Chaturday: Have You Thanked Your Local National Supreme Court Today?

Given the recent climate in and around the gaming industry, the average gamer can’t really be faulted for being at least a little afraid of the path that our beloved medium is heading down, one that millions of you have turned into an industry larger than television and film.

After all, certain forces have seemingly catapulted their efforts to demonize violent video games, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, and the White House and President himself have invited those very people to hammer down on their propaganda. People like Dave Grossman, who famously referred to violent games as “murder simulators,” would be pushing his unsupported views on a president whose own quotes seem to imply a rather lackadaisical view on the whole matter:

“It’s so incredible. I see it. I get to see things that you would be — you’d be amazed at. I have a young — very young son who — I look at some of the things he’s watching, and I say, ‘How is that possible?’ And this is what kids are watching.”

We shouldn’t be scared, and I can sum up why with one Supreme Court ruling with one majority opinion written by one Justice Antonin Scalia.

One constant throughout the industry is that retail stores do not sell (to the best of their ability) mature games to underage customers, but the reason why isn’t as clearly understood. Ask around and you’re bound to hear answers from both customers and retail workers that the reason is because it’s illegal, others point to store policy. The latter are correct.

There are no laws on the books in the United States that criminalize the sale of mature rated games to underage customers and if there are, they’ve gone unnoticed due to not being enforced, and if they’ve been enforced they’ve been overturned. Of all the things I talk about being without precedent, this is definitely not one of them.

And you can thank Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senator Leland Yee for this ruling, because in 2005 the California State Legislature passed a law that banned the sale of violent games to anyone under 18 and imposed a fine of up to $1,000 for each violation. Senator Yee sponsored the bill and Governor Schwarzenegger signed it. A strong proponent of regulating video games, Lee was later arrested in 2014 and convicted of felony racketeering, money laundering, public corruption, after he was caught buying firearms from Philippine terrorists and attempted to sell them to an undercover FBI agent.

Representatives of the industry including the Entertainment Software Association were successful in suing the bill before it went into effect, with California appealing to the Ninth Circuit Court, only to have the court find the act unconstitutional as it compelled speech that was not factual (the law required violent games to affix a warning to each box). The law was appealed again and went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court.

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that the law was unconstitutional and violated the first and fourteenth amendments. Majority opinion was written by Justice Scalia who noted the lack of compelling evidence linking video games and violent behavior, the successful self-regulation implemented via the ESRB, and the notion that violent games were entitled to just as much protection as violent cartoons like Looney Tunes.

So if you’re afraid of a looming war against games, don’t be. The organizations that fought against the bill in California and the nearly dozen other states where similar laws cropped up are still around, the ESA wouldn’t let such legislation go without a fight, and we have the Supreme Court on our side ruling that any such legislation would be unconstitutional.

Other than that, I have no opinion on the matter.

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