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US Supreme Court Votes in Favor of Protecting Video Games As Art

In a landmark 7 to 2 ruling, the justices of the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting video games sales under the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court ruling (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association) overturns the California Civil Code 1746-1746.5 which made the sale of M(ature)-rated video games to underage consumers illegal and punishable by hefty fines. The ruling specifically states that the California Civil Code does not comply with the freedom of speech and expression protected by the Fire Amendment and that, ultimately, was responsible for the court’s decision. Justices Thomas and Breyer were the pair of dissenters who thought otherwise.

To be sure, the Supreme Court ruling is a landmark legal event which will protect the artistic freedom of the video game industry. Unsurprisingly, many advocacy groups like the Video Game Voters Network are taking this opportunity to declare victory over attempts at unjust censorship.

But what they- and gamers in the know- are also celebrating is the Supreme Court’s recognition of video games as an artistic medium, not unlike plays, novels, or movies. In short, the ruling couldn’t be any more favorable for the video game industry.

…except it is! The Supreme Court also dismissed the assertion by the California legislature that violent video games engendered violence in impressionable youth:

“At the outset, it acknowledges that it [California] cannot show a direct causal link between violent video games and harm to minors. Rather, relying upon our decision in Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U. S. 622 (1994), the State claims that it need not produce such proof because the legislature can make a predictive judgment that such a link exists, basedon competing psychological studies. But reliance on Turner Broadcasting is misplaced.
Now that the victory is won, most gamers can admit that kids should not be playing graphic or explicit video games- but it is the responsibility of the child’s parents, not the state, to prevent them from doing so. I do not have a child of my own, but I don’t imagine I would react positively if I walked in on my hypothetical 10-year-old progeny playing Rumble Roses or glorying in Soul Calibur 4’s wanton gore and optional “bikini mode”. Yet these games have every right to exist and be sold freely, and the clumsy attempt by California’s legislature to restrict their sale ironically lead to its protection.

There is no doubt in my mind that the court might have voted differently if the case have been presented differently and if California’s law was worded more clearly (or supported by valid academic studies…) But it wasn’t, and the arrogance shown on the part of California’s law ultimately lead to a great day to be a gamer.

If only my PSP hadn’t bricked itself last night, I’d take it down to Washington for a few celebratory rounds at Adams-Morgan.

Author: Matt Diener

Posted in: News