In the latest (and highest court) decision on the issue, the US Supreme Court has rejected California’s ban on selling violent video games to children.
As reported in the New York Times,
The California law would have imposed $1,000 fines on stores that sold violent video games to anyone under 18.
It defined violent games as those “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a way that was “patently offensive,” appealed to minors’ “deviant or morbid interests” and lacked “serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, held that video games are entitled to First Amendment protection:
Depictions of violence, Justice Scalia added, have never been subject to government regulation. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed,” he wrote, recounting the gory plots of “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Hansel and Gretel.” High school reading lists and Saturday morning cartoons, too, he said, are riddled with violence.
A long line of cases have struck down legislative attempts to prevent minors from buying, renting, or playing violent video games. In the Kendrick decision, the always-eloquent Judge Posner tied found exposure to violent media necessary for the healthy development of children:
Violence has always been and remains a central interest of humankind and a recurrent, even obsessive theme of culture both high and low. It engages the interest of children from an early age, as anyone familiar with the classic fairy tales collected by Grimm, Andersen, and Perrault is aware. To shield children right up to the age of 18 from exposure to violent descriptions and images would not only be quixotic, but deforming; it would leave them unequipped to cope with the world as we know it.
What do others think? Are children “deformed” if they aren’t exposed to violent images? Can the law impose no limits on the nature and amount of violence to which they are exposed?