In a "ringing endorsement of free speech," the U.S. Supreme Court voted 7-2 on Monday to strike down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors. "No doubt a state possesses legitimate power to protect children from harm," said Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion. "But that does not include a free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed." The ruling now puts video games, even extremely violent ones, in the same class of protection as books, movies, and music, with Scalia arguing that children's books that are considered suitable for minors — Grimm's Fairy Tales, for example — "contain no shortage of gore." Did the court make the correct call? (Watch a CNN report about the decision.)
SCOTUS got this one right: Scalia is right to compare violent video games to violent literature, says Hayley Tsukayama at The Washington Post. It really doesn't get "any more gruesome" than that "eye-plucking scene" in Homer's Odyssey. "I get shivers from imagining the torture in George Orwell's 1984," but am "relatively unfazed by the spine-ripping, heart-tearing moves in Mortal Kombat." Parents, not the court, should be the ones who decide "what's appropriate for their children."
"Supreme Court: Books as 'interactive' as video games"
Actually, the court is missing the point: This isn't even a case about free speech, says Carolyn Castiglia at Babble, since no one "is questioning the right of game designers to make video games." The argument is whether those games should be readily available to impressionable children. Moreover, video games are in a different class of entertainment than books, because users actually "control the execution of violent acts."
"DUMB: Supreme Court overturns CA law banning sale of violent video games to children"
But the original sales ban made no sense: California's argument that video games are more interactive than books "never held much water," says Eric Abent at TFTS. As Scalia writes in his opinion, books and movies can be "just as engrossing as video games." Besides, most gamers, "adult and minor," know the difference between reality and fantasy. And while "you may have some difficulty explaining that difference to a 5-year-old," it's unlikely that the tot is the "member of the household heading to GameStop to pick up Black Ops and Halo."
"Supreme Court strikes down California violent video game law"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal
- Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more
- This judge is the reason we're still fighting over net neutrality
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Is it now OK to have sex with animals?
- How to adopt the perfect rescue dog
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- The week's best photojournalism
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
Subscribe to the Week