Welcome to the Nanny State

class=img_thumbleft>This week the Minnesota House voted 114-to-17 to prohibit minors from purchasing or renting mature- or adult-rated video games. In nearly every state where a similar law has been passed, a federal judge ruled such government restrictions as unconstitutional.

But Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL-St. Paul) doesn't believe kids have First Amendment rights. In an article last year in CP, Pappas said the First Amendment was irrelevant to the issue, and that the law wasn't intended to criminalize kids buying video games, but simply to educate parents: "This is to let them know that the state says it's inappropriate for children to play these video games." And it's the state's job to inform parents of what's appropriate for their children, right?

The ironic thing about this bit of nanny-state legislation is that not only is it unconstitutional for the state to define and prohibit violent content, but that the kids would be fined $25 if caught buying or renting the games. This is a carefully planned attempt to keep at bay those with money to fight the bill, like the major retailers and game manufacturers, for example. In other states (such as Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri) where similar bills were introduced and subsequently knocked down, it was the retailers who would've borne the brunt of the law by racking up state-imposed fines.

The video game industry has the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, an organization similar to the Motion Picture Association of America and the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, that reviews and rates video games. But there's no law criminalizing kids or the film and television industries for not adhering to the movie or TV guidelines. So while there's nothing unlawful (for now) about a 14-year-old buying a ticket to the movie See No Evil, Minnesota lawmakers want to make it illegal for anyone under 17 to buy the Dungeons and Dragons-like nerdfest that is Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion.