In some serious, political news, the Supreme Court of the United States has finally issued its opinion in the drawn-out case that is Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. That is, the case to determine whether or not the government could restrict the sale of violent video games to minors.
By a vote of seven to two, the court found that the California law which forbids the sale of violent video games to minors is actually unconstitutional in the United States, as it imposes a restriction on the concept of free speech. The law also cannot satisfy strict scrutiny, according to the [surl=http://www.scotusblog.com/2011/06/evening-round-up-2/]SCOTUS blog[/surl] on the topic.
Justice Scalia wrote the opinion on the topic, which explains:
…the act forbidding sale or rental of violent games to minors does not comport with the 1st Amendment.
Justices Thomas and Breyer voted against the move.
Predictably, this finding has caused ripples all through the American games media, with the law’s author, California state senator Leland Yee reportedly less than pleased with the court’s decision.
The law was signed into law by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, and was immediately challenged by both the games industry as well as retail advocacy groups. Quickly placed under a permanent injunction, the law was found to be unconstitutional at that time, but a series of appeals and counter-appeals were soon to follow.
While this decision is a positive one for gamers in the United States, community groups have already begun rallying the troops in opposition, with the [surl=http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2011/0627/What-next-after-Supreme-Court-ruling-on-violent-video-games]Christian Science Monitor[/surl] claiming that “The scales of justice are still swinging despite this decision”.
In other markets, these laws are already in place. In Australia it is illegal to purchase an MA15+ rated video game if the customer is under 15 years of age. In the United States, however, while individual retailers can make rules and policies regarding adult or violent content, these are not enforceable by law.
According to [surl=http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/09/harder-for-kids-to-buy-m-rated-video-game-than-see-r-rated-movie.ars]recent studies[/surl], it is currently more difficult for a child to purchase an M-rated video game (considered suitable for 17+) than it is to watch, purchase or rent an R-rated film or DVD. The government has no part in the arrangement, but the industry is looking after itself just fine.