Monday, June 27, 2011

US Supreme Court Strikes Down California Video Game Law

From the Associated Press:

The Supreme Court says California cannot ban the rental or sale of violent video games to children.

The high court agreed Monday with a federal court's decision to throw out California's ban on the sale or rental of violent video games to minors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento said the law violated minors' rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments.

The law would have prohibited the sale or rental of violent games to anyone under 18. Retailers who violated the act would have been fined up to $1,000 for each infraction.

The court on a 7-2 vote said the law was unconstitutional.

More than 46 million American households have at least one video-game system, with the industry bringing in at least $18 billion in 2010.
I don't play many video games these days (mostly Rock Band, or emulators running old games on my Wii, like Donkey Kong or Echo the Dolphin), but this is a decision with ramifications for the RPG industry, and I'm very pleased that the court's decision was so clear.

Setting aside the arguments about parents having the right to make decisions about what their children can or cannot play, if California (or any state) has the power to ban or restrict video games based on violent content, they set the precident that they have the power to do so for tabletop games as well. Further, nothing would have been able to stop them at just restricting violent content; they could have, in theory, used any sort of "community standards" to do so; religious themes, nudity, etc. Today it's Grand Theft Auto IV, tomorrow it could be Carcossa or LotFP: Grindhouse.

All in all, while this was a direct victory for the video game industry, it was an indirect victory for the RPG industry as well, and for free speech in general.