In a decision that I have a feeling inspired wild, drunken Monday morning celebrations in the offices of gaming execs around the world, the Supreme Court ruled today that state governments — specifically California in this case — have no right to restrict the sale of violent video games to children, as to do such would be a violation of the First Amendment.
Reports USA Today:
“There is no tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence,” Justice Antonin Scalia said for a majority, as he read portions of his robust opinion from the bench Monday.
“Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed,” he said, observing that the California law was the latest in a long series of failed attempts to censor violent entertainment for minors. Before video games, he said, were campaigns against cheap novels comic books, television and music lyrics.
Scalia stressed that only rarely, for example in situations of obscenity, has the court allowed exceptions from First Amendment coverage for books, magazines and other materials. In the 1968 case of Ginsberg v. New York, the court permitted an exception that allowed government to restrict the sale of sexually explicit materials to minors. At issue was a New York ban on “girlie magazines.”
Now, I know what most of you are probably thinking right now: What the hell are Grimm’s Fairy Tales? You’ll just have to forgive Justice Scalia — he’s an old.
And for one of the few times in recent memory, Justice Clarence Thomas actually didn’t go along with whatever Scalia ruled, joining Justice Stephen Breyer as the Court’s lone dissenters.
In his dissent, Breyer wrote: “What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting a sale to that 13?-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her? What kind of First Amendment would permit the government to protect children by restricting sales of that extremely violent video game only when the woman — bound, gagged, tortured, and killed — is also topless?”
Michael Gallagher, head of the Entertainment Software Association, hailed the victory…
“This is a historic and complete win for the First Amendment and the creative freedom of artists and storytellers everywhere. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed what we have always known – that free speech protections apply every bit as much to video games as they do to other forms of creative expression like books, movies and music.”
Additionally, in the footnotes of his majority decision Scalia wrote, “LA Noire still sucks, btw. Now everybody dance to “Shooting Stars” by the Bag Raiders.” Who are we to deny him?