Gaming Roundup: Appeal Overturns California Game Law; Microsoft/Games Research; Sony/Latin America

imageCalifornia video game sales law dubbed unconstitutional: A federal appeals court has blocked a California law that would have banned the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18, according to the NYT. Organizations like the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) sued California shortly after legislators approved the law in 2005, arguing that the ruling had been based on unfounded studies linking violent video games to aggressive behavior in kids; they also argued that the law would’ve paved the way for future legislation limiting kids’ access to other content. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the law violated minors’ first and 14th amendment rights; Judge Consuelo Callahan said that there were “less restrictive” ways to protect kids from “unquestionably violent” games, including the game ratings system already in place.

*Microsoft* invests $1.5 million to launch gaming institute: The software giant is teaming up with NYU and other universities to launch the “Games for Learning Institute,” a JV that will study whether video games can promote learning skills that go beyond the console. The Institute will focus on whether popular games like Microsoft’s Gears of War 2 are effective at getting students attracted to math, science and tech-based programs; many previous gaming studies have been tied to less-popular educational games (via the AP).

SCEA “officially” expands into Latin America: Gamers in 13 Latin American countries, including Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Panama, will now be able to purchase legitimate Sony (NYSE: SNE) gaming consoles and games; the expansion also includes a Spanish-language version of the PlayStation Network. Latin American consumers have always been able to buy Sony gaming products indirectly, but as Joystiq notes, Sony Computer Entertainment America’s distribution deal with Sony Latin America helps to make systems more affordable, and ensures that the merchandise is compliant with local RF spectrum regulations. Release.