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An Open Letter To Senator Leland Yee


Sir, I am disappointed. I am apparently not important enough to warrant consideration.

I have come to this conclusion based on two facts. First, your contact page, which conspicuously does not include your e-mail addresses, states that for comments to be considered, I must be your constituent. I understand that you must get a great deal of e-mail Senator, but you do sit in the Assembly of what I believe to be the greatest state in the Union, and are therefore my representative. Not my direct representative, I will grant, but the bills you propose and vote on have a direct impact in my life and on my state of living, and so it seems prudent to talk to you about such matters.

This brings me to my second point sir, and that is that the bill you are proposing bringing before the California Supreme Court is an attack on my state of living, and a waste of the precious time of that court. This bill, AB 1179, was passed in 2005. It was going to come into in effect the next year, but was stopped by a judicial injunction, and ruled unconstitutional. At that time, you released a statement saying…

“I am shocked that the Court struck down this common-sense law. AB 1179 worked to empower parents by giving them the ultimate decision over whether or not their children should be playing in a world of violence and murder.”

That might have been the case four years ago sir, but as numerous other cases have pointed out, that ruling has withstood the test. Utah passed a bill that its Governor vetoed, considering it unconstitutional. Governor Huntsman was unwilling to subject his constituents to the sort of scrutiny that would only come up with the same conclusion and waste Utah’s resources. A bill (H.R. 5509) proposed in the 109th and 110th Congresses was not passed, and several other states have passed laws that have been deemed unconstitutional.

Your shock, Assemblyman, is unwarranted.

Regardless of what your are attempting to do sir, what you are doing is hurting people.

Your efforts to get this bill before the Supreme Court of California, examples of which have been struck down in 7 states, will cost us money we do not have and time we cannot waste. Our state has already paid the video game industry a quarter of a million dollars in their legal expenses, not because their lobbies convinced us to, but because they were awarded them by our own judicial branch. Your insistence that parents cannot judge for themselves what is and is not appropriate for their own children is insulting at best, sir, and you feel the need to tell them through legislation. Most importantly to my own heart, you are attempting to tell the video game community what is appropriate, morally and ethically, which is in itself immoral and unethical.

Let us consider the bill, Assemblyman Yee. You may be familiar with it in its entirety, but its text can be found here.

In particular sir, I would like to consider your following positions, with the attempt of including as much context as possible:

1746. For purposes of this title, the following definitions shall apply:
(d) (1) “Violent video game” means a video game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being, if those acts are depicted in the game in a manner that does either of the following:
(B) Enables the player to virtually inflict serious injury upon images of human beings or characters with substantially human characteristics in a manner which is especially heinous, cruel, or depraved in that it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the victim.
(B) “Depraved” means that the player relishes the virtual killing or shows indifference to the suffering of the victim, as evidenced by torture or serious physical abuse of the victim.
(C) “Heinous” means shockingly atrocious. For the killing depicted in a video game to be heinous, it must involve additional acts of torture or serious physical abuse of the victim as set apart from other killings.
(E) “Torture” includes mental as well as physical abuse of the victim. In either case, the virtual victim must be conscious of the abuse at the time it is inflicted; and the player must specifically intend to virtually inflict severe mental or physical pain or suffering upon the victim, apart from killing the victim.

You are, by education, a clinical psychologist. A scientist. How can you bandy about terms like “relish” and “shockingly atrocious”? These are loaded terms sir, not medically or scientifically quantifiable, but judgments and opinions. How can you define torture on objects sir? A simulated person is not a person, but a simulation. They are a program, a subroutine, that cannot feel or experience. They are not conscious to be aware the pain you describe. Perhaps one day, our technology will allow us to redefine this, but considering that all of these characters are programmed to respond in this way, there is nothing inflicted upon them. They are responding within the narrow guidelines that they were made to. They cannot do anything else.

Sir, you are trying to legislate something that is already in effect. The ESRB has been publishing their ratings for 15 years. Since 1994, they have reviewed games and critiqued them, not as art or by any inherent worth, but on a clearly presented format which lets people interested in the game know what they might be in for. This lets parents make informed decisions, choosing for themselves whats right for their children. It would be much more valuable to this state, both in terms of promoting social values and practicing sound economic policy in a time of financial crisis, to suggest that parents become more involved in the lives of those they love than to bring before the highest court in California what amounts to a waste.

Please sir, encourage all Californians to read and think, to understand what video games are and are not, but do not attempt to hold your morals above us and waste what little we can muster. The state’s budget is and has been in severe disarray for years, and your proposal would only do more harm than good, an aim I think that you are trying to avoid. I understand you wish to help families, and protect children, but this is not the way to do it, Senator Yee.

Thank you for your time, sir.

Patrick Colford

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  1. SandraD
    May 22nd, 2009 at 19:44 | #1

    “Most importantly to my own heart, you are attempting to tell the video game community what is appropriate, morally and ethically, which is in itself immoral and unethical.” Well said! I also could not agree more with the last three paragraphs.

  2. Erik
    May 22nd, 2009 at 21:44 | #2


    You know the titles “Senator” and “Assemblyman” are not interchangeable, right?

  3. May 23rd, 2009 at 14:03 | #3

    Hi, nice posts there :-) thank’s for the interesting information

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