California video game case could have huge impact on games, entertainment, society, reality

Halo3 screenshot

California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law banning such sales in 2005 but it's never been enforced. Lower courts overturned it saying it's unconstitutional as it infringes on free speech. The Ninth District Court also said that there was no credible evidence that the violence in video games was dangerous for kids to be exposed to.

We talk to Jeffrey Rosen, who teaches at George Washington University Law School, who says that by taking up a case where the rulings have been consistent so far, the Supreme Court may be signaling an interest in adopting a contrary position, possibly consistent with the original law signed by Schwarzenegger. Rosen says that if that happens we can expect a ripple effect of new interpretations over what society deems is acceptable for kids to see and what is okay for adults.

We also talk to Michael Dorf, who teaches at Cornell University Law School. He says that when you look at where game technology is going, it's not hard to envision a future where the player is more immersed in the game. It's more like Avatar, less like Space Invaders. In that world, the experience of holding a gun, shooting it, killing someone, will be significantly more lifelike and much harder to feel detached from. Whatever the court decides in this case will be at least part of the legal framework that takes us all into that future.

Also in the show, and on a much lighter note, we get a preview of the Playbutton. It's a little pin you wear on your clothes, it has a headphone jack, and it plays one album worth of music. Just ten songs or so. It plays them in sequence and you can't program it. Think of it as the anti-iPod.

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