In a case decided today, the Supreme Court invalidated a California statute banning the sale of violent video games to minors. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority in a 7-2 decision and held that video games are protected speech under the First Amendment. Due to this constitutional protection, the law faced a heightened "strict scrutiny" standard, under which the state needs to show that a law is justified by a compelling government interest and that it is narrowly drawn to serve that interest. Since the state was unable to show the existence of a direct link between violent video games and violent actions by minors, and since the law did not seek to restrict access to other violent media, the law did not reach the necessary standard. The Court rejected the argument that the interactive nature of video games distinguishes it from other forms of violent media.
Source: 2011 WL 2518809 United States Supreme Court
@anon_mastermind Yeah, but wouldn't this law primarily punish, like, 18-year-old GameStop clerks? And why should the gaming industry always be singled out? Because it can't afford a huge lobby?
I kind of think the ESRB is holding the industry back in a lot of ways, as well, just like the Comics Code did to that industry. The Virtual Console would probably be a lot better if every title didn't need to go through a rating process. Also, ESRB standards are so much stricter than Hollywood standards.
I can't really think of a better solution, offhand, though. (To a 'problem' that honestly has nothing to do with me.)
Well yeah. The ruling essentially makes it incredibly difficult for the state to create laws that regulate content. That's not a bad thing in my opinion.
I'm generally neither an anti nor pro government intervention guy (too case by case for me to have a blanket opinion) but as the ruling also includes the notion that games have artistic merit, it's hard to have too much beef with it.
@Anand I think you're right that the ESRB is holding back the industry (I recall the Manhunt 2 fiasco which was pretty retarded). And you're right about the VC, rating costs are a real deterrent. But I think ratings are very helpful guide to parents who are not-so-savvy on the gaming industry. There is a gray area where 14-17 year old kids are probably mature enough to handle M-rated games, but the 13-and younger crowd shouldn't be exposed to that (IMO), and in the end the decision should fall on the parent's shoulders. Maybe we would get more solid T-rated games like GoldenEye that don't go out of their way to slather on the gore, sex, and language for no good reason.
There's an extent to which the latter part of your post is kind of the point, though. If someone is compelled to make a game that slathers on the gore, sex and language, they don't need a "good reason" to do so. The content should be rated or information about it should be disseminated in such a way as to allow consumers to make educated purchasing decisions. But if gaming is a form of artistic expression, content shouldn't be regulated by a state authority.
Again though, that's not to say that there aren't better ways of doing things than the current model.
@anon_mastermind Yeah, I can see that, I guess. Some sort of system for uninformed parents should probably be in place. I just wish the standards were closer to parity with every other medium. And, again, that the gaming industry wasn't singled out like this, just because they're not really part of the 'system'. That's not cool.
And, from what I remember, this law would mostly punish adolescent store clerks. Does the government really need to take their money?
Back to the ratings thing, though, games that go beyond M (by having, say, some brief PG-13 nudity) are just screwed, because console manufacturer's don't want to take the liability. Isn't that a huge failure of the current system, when games can't be specifically marketed to and played by adults, just because children exist?
I don't even play many 'mature' games in the first place, but I still think that kind of content should be allowed on the market.
@Kal-El814 Actually, I realized that there is a good reason for it. This stuff is done in excess to appear "cool" to minors, mostly. And the advertising is aimed squarely at that age group (Dead Space 2's "your mom hates dead space" sticks out to me). I don't know, something about this just irks me.
@Anand Doesn't the movie industry kind of work like this (in theaters)? I remember not being allowed to buy tickets to R-rated films.
I'd be more in favor of punishing the corporation, not the clerk. Either way it does seem like a government cash grab.
@anon_mastermind Right, you 'can't' buy a ticket to an R-rated film. Just like you 'can't' buy an M-Rated game. I think the difference is that this bill applied financially punitive measures to breaking that rule. Even though I'm pretty sure the studies have shown that there are less violations in game stores than in movie theaters.
Basically, politicians want to make the case that gaming is somehow different and more insidious than other forms of media. Y'know, like SAW 4. And that it has no artistic merit, and therefore cannot be protected by the same freedom of speech that other media enjoy. Again, not cool.
Yeah, true enough. Though advertising is always tricky, as the people developing the game rarely have any say into how their product will be advertised. It's a related but separate issue though, I agree.