The American video games industry has today emerged victorious in its six-year battle with Californian authorities.
The US Supreme Court today ruled in favour of gaming in the case entitled Brown, Governor of California et al vs Entertainment Merchants Association et al.
This means gaming is now safe from the possible threat of legally enforceable games ratings that would restrict the sale of some content.
In a movement begun by none other than violent film star Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, lawmakers had hoped to illegals the sale of mature and violent video games to minors.
Unlike here in the UK, it’s not actually illegal to sell violent games to kids in the US. Instead, the industry polices itself through a voluntary code of conduct.
Had a been been passed it would have represented a significant compromise of the American First Amendment and isolated games from other forms of media such as movies and books.
Indeed, it was this clash with the First Amendment that eventually saw Californian authorities defeated.
Under Schwarzenegger’s stewardship a law had actually been passed to illegals the sale of adult games to minors, though the law was eventually found to be unconstitutional by Californian courts.
"The Act does not comport with the First Amendment," the court ruled. "Video games qualify for First Amendment p"rotection.
"This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that ‘interactive’ video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome, is unpersuasive.
Because the Act imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it passes strict scrutiny, i.e., it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest. California cannot meet that standard.
"Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.
"Since California has declined to restrict those other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation is wildly underinclusive, raising serious doubts about whether the State is pursuing the interest it invokes or is instead disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint.
"California also cannot show that the Act’s restrictions meet the alleged substantial need of parents who wish to restrict their children’s access to violent videos. The video-game industry’s voluntary rating system already accomplishes that to a large extent. Moreover, as a means of assisting parents the Act is greatly overinclusive, since not all of the children who are prohibited from purchasing violent video games have parents who disapprove of their doing so. The Act cannot satisfy strict scrutiny."