In an effort to curb teenage violence and hopefully encourage kids to ease up on the amount of time they spend playing video games, California enacted a law banning the sale of violent video games to minors. All video games sold in the U.S. must portray a rating anywhere from “E” for everyone to “MA” for mature audiences only. The law requires vendors to fork over up to $1,000 for selling graphically violent games to consumes under age 18. The law has yet to take effect in California because the video game industry sued immediately.
June marks the final month for the Supreme Court as it winds down the term. This month is always the busiest for the Court as it renders opinions for a number of cases heard over the past 8 months. While no oral arguments are schedule for the month of June, over 30 judicial opinions are set to be given. Brown v. E.M.A. has been sitting on the docket longer than any other case heard this year. Many hope that the ruling will be handed down today. As of yet, no word on whether the law will be upheld.
Supporters of the law are clearly looking after the best interests of California’s children by seeking to limit and restrict their exposure to games which depict ” killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being….” According to briefs filed for the Petitioner, the California legislature took great pains in reviewing reports from social scientists, articles and psychological studies. After dissecting the reports, the legislature concluded that the correlation between exposure to these games as children and subsequent anti-social and violent behavior as adults was too great to be ignored.
In the alternative, opponents of the law concluded that the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech as applied to minors and this violent video game restriction unconstitutionally interferes with those rights. In briefs filed by the Respondents, E.M.A. Games, the Petitioners’ position was categorized as nothing more than an overreaction to “new, expressive media.” The Respondents went on to compare the games to historically-challenged comic books, crime novels, rock music and movies. In addition to E.M.A.’s First Amendment assertions, it pointed out that Californians do not need assistance in choosing appropriate video games for their children.
Petitioner’s position, filed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was supported by groups such as the California Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the California Psychological Association, Common Sense Media and the states of Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia.
Respondent’s received amicus support from the Motion Picture Association of America, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the Cato Institute, the ACLU and the states of Rhode Island, Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.