On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court found that banning the sale of violent video games violates the 1st Amendment.
The Court’s 7-2 verdict in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association struck down a California law that prohibited the sale or rental of violent video games to minors and required the games’ packaging to be specifically labeled for ages 18 and older.
The law in question, California Assembly Bill 1179, covered games “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being, if those acts are depicted” in such a way that “causes the game, as a whole, to lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors,” according to the Court’s opinion, which was composed by Justice Antonin Scalia.
“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection,” the opinion read.
“Under our Constitution, ‘esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature… are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.’”