (812749)

        It's a LOT easier to control distribution at the point of sale...

        Well, since that is your criteria, then it follows that it would be a LOT easier to just kill the kids when birthed.
        No expensive formula, no messy diapers, no needing to find a babysitter, etc....

        The correct solution is the parents take responsibility for their actions(having kids), and thus take the responsibility for properly raising them; not absolve the parents from the responsibility, and NOT burdening society with their brats.

        If your idea of proper parenting involves 24 hour surveillance and constant

      • It's a LOT easier to control distribution at the point of sale, rather than at the point of consumption.

        Some parents don't want their kids eating sugary snacks. So, should we pass a law making it illegal for grocery stores to sell candy to anyone under 18 without parental permission?

        Some parents don't want their kids learning about evolution, either. Should we pass another law making it illegal for bookstores to sell science textbooks to anyone under 18 without parental permission?

        You can't possibly expect retailers to enforce parents' house rules. That's the parents' job. It's not impossible to stay on top o

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by zero_out (1705074)

          Some parents don't want their kids eating sugary snacks. So, should we pass a law making it illegal for grocery stores to sell candy to anyone under 18 without parental permission?

          Some parents don't want their kids learning about evolution, either. Should we pass another law making it illegal for bookstores to sell science textbooks to anyone under 18 without parental permission?

          Now we're getting to straw-man territory. Science hasn't shown conclusively whether violent games affect the mental, emotional, or behavioral development of kids. Candy, however, is pretty harmless. Kids buying candy to eat won't lead to obesity. It's the junk food, fatty meals, etc., that parents supply their children.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Straw man? Schools are banning soda and candy. And states are instituting special taxes on them. It's true that a ban on sucrose is impractical, but the state can certainly regulate and tax until it might as well be banned, like tobacco.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by EMG at MU (1194965)

        It's a LOT easier to control distribution at the point of sale.

        Right on! Teen's never get alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, porn, cold medicine, spray paint, duster, (keep naming things that are age restricted because we're thinking of the children)

        • by zero_out (1705074) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:32PM (#31990552)
          Kids will still pick cigarette butts off the ground, sneak into their parents' liquor cabinet, or get their older siblings to buy them for them. I know that. Yet, controlling their access via retailers is, for the most part, effective enough. It's not about preventing all kids from ever getting their hands on this stuff. It's about limiting it to as small an amount as possible, to ensure that as many kids grow up to be productive members of society as possible.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Xyrus (755017)

        This hollow argument can be made against anything, and it's just as false in every single case?

        Think about it. How many teenage alcoholics are there? How many teenage drug abusers are? How many kids can still get into R rated movies, access porn, buy guns, or do any particular vice you can think off?

        In short, making something illegal DOES NOT MEAN you kids do not have access to it. There are always ways around prohibition of any sort, and the only thing making it illegal does it make it riskier to get it.

        N

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      the judges also tend to agree with what you just said. This wording of "consider reinstating California's ban" is a crock of bullshit. There is no way to determine how the supreme court is going to rule in advance.

      They're not considering reinstating the ban. They're considering making a judgement which could have absolutely nothing to do with the video game ban, if they so choose.

    • by lymond01 (314120)

      Sort of. I'm not sure at what point in our culture we went from "it takes a village to raise a child" to "don't tell me how to raise my kids" and "not like I give a damn about your kids".

      I don't think it's as simple as "no you can't have this". Not sure that ever worked. People need to set examples, they need to at least try to explain things to children, and people DO need to give a damn past what's at the end of their nose or purse string.

  • by SlappyMcInty (688145) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:01PM (#31989032)
    The kids' parents have the responsibility. Get your big government nose out of my business.
    • by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:04PM (#31989070)

      The kids' parents have the responsibility. Get your big government nose out of my business.

      That's the point of the bill. To make sure that the purchase is parentally responsible. This bill isn't in YOUR business unless you're in the business of selling R-rated materials to minors without parental consent.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        First of all, I doubt there is any evidence that companies on the whole are selling "R"-rated (ignoring the fact that there is no such rating) games to minors. Secondly, if the parent doesn't object to, say, their 16 year old buying an M-rated game why should it be the State of California's business to tell them they can't?

