SCOTUS: Game over for violent video game law

June 27, 2011

Duke Nukem Forever box
Last November I wrote about a case on the Supreme Court’s docket concerning California’s violent video game law. The law would impose a $1,000 fine on retailers selling “violent” video games to minors. At oral argument, Justice Scalia took the state of California to task for implementing such a law, questioning how the state could properly determine what is “violent,” and whether the state had the right to do so with video games.  Today the court, in a 5-4 opinion penned by Justice Scalia, struck down the law as violating the 1st Amendment. The court ruled that video games, “like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them,” deserved 1st Amendment protection, and California’s law went too far in restricting the expression of ideas conveyed in the games.

As other commentators noted last year, upholding California’s law would make video games the only type of media illegal to sell to minors based on violent content.  By striking down the law, and giving video games 1st Amendment protection, not only is the court on the path to protecting and encouraging more mature, and realistic games, but the decision helps give credence to the argument that the genre should be viewed as a form of art worthy of protection.

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