Court Strikes Violent Video Game Ban

In a 7-2 vote the Supreme Court threw out California’s ban on the rental or sale of violent video games to children.  The decision was not much of a surprise as other laws have faced similar fates in the federal court.

Supporters of the California law argued that exposure to violent video games can cause children to become more aggressive over time.  The violent idea, supporters claim, can become the source of violent behavior.

But those opposed to the ban argue that even if that social argument is true, a point they did not readily concede, it is not the role of government to act as a gatekeeper against such exposure.  Rather, opponents of the ban argued, that job falls squarely to the parents.

The Court agreed, holding that the law violated minors’ rights under the First and the Fourteenth amendments.

Currently six other states have similar laws restricting minors’ access to violent video games.  The California law targeted video games that give the player the option of “killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.”  The law covered only those games where the acts are shown in a way that a “reasonable person” would find appealing to a “deviant or morbid interest of minors.”  If the content would violate community standards on what minors should see, if the content lacks serious value, and if the player can inflict injury through “torture or serious physical abuse” of a human-like figure.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that the evidence was just not persuasive enough to recognize restricting the content of certain games in this case.  While the First Amendment certainly contains some limitations, violence has never been treated the same as obscenity which is not entitled to First Amendment protections.

Justice Scalia also noted that holding violence in the same league as obscenity would have some unintended consequences as everything from Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Hansel and Gretel are filled with violent images.

Justice Scalia’s opinion was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  Justices Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts agreed with the outcome but on different grounds while Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer dissented.


photo courtesy of Collin Allen via Flickr


Barbara V.
Barbara V6 years ago

I believe the news and these tv shows like jersey shore or the house wives of anywhere to mention a few, do more harm than any video game could ever do. It teaches kids it's ok to be rude, violent and drunk and you too can have a tv show and be famous and most of all there is no consequence to your action in fact you are rewarded for it. The news desensitizes us to the violence and wars going on in this world because thats all they ever talk about. Why are these forms of media NOT blamed for the "violent behavior" they say video games cause? How about parents that don't give their kids the right kind of attention, or any attention at all sometimes, blame that as well but to point your finger at video games is pure trash!! I love gaming and I played games with my son and now I game with my grandchildren (4 of them) all the time and they are NOT violent or rude.

Sam H.
Sam H.6 years ago

Usually violent video games help me relieve my anger. So I take it out on virtual people on real ones.

Jennifer Smith
Jennifer Smith6 years ago

Growing up, I watched a LOT of fantasy movies, some quite graphic. I played a number of video games, one of my favorites involved being the villain who lived to torcher and murder all humans.

Guess what? I LOVED playing it when I was in the mood to hurt someone. Safe way to remove anger and frustration at life, without hurting a soul.

Bottom line? I don't buy that everyone is going to get more violent because they play these games. I don't think they should be banned across the board because people use them as an excuse for things going wrong. Just because someone plays a video game/AD&D/watches violent movies/listens to rock and roll/whatever dose not mean it's bad, or that it causes problems.

This reaction to games is like someone saying 'All mass murders breath air! We should ban air!'

colleen p.
colleen p6 years ago

I wonder how many violet media outlets the people who say we should kill hunters, whalers, rabbit eaters engage in? I hope those folks will never act on it. just join any AR discussion on hunting, you will get a "grrrr, to many of this animal? there are to many of us! I say kill and hunt the humans!"

there you go. these murderous children are their godsend.

Judith Corrigan
Judith Corrigan6 years ago

There has always been violence and murder wherever there has been humans.Not all humans are violent but not all are peaceful.Video games have only been around for the last thirty years,you do the math.

Jaime Moore
Jaime Moore6 years ago

I am an educator and see first-hand the effect that these games have on young children. Children whose parents aren't educated enough, or are too busy, or just don't care, and let them play these games end up having problems in school, and in life. They obsess over these games and cannot think about anything else. I do not believe that all of the evidence was looked at objectively.
Secondly, for those of you who say you grew up playing these games, these games were never as violent and realistic as they are today. Children who are younger than 6 or 7 cannot always properly distinguish between reality and fantasy. So, when a 4 year old plays Halo, they think that it is real. Their brain is still growing, more than it ever will again, and when they think that it is normal to shoot a person's brains out, then why are they going to care when someone tells them, that no, it's not okay to go punch that kid over there, that that kid has feelings that should be respected.

These games should be illegal for kids, corresponding to the ratings that they are given, and parents should be held accountable when they allow their kids to play them. Smoking isn't good for kids either, which is why it is illegal for kids to smoke. We owe it to our children, and our society, to ban these games for kids.

Parvez Z.
Parvez Zuberi6 years ago

thanks for the article

Susan M.
Susan Meade6 years ago

I can't help but think there's been a payoff here to someone. Anyone should be able to figure out that not all parents have the time or inclination to protect their children from violent images, nor understand the harm it does. Why on earth would a judge want to promote viewing of violence for children? One has to ask...

Catherine Turley
Catherine Turley6 years ago

how do movie theatres legally deny kids their rights to watch explicit films? what's the difference?

Kara C.
Kara C6 years ago

played violent video games all the time as a child, I still do and will forever find them enjoyable and somehow relaxing. Its great that this law wasn't passed, its up to the parents to decide whats right for their children and not have the state be everyone's parent.