        • First of all, I doubt there is any evidence that companies on the whole are selling "R"-rated (ignoring the fact that there is no such rating) games to minors.

          Really? You just mentioned "M-rated" moments later. That is the rating! The problem is that the ESRB doesn't have the manpower to thoroughly rate a game entirely accurately, nor does anyone take the rating seriously enough to impose any actual limitations on it.

          If the parent doesn't object to, say, their 14 year old driving a car, drinking alcohol, or smoking a cigarette, or seeing an R-rated movie, why should it be the State of California's business to tell them they can't?

          I think that this kind of legisl

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by hldn (1085833)

            If the parent doesn't object to, say, their 14 year old driving a car, drinking alcohol, or smoking a cigarette, or seeing an R-rated movie, why should it be the State of California's business to tell them they can't?

            i'm not sure about smoking tobacco, but a parent can allow their kids to drink alcohol and drive (preferably not at the time time) at home on private property (in most states.) lumping an R-rated movie in with that is lol, but unbelievably parents can also allow their kids to see those too!1~!

            it shouldn't the government's business and it isn't. this type of legislation should NEVER go through, because it's my job as a parent to decide what movies/games my children have access to, not the government and ce

          • by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:52PM (#31990918)

            Really? You just mentioned "M-rated" moments later. That is the rating! The problem is that the ESRB doesn't have the manpower to thoroughly rate a game entirely accurately, nor does anyone take the rating seriously enough to impose any actual limitations on it.

            So do you or Ahhnold actually have any evidence of widespread selling of M-rated games to minors? I seriously doubt it.

            If the parent doesn't object to, say, their 14 year old driving a car, drinking alcohol, or smoking a cigarette, or seeing an R-rated movie, why should it be the State of California's business to tell them they can't?

            Yes, the State of California should have no business telling a parent that they can't let their kids, smoke, drink and see R-rated movies. The driving part is different as unlike the previous 3, an young teenage, an age where one is most prone to unsafe driving, can cause harm to others while the first three don't. But if the kid is say on a farm and doing nothing but driving a truck or tractor around on an isolate plot of land, yes the State of California should again have no say. Unless a parent is willfully and/or maliciously putting their minor kid's healthy or safety at harm (such as physical/sexual abuse, intentionally starving the kid, etc) then the wishes of the parents should be respected.

            It's funny that people like you have such panic attacks over these things and yet kids were still growing up just fine before we had laws banning them from drinking and smoking.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by DavidTC (10147)

              I think this [ftc.gov] is the most relevant link there.

              35% of underaged teenagers who walk up to a movie theater and try to buy a ticket for a R-rated movie got one. 56% who tried to buy a PAL-rated CD got one. 47% who tried to buy an R-rated DVD got it. 50% who tried to buy an unrated DVD got it.

              Only 20% who tried to buy an M-rated video game got one.

              Anyone who thinks there's any sort of problem in the game retail industry is an idiot. The game industry is, by a vast majority, currently the most responsible enter

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TemporalBeing (803363)

        The kids' parents have the responsibility. Get your big government nose out of my business.

        That's the point of the bill. To make sure that the purchase is parentally responsible. This bill isn't in YOUR business unless you're in the business of selling R-rated materials to minors without parental consent.

        No, that's not the point of the bill. The point of the bill is that the Gov't knows better than the parent what is or is not appropriate for their child. And that leads to the point of the GPP - as a citizen they don't want a say in how your or anyone else raises their child; they want to leave it to the child's parent and their parent alone.

        Now granted, there is some communal responsibility for everyone to help ensure parents raise their child right; but they community need not stamp all over the right

        • No, that's not the point of the bill. The point of the bill is that the Gov't knows better than the parent what is or is not appropriate for their child.

