Supreme Court: Videogames, as other arts, are protected speech

By Anne Collier

The decision most probably settles the question of whether state laws can ban sales of violent videogames without violating the First Amendment. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court has struck down a California law that “tried to make the sale or rental of mature-rated video games to underage consumers an illegal offense punishable by fine,” Time reported. It was a landmark decision because, in a way, it made it official that videogames are an art form “afforded the same constitutional protections as visual art, film, music and other forms of expression,” Justice Antonin Scalia said in his opinion. The decision also sent a strong message that the research does not show a negative impact on children unique to videogames. “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,” the Court wrote. “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.” Time cites the view of a legal scholar that the decision is consistent with this court’s interest in using the First Amendment as a “deregulatory device” to keep government out of as much as possible. [My apologies for not getting this June decision to you sooner.]

Related links

* For background, my post from April 2010, when the Supreme Court decided to take up this issue, linking to coverage of research and similar federal court decisions in many other states * In a video, Constance Steinkuehler, a games and learning scholar at the University of Wisconsin, talks about her first-hand experiences with how “Online Games and Interest-Driven Learning are Transformative for Today’s Young Learners.”
*Play, Part 2: Violence in videogames,” the view of media scholar Henry Jenkins at the University of Southern California
*The power of play,” the view from psychiatrist Stuart Brown

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