Supreme Court Strikes Down Video Game Violence Law

Dean Takahashi, VentureBeat:

The state law restricted the sale or rental of violent video games to minors, but the court upheld a Ninth Circuit court of appeals ruling that said the act violated the First Amendment. For the first time, the highest court in the country will give games the same legal protection that books, plays, and movies enjoy, because games “communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium.” The court cited a previous case that held, “the basic principles of freedom of speech do not vary with a new and different communication medium.” With that, a long chapter of legal warfare will end and the video game industry can enjoy its own measure of creative freedom.

Finally, some progress.

Then again, although I’m happy that this decision was made and that video games now have a little more freedom of expression, I do understand and agree that there are certain games I wouldn’t want my child to play. The question then becomes ‘How much violence is too much?’

I know for a fact that I’d never let any child of mine play Manhunt, if only because it’s brutally gruesome. Games like Grand Theft Auto are a bit on the grey side. Most teenagers who play the game easily know the difference between a game and real life. Ultimately, it’s up to parents to monitor their children and guide them in their video game choices and consumption.

There were some pertinent points made by two of the judges, Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas:

“The statute prevents no one from playing a video game, it prevents no adult from buying a video game, and it prevents no child or adolescent from obtaining a game provided a parent is willing to help,” Breyer wrote. “All it prevents is a child from buying, without a parent’s assistance, a gruesomely violent video game of a kind that the industry itself tells us it wants to keep out of the hands of those under the age of 17.”

Justice Thomas … argued that parents have authority over children and can thus control what speech their children hear or see. He says there is a long tradition behind that belief and that video game publishers do not have the unfettered right to speak to children without restraints.



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