          No, it doesn't. The bill doesn't prevent a parent from buying any game they want for their child. It merely prevents a store from selling directly to the child without parental permission. You want your 10 year old to play GTA, then go buy a copy for them.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bigbigbison (104532)
            The question is why is this law needed when there are no similar laws regulating the sale of films music books or comic books? There are existing pornography laws which would presumably already apply to any pornographic games -- which aren't widely available anyway. There's no substantial evidence that there is any need for this law. It is ineffective at best and reactionary at worst because it singles out videogames when there's no substantial evidence that there needs to be a law and since it is based o
  • by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:01PM (#31989034) Homepage Journal

    The video game industry puts ratings right on the cover. I don't want the goverment to tell me how to raise my kids.

    We let the movie and music industries self-regulate. Why should video games be any different?

    • by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:09PM (#31989124) Homepage Journal

      I don't want the goverment to tell me how to raise my kids.

      They aren't, they're telling your kids how [not] to raise themselves. There's nothing to stop you buying restricted games for them, if you want.

    • by DeadboltX (751907) on Monday April 26, 2010 @06:42PM (#31990730)
      They aren't making it illegal for kids to play M rated games, nor are they making it illegal for parents to buy M rated games for their children. They are preventing M rated games from being sold directly to minors, just as R rated movie tickets are. If you are a parent and you find it ok for your minor to see an R rated movie then you are more than able to purchase the R rated ticket for them, just as you are more than able to purchase the M rated game for them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by bigbigbison (104532)
        However, film ratings are enforced by the movie industry not the law. If a kid can't get into an R-rated film then it is because the theater won't let the kid in not because there is a law prohibiting it. Videogames are the same in this regard. Are there kids buying M-rated games? yes but there are also kids getting into R-rated films. Some undercover stings have found it easier to get into an r-rated film than to buy an m-rated game. There's no reason to single out games.
  • by Myji Humoz (1535565) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:03PM (#31989058)
    We surely wouldn't want to expose the children to any media influences that glorify violence and fighting, now would we?
    • by game kid (805301)
      I've changed over deh years. No moah voilence or machinegun or liquid robots for me, only Abadah [youtube.com] and deh econamy and the govuhment and so on [msn.com].
    • Coming from the Terminator (Score:3, Interesting)
      We surely wouldn't want to expose the children to any media influences that glorify violence and fighting, now would we?

      I see what you did there - but I'm not sure what you're trying to say.

      If a hardcore porn director would have said that he didn't want to expose children to hardcore porn, would that be in some way hypocritical, too?

      Just because the guy was in a movie with a lot of violence doesn't mean that he can't believe young children shouldn't be seeing

    • by rhsanborn (773855)
      They aren't restricting kids from playing violent video games. They're keeping kids from buying them directly. The parent is perfectly allowed to buy the game for their children, if they see fit.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by vlm (69642)

        They're keeping kids from buying them directly.

        No, they are not. There is nothing in the bill to prevent kids from buying. The bill instead fines and criminalizes the stores that do not check ID carefully enough or that find it a civil disobedience measure, or that don't find the cost benefit ratio to work.

        At best, it locks out kids that don't have any older friends, any "cool" older relatives, any older siblings, with no access to garage sales or craigslist, with parents whom are control freaks, no access to bittorrent, etc.

        Oldest child, living in mo

    • Actually, the Governator addresses your concern in the very article summary.

      He's not arguing for outlawing violent video games; he's arguing that kids shouldn't be able to buy them directly, just as they (theoretically) can't buy a ticket for an R-rated movie themselves.

      I'm not saying I agree with that position, but there it is.

  • You know.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:05PM (#31989082)
    You know who else is always thinking of the children? Pedophiles.
  • Harmful Effects (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Reason58 (775044) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:06PM (#31989094)
    "We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies."

