The US Supreme Court today sided with the video game industry, in the six-year legal match with California lawmakers who wanted to make it a crime for anyone in the state to sell violent games to kids. In a 7-2 ruling, Justice Antonin Scalia said the law does not comport with the First Amendment.
Others joined in dissent as the court found no compelling evidence to state that video games are more damaging to children than other forms of media, such as film or music. This is a huge step for video games, as it should stop the spread of expensive legislation hurting the industry.
California's argument was that because video games are interactive, they are more problematic because the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome. The Supreme Court was not persuaded. Here's what the official decision stated (PDF):
Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And "the basic principles of freedom of speech…do not vary" with a new and different communication medium.
It also went on to say that psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. In fact, the demonstrated effects were found to be both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.
Previous state laws that have tried to enact similar bans on violent video games have been struck down as unconstitutional. California's law aimed to control the sale of "deviant violence" games to children, but could not properly define what deviant violence meant exactly.
In other words, the Supreme Court has once again declared that it is the responsibility of a child's parents to make sure they act responsibly (in this case, non-violently) in society. I have to say that I completely agree with this decision.
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