Supreme Court Decision on Restriction of Access of Games to Minors

When I wrote about Games, Crime, and the Law last week, I said to expect an explosion of commentary when the Supreme Court handed down the decision about whether California’s law (never enacted) restricting the sale of violent video games to minors was constitutional or not. That explosion is happening today, after the Court issued a 7:2 decision in favor of treating video games of all kinds the same as books and movies, equally protected by the First Amendment.

Personally, I am glad to see this, which should surprise none of you. As far back as September 2009, the FCC cited the ESRB video game ratings system as exceptionally clear and informative, making it one of the best self-regulating industries out there. Parents with concerns about games have the tools to make informed decisions, and to open up discussions with their minor children about what’s appropriate and what is not — and why.

The ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement and particularly Article V of the Library Bill of Rights might bear re-reading today. I have said it before and will say it again: games are stories like other stories, media like other media. Judge Scalia, writing for the majority, said “‘The basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary’ with a new and different communication medium.”

I expect to write more about this when I’ve had time to read and digest the full decision. You can read it for yourself here.



  1. History suggests the FCC will support most media endeavors that stand to make obscene long-term profits. So their involvement in any issue of access should move us to, at the very least, turn on our BS detectors. Meanwhile, Antonin Scalia’s comparison of uber-violent games like L.A. Noir to Grimm’s Fairy Tales is preposterous, at best. It certainly didn’t do anything to help his sales pitch.

    In any case, I remain on the fence about this one and look forward to seeing what happens with the challenges by Thomas and Breyer. Cheers.