    Which harmful effects are those? Have there been credible, peer-reviewed studies which actually show any negative effect of seeing violence on a screen?
  • Wrong. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psmylie (169236) * on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:08PM (#31989112) Homepage

    (Arnold Schwarzenegger) said, 'We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies.'"
      WRONG. WE don't have a responsibility, PARENTS have a responsibility. WE (as in "we the people") have a responsibility to make sure the Constitution doesn't get corrupted by well-intentioned feel-good attempts to legislate morality. Get it straight, ya big goof.

    • WE don't have a responsibility, PARENTS have a responsibility.

      The loophole with that is when someone undermines the responsibility of a parent by selling them an M-rated game without the parent being around to consent to that. Asking that a parent or guardian be present when a kid is purchasing something above their "appropriate rating" as determined by an association of videogame publishers is, in no way, infringing upon your rights. It's taking the "granting of permission to view these materials" away from the store and putting them comfortably into those who YOU

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by icebraining (1313345)

        So instead of buying it, the kid will just download it from TPB.

    • by mrsquid0 (1335303)

      WRONG. Families do not exist as self-contained units isolated outside of the rest of society. They never have and they probably never will. In the real world people interact with each other and there needs to be rules governing that interaction in order to prevent anarchy. Societies that do not govern themselves tend to end up like Somalia or your favourite war zone---which are not places that most of us want to live. We (as a society) do have a responsibility to ensure that children grow up in an envi

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Psmylie (169236) *

        The world also does not owe you whatever you consider to be a "safe" place to raise your kids. What this law is (and laws like it) is a hamfisted attempt to remove the burrs and rough edges from society in an attempt to make a sweet and fluffy world in which to raise their kids. Also, you state that society needs rules. How many of those rules are actual laws, and how many are social contracts that aren't backed up by law? What I mean by that is that no law is needed for this, just like no law is needed to

    • Not to mention the fact that he is totally wrong about the movies -- MPAA ratings are only a guideline. These ratings happen to be widely enforced by theaters and stores, but that is entirely voluntary on the part of the retailer -- they are under no legal obligation to do so.
    • Re:Wrong. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:55PM (#31989864)

      PARENTS have a responsibility

      Exactly! We need, like, a law that requires the parents to buy the game for the kid so the parent can decide... oh, wait...

  • by neochubbz (937091)

    The problem with comparing this to movies is that MPAA Rating system isn't law, merely a voluntary policy (Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Association_of_America_film_rating_system [wikipedia.org]) Stores that refuse to sell/rent R-Rated Movies/M-Rated games to minors are well within their rights; stores are free to conduct their business as they wish. However, on that same note, stores can also choose to sell these movies/games to whoever they want.

  • There are no laws revolving around renting R rated movies to minors, and already existing pornography laws should cover pornographic games...
  • Why is it so hard... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CondeZer0 (158969) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:11PM (#31989140) Homepage

    ...for people (specially those sitting in the Supreme Court) to understand something as simple as: "Congress shall make no law"? Now law, means no law!

    And that video games are speech is so obvious that is shameful if anyone needs it pointed out to them.

    If parents don't want their children to play certain games, just like if they don't want them to read certain books, or don't want them to jump from certain bridges, it is their problem to figure out how to do this.

    • Perhaps 24-hour parental surveillance would be a more "constitutional" way for parents to regulate their children's buying habits than having to be present when the kid buys a game? Are you daft?
    • by Bluesman (104513)

      If the State of California were the U.S. Congress, then you'd definitely have a point.

      States have historically had more leeway in such matters; there used to be no problem, even Constitutionally speaking, with an individual state having an official religion.

  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:13PM (#31989166)
    He told the court he would be back...
  • The U.S. really needs to have a single system for rating all media for age appropriateness and content, and enforce it at the distribution level. Movies have a rating, TV shows have a rating with a code for content (FV for fantasy violence, D for dialog, etc.), games have their own rating, but magazines and music, to my knowledge, do not. The only one that can't really be controlled is the internet.

    Ideally, parents would know what their children are doing 24/7, and be able to determine for themselves what

    • You can expand it further to general goods and services. Everything from adult rated video games to age of consent. We, as a society, say that you need to be an adult to indulge in the following items: $LIST_OF_ADULT_ITEMS. You can draw the age line at different places for different things (18 for voting and 21 for drinking for example).

