Supreme Court Rules that California Cannot Ban Violent Games Sales

We’re Safe

In 2005, then-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law that prohibited the sale of violent games to children under the age of 18. The ruling would require warning-stickers to be added to the boxes of those games with violent content, in addition to the ESRB rating. If that wasn’t enough, a $1000 fine would be enforced every time the law was not followed in stores. However, the Supreme Court ruled today that such a law is unconstitutional.

The case, called Brown (renamed for the current California governor) v. EMA, was declared unconstitutional 7-2 in favor of the EMA. Justice Scalia wrote the opinion of the court’s decision, citing the all-powerful First Amendment as the basis for the decision.

Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.

Justice Scalia went on to say that the case of the state of California would have been stronger if there was a “longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none”.

The state also used a claim that “video games present special problems because they are ‘interactive'”. Again, Justice Scalia shot down that claim by stating choose-your-own adventure books have some degree of interactivity because the reader chooses the plot.

While this case may be over, there is a possibility that other states might try to enforce this kind of law through different methods. After all, the opinion did say that the law is “invalid unless California can demonstrate that it passes strict scrutiny — that is, unless it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest”.

For the opinion in its entirety, read it here.

Source: Game Informer


Comments
3 Responses to “Supreme Court Rules that California Cannot Ban Violent Games Sales”
  1. Chad M. says:

    I’m just saying, pretty ironic that a guy who made his living off of violent media is trying to come down hard on other violent media. On the other hand, Scalia citing Choose Your Own Adventure books? Crowning moment of Awesome.

    • Rexly Penaflorida II says:

      He actually used a lot of examples such as Snow White, Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hansel and Gretel to show that kids are exposed to violence at a very early age.

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