The United States Supreme Court has sided with the gaming industry and ruled against the California law that banned violent video game sales to minors. The court ruled 7-2 that video games fall under the same First Amendment protection that movies, literature, and other media are afforded.
Justice Antonin Scalia, traditionally the most conservative member of the Court, argued that there is no valid reason that freedom of speech should be restricted just because games are a relatively new cultural medium, and that to do so would be a restriction of expression. Justice Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts also concurred with the majority opinion, though Alito expressed concern that future video games could portray too realistic representations of violence and therefore could influence minors. Ultimately, Alito agreed with the majority opinion because he believes the California law was too vague and needed more specific restrictions.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer dissented. Thomas believes that the principles of “free speech” found in the Constitution do not apply to minors, that freedom of speech only allows speech directed at minors to go through their parents first, and therefore it should be up to the parents to make decisions regarding what their children play. Breyer noted a double standard in the ruling, where the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of keeping sexual imagery out of the hands of minors, but against keeping violent imagery away from them.
The ruling is a huge step for gaming as a medium, as the highest court in the land has ruled that games deserve the same recognition as a medium under the First Amendment.