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[News] [Analysis] Supreme Court knocks out California video game law June 27, 2011

Posted by Colin in News.
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In a 7-2 decision the Supreme Court upheld an appeal to California Civil Code sections 1746-1746.5, which banned the sale of violent video games to minors (read the technical version here). The case (now known as Brown v. EMA) has been awaiting resolution since last November, when the State of California and the Entertainment Merchant’s Association presented their arguments.

The discussion, which you can listen to or read here, came down to an argument of definitions: are violent video games obscene? Or, more astutely, does violence qualify as obscenity?

Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the court’s opinion, stating:

“Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the First Amendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of ’sexual conduct.” Under Miller v. California (1973) the Supreme Court ruled that ‘obscenity’ (a particular type of unprotected speech) refers to specifically sexual content – not violent content, as the California law proposed.

This is the seventh such law banning violent video games to be struck down in the United States, but the first to make it all the way to the Supreme Court. The full text of the Supreme Court decision is available here (.pdf)

The decision seems to extend (or at least solidify) First Amendment protection for video games. 2011 has been a banner year for video games: in May, the National Endowment for the Arts rewrote its guidelines for the Arts in Media category, allowing video games to qualify for grants.

Roger Ebert is not pleased

Could it be that video games are gaining ground as a “serious” medium? With increasing publicity and legislation, it is easy to hope so. Plus, consider the facts: Americans spent over 25 billion dollars on video games in 2010. The average age of a gamer is now 37. This could be the start of a bright new future for the medium…

*Sigh* ... Just... NEVER MIND