Video Game Publisher: Supreme Court Victory Is Great For Liberty

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Video game publishers hailed the Supreme Court for ruling against a 2005 California law that aimed to prevent the sale of violent video games to children.

In a 7-2 vote, Justice Antonin Scalia delivered the opinion of the majority saying the law does not comply with the First Amendment. The law, put into place in 2005 by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, did not allow merchants to sell any video games to minors that showed killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.

The Case was The State of California vs. The Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). The law was struck down by a federal appeals court last year and then taken to the Supreme Court.

California's argument would fare better if there were a long standing tradition in this country of specially restricting children's access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read-or read to them when they are younger-contain no shortage of gore, Justice Scalia said.

Video game publishers like Vince Desi, chief executive officer of Running With Scissors, a company that has published the Postal series, says this win for the video game industry is a win for all. He said had the California law been upheld it would have been a slippery slope and other artistic mediums like TV and films would have been impacted. Instead, video games were protected as a creative art.

I went to sleep last night wondering if I still lived in America. I woke up and found out I still do, Desi said. This is a great day for America. It's what America is all about. There are no things I don't want to see produced just because I don't find them tasteful. Video games are today's form of expression and I was happy to see the highest court recognize it.

Desi's Postal series was targeted by the California government as a prime example of the genre's excessive violence. Desi said a lie reported in a Wall St. Journal story which said players could shoot a little girl in one of the games was used an example in the original California statute.

Despite the negative press, Desi can consider himself a victor after the Supreme Court ruling. Still, he doesn't see the issue going away.

To me, I really don't think this is the end of it. Someone else will take their ugly little head and creep it out of some hole find a way to personalize this into a personal issue against video games, Desi said. Although, the fact this ruling is from the highest court, I do think will make even the sleaziest politicians; take a deep breath before they criticize.

Video game associations like the EMA and ESA said the industry monitors itself using a rating system to prevent kids from buying violent games.

While we appreciate this victory in the court of law, it does not obviate the concern that parents may have about the appropriateness of some video games for their children. But, as the Court noted, the ESRB rating system for video games 'does much to ensure that minors cannot purchase seriously violent games on their own, and that parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home, Bo Andersen, president and chief executive of the EMA said.  

The EMA said it recognizes its role in helping prevent minors getting their hands on violent video games. The ESA released a statement praising the court for its ruling.

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, Michael D. Gallagher, president and chief executive of the ESA, said in a statement. The Court declared forcefully that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional; and that parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children.

Follow Gabriel Perna on Twitter at @GabrielSPerna

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