The U.S. Supreme Court just threw its gavel into the fray over a California law aimed at preventing minors from buying "violent" video games.
The high court granted a writ of certiorari to review the California law after two lower courts--a federal judge in San Jose as well as the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals--ruled that California failed to provide sufficient evidence proving minors are in fact harmed by violent video games. The lower courts struck down the California law as unconstitutional, citing issues related to free speech and stating there were less restrictive ways to regulate violent video games, such as automated parental controls in modern video game systems.
California had argued that violent video games psychologically harm minors and encourage aggressive or antisocial behavior. Whether they do or don't, or to what degree, remains highly controversial, of course, with the preponderance of evidence (or lack thereof) weighing against the handful of aggression researchers who claim as much (the clueless pundits notwithstanding).
In a response issued by the Entertainment Software Association, the video game industry trade association, its president and CEO Michael Gallagher said that US courts have consistently found regulation of electronic gaming unconstitutional, that the public agrees, and that video games "should be provided the same protections as books, movies and music."
"As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few 'historic and traditional categories' that are 'well-defined and narrowly limited'," said Gallagher. "We are hopeful that the Court will reject California's invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment."
According to Gallagher, a KRC Research poll found that "78 percent [surveyed] believe video games should be afforded First Amendment protection."
My two cents: California's attempt to equate violent video games with "sexually explicit materials" (in terms of restrictions thereon) is utterly deluded. You might as well try banning films like The Brown Bunny. Or End of Days (in which the California law's proponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has a "strong" sex scene). Or guide books like 365 Sex Positions: A New Way Every Day for a Steamy, Erotic Year.
And even if it turns out, somewhere down the line--once truly competent studies have been conducted and peer-vetted--that violent games have a noteworthy impact on psychological well-being (whatever that is), games would still deserve the same First Amendment protections as books, movies, and music.
The KRC Research poll is argument enough. America gets it. We don't want government (or state) regulation of video games.
Now spread the word.
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