Eminent U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Video Games to ComeBy Ajané Celestin-Greer | June 13, 2011 | News | No comments | Share
One of the biggest and toughest cases currently pending in the United States Supreme court is one that specifically affects gamers– at least gamers in California. California’s law of forbidding the sale of grotesquely violent video games to minors is being challenged as to whether or not it is “unconstitutional” and therefore breaks the U.S. Constitution. The law imposes a $1,000 fine on anybody who sells or rents these games to anyone under 18. The law, while written, was never enforced since the moment the video game industry caught wind of it, they sued.
The issues are whether or not the First Amendment (which deals with freedom of speech) allows restriction on “offensive” content in video games when dealing with minors, as the gaming industry claims minors are entitled to the same First Amendment rights as adults.
Supporters of the law say there is no logic in treating violent material any different than sexually explicit material, which has long been banned for minors. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the California Psychological Association, among others cite past studies that confirm that violent video games are violent, citing testimony before U.S. Congress by “national experts, medical and mental health professional associations and others, the gist of which is that there is a significant relationship between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior, and that repeated exposure leads to general increases in aggressiveness over time.”
Those challenging the law claim that video games are merely the latest art form that is being accused of harming children, citing that comic books, true-crime novels, movies and rock music, among many others, have all undergone persecution in the past.
The opposition also attacks the fact that the law is “ill-defined” and based on unsupported claims with loose interpretations. They also mention the fact that California only seeks to restrict this law to the gaming industry, not to other forms of media. They state that the issue is really whether science shows that violent video games have a greater effect than other media, of which no studies have yet shown.
Even the film industry has spoken out against the law, stating “If this (Supreme) Court were to hold that California’s statute is valid, it would have a dramatic chilling effect on the motion picture industry,” which is currently self-regulated.
Because of the larger consequences that this law could spark across the U.S., this case is one to watch. The Supreme Court has said they will announce the ruling by the end of the month.