Friday, November 12, 2010

Video Games and the First Amendment

New York Times
November 11, 2010

If the Supreme Court renders justice in a case it heard this month, Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, it will strike down a California law barring the sale or rental of violent video games to anyone under 18. That would end a violation of free expression — but not prevent the states from finding other ways to support parents who do not want their children to play violent games.

Some of these games are grotesquely violent. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Postal 2, and Duke Nukem 3D graphically depict mutilation, torture, rape and murder. Players don’t read about violence or just see it. They act it out. Parents worry that young people may engage in violent behavior or suffer psychological harm.

Restricting the content of games, however, would mean adding to the short list of expression excluded from the First Amendment’s protection. Just last April, the court said the Constitution does not permit the government to impose a restriction “simply on the basis that some speech is not worth it.”