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Video game nation: Why so many play

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"Pride in something you did," he says.

"Definitely true," Fries says. "Sure, you get a feeling of pride reading a book. With games you're participating. You work towards beating the game."

Finally, critics of games point to another allure: their violence. Clearly there's something to the charge: When companies release violent and less violent versions of the same games – one famous example is Mortal Kombat – the violent ones sell better. But does that make players more violent in real life?

This possibility alarms people – and politicians. In 2005, despite an industry rating code, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), star of some of the most violent movies of all time, tried to ban the sale of violent video games to minors. The move launched a lawsuit.

It wound up in the US Supreme Court.

* * *

"California asks this court to [permit] states to restrict minors' ability to purchase deviant, violent video games ... harmful to the upbringing ... "

Justice Antonin Scalia doesn't let California's lawyer finish. "What's a deviant? As opposed to what? A normal violent video game?"

It's June 2, 2010. The Supreme Court is hearing California's argument.

"Yes, Your Honor. Deviant would be departing from established norms."

"I mean, some of the Grimm's fairy tales are quite grim, to tell the truth," continues Mr. Scalia. "Are you going to ban them, too?"

California's lawyer remains deferential. "The interactive nature ... is especially harmful to minors," he says a little later, citing studies.

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