      People will argue that kids mature at different rates, but, well, that's ImaginationLand where there's a magic test for "adultness" that can be applied every birthday to eve

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by vlm (69642)

      Ideally, parents would know what their children are doing 24/7, and be able to determine for themselves what is appropriate for their children.

      Actually, no. You need an exit strategy better than, yesterday was your 18th b-day so good luck today in the wild free world.

      Your plan is reasonably appropriate during the early toddler years. An utter disaster in the teenage years. The goal is to gradually slack off on the fascism while raising the kids to have good judgment... If they have good judgment they simply don't need the laws.

      Furthermore, if they don't have good judgment, a ban on trendy enemy of the people "X" will simply result in them find

      • by zero_out (1705074)
        You have a point, and I forgot to mention that in my comment. Parents need to teach their kids how to make wise decisions. It needs to be up to the parents, though, when a child is mature enough to play certain games. That means the parents need to control distribution by being the ones to purchase them for the kids. To do that, it needs to be illegal for stores to sell the games to kids. That takes the power away from the retailers and the kids, and gives it to the parents, who can control what their
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigbigbison (104532)
      the title of your post asks "and this is different from r-rated movies, how?" the answer is that film ratings aren't enforced by laws. So why should videogame ratings be enforced that way?
  • is for the violent games to be properly labeled as violent games. Beyond that, the parent should make the decision.

  • We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies.

    First, we have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to prove scientifically exactly what the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions are, which we haven't done with movies either. I'm not against ratings systems, but they don't currently stop kids from buying tickets to Winnie the Pooh then switching theaters to Saw IV
  • pot/kettle (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:53PM (#31989828)

    "We have a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions, just as we already do with movies" ...said the man who got fame and fortune from making violent movies...

  • by BaronHethorSamedi (970820) <thebaronsamedi@gmail.com> on Monday April 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#31989860)

    The Supreme Court will decide whether free speech rights are more important than helping parents keep violent material away from children.

    The summary is actually lifted directly from the linked article. What a sterling piece of objective, non-editorial journalism.

    The Supreme Court will of course decide no such question. Measures are already in place to help parents keep violent content away from children; those parents that care to keep informed about the sorts of entertainment that their children consume have more resources and information available to them now than they have ever had. The question becomes whether the state can hold retailers criminally liable for failing to fill a role that the parents have apparently abdicated. Also from TFA:

    The supporters of the law say the same legal justifications for banning minors from accessing pornography can be applied to violent video games.

    This isn't clearly the case at all. The case will revisit the issue of whether violence (not sex) can constitute regulable obscenity under the First Amendment, a parallel that courts have repeatedly refused to draw.

    They point to recent Federal Trade Commission studies suggesting that the video game industry's rating system was not effective in blocking minors from purchasing games designed for adults.

    Largely because that isn't what the rating system was designed to do. The whole point to the ESRB is to allow parents to make informed decisions as to what their children can watch, play, etc. The ESRB was never intended as a deterrent against children consuming that content without parental knowledge, or with parental consent. The notion behind the California law (and others in many other states that have been struck down) is that because the ratings aren't doing something that no one ever expected them to do, the state needs to have power to punish retailers for selling a product that (unlike tobacco or alcohol) has a strong component of judicially-recognized speech. I'll be interested to see what SCOTUS does with this...

  • I must ask, how the hell are children this young getting to the store on their own and shelling out $60+ for a game? How can parents not know their child is walking around with that much money on them, and where are they getting it if not from the parents?
    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      They aren't. If you read up on the complaints that trigger these laws, you'll find a common start to all of them: a parent or other adult related to the kid bought the game, took it home and gave it to the kid, usually without checking the game out themselves first. The screams of outrage came later.

      IMO the law the states should pass isn't one banning the sale of those games to minors (which isn't happening), it's one mandating 1-year prison sentences for any adult who gives such a game to a minor (which is

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