Supreme Court Strikes Down Violent Game Law, Hopefully Stops the Madness

By  |  Monday, June 27, 2011 at 2:35 pm

When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed last year to rule on a California law that would restrict the sale of violent video games to minors, I was relieved. Finally, I assumed, the nation’s highest court would rule that violent video games should get the same First Amendment protections as movies and books, instead of being regulated like pornography.

Turns out, my assumption was correct. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s violent video game law for good, with seven of nine justices in agreement. If you love video games and despise the way they’ve been demonized by politicians, read the first couple pages of the decision. It’s quite cathartic.

In a nutshell, the court declared that video games use familiar literary devices to tell stories, just like books, plays and movies. And because the United States has no history of regulating depictions of violence, the California law’s attempt to do so was “unprecedented and mistaken.” As for whether violent games pose a greater risk to society because of their interactive nature, the justices were unconvinced by existing research, none of which has found that violent games cause violent behavior.

Of course, the video game industry is thrilled with the decision, and California Sen. Leland Yee, who sponsored the bill, is disappointed. But what most interests me is whether the Supreme Court’s ruling will, in fact, finally stop individual states from trying to regulate video games. California is the seventh state to try, and the seventh state to fail.

A ruling from the Supreme Court may prevent other states from going down the same path, but it’s no guarantee. Justice Samuel Alito, in his concurring judgment, felt that California’s law was too broad in its description of violence (“killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being”). For better or worse, Alito said, society regards violence as a suitable feature of violent entertainment, so any future law would have to be much narrower than what California proposed. That at least leaves the door open to future attempts.

But even then, the existing court may not bite, and that’s okay. The games industry already has its own ratings system — just like movies — and works with retailers to keep minors from buying mature-rated games. Compliance is better than any other entertainment industry. In addition, game consoles have parental controls. As the Entertainment Software Association points out, state resources are better spent educating parents than fighting in court.

 
11 Comments


Read more: , ,

11 Comments For This Post

  1. Rip Says:

    Another loss for movie industry.

  2. Paul Says:

    Why? This has absolutely no bearing on the movie industry – they too remain self regulated about their sales of R-rated content to minors – which they already don't allow in the theaters.

    Movie theaters and retailers are under (and have never) been under any obligation to sell or restrict the purchase of non-rated movies, they do this under contractual basis with the studios (usually theaters as a policy will not show non-rated content or NC-17 content) or they do (in the case of retails) as a course of business restrict the availability of such content. There is no legislative move to change this and the industry isn't lobbying for similar moves either.

    In short, the movie companies have nothing to be worried about here – they operate the same way as they pretty much already do.

  3. Jared Newman Says:

    The movie industry was among the many media groups that was opposed to this law (and therefore pleased with the ruling). If it passed, it could have led to government regulation for movies as well.

  4. Paul Says:

    Which was my exactly my point. This was not not a loss for the movie industry like Rip was saying.. I didn't recall if the movie companies had an interest one way or the other, but apparently they were against it too.

    This is a big victory for freedom of speech.

  5. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Another ridiculous law passed by CA libs struck down by the SCotUS. A good day.

  6. Paul Says:

    It was an idiotic senator. Arnold is a retired actor and does not speak for the movie industry. He is a politician first and foremost.

    Given it up. The movie industry is not behind this for two big reasons.
    1) should this have succeeded, it would have opened the door for government regulation of their California based businesses. Not too many industries want this sort of thing. Hollywood likes the self regulation that they have right now precisely because government doesn't control how things work.

    2) Assuming you are right and assuming this passed, the gaming industry would just "steal" (which I demand citation on by the way) "more" money to make up for the fines – fines by the way which would affect retailers (who partner with the movie companies bu the way) more than anything.

    Just because one actor who is the governor was in favor of this law means very little.

  7. touch screen gloves Says:

    Dear friends.I invite you to visit my website for news and tips about outdoor digital accessories.Here are two links for best iPhone gloves and latest touch screen gloves
    Just go and have a look.

  8. Paul Says:

    Schwarzenegger – the governor who probably signed the bill into law is a republican – Yee is a democrat and neither (as far as I can tell) is a liberal.

  9. The_Heraclitus Says:

    <div class="idc-message" id="idc-comment-msg-div-168846371"><a class="idc-close" title="Click to Close Message" href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(168846371)"><span>Close Message</span> Comment posted. <p class="idc-nomargin"><a class="idc-share-facebook" onclick="IDC.ui.fb_wrapper(168846371)" href="javascript: void(null)" style="text-decoration: none;"><span class="idc-share-inner"><span>Share on Facebook</span></span> or <a href="javascript: IDC.ui.close_message(168846371)">Close MessageIrrelevant Arnold is a lib. Libs control the State House. 'nuff said.

  10. code promo sfr Says:

    In a nutshell, the court declared that video games use familiar literary devices to tell stories, just like books, plays and movies. And because the United States has no history of regulating depictions of violence, the California laws attempt to do so was unprecedented and mistaken. As for whether violent games pose a greater risk to society because of their interactive nature, the justices were unconvinced by existing research, none of which has found that violent games cause violent behavior. i lik it!

  11. Brandon Slots Says:

    The violent game law is just an excuse for parents to stop doing their parental duty, which is to impart the right values and teach children playing video games between right and wrong. We often rely on laws to force us into doing what is often morally right, like speeding laws, or drug laws. If you see a video game that is too violent for your children, stop buying the games for them! If you see your children playing them, stop them!