At a 7-2 vote, the law that California planned to use to keep violent games from being sold to minors was branded unconstitutional, and would create an exception to the first amendment equal in power to not applying to obscenity.
The law was intended to prohibit stores from selling videogames considered to be “too violent” to anyone under 18. The main issues with this is that videogames, like it or not, are as protected in their speech as books and movies. The second issue is that the ESRB, a completely independent but respected group is in charge of a completely optional rating system, and has zero legal authority.
Additionally, it would result in developers having to tone down their games just because of ONE state’s unconstitutional law, and stores would probably not bother selling violent games in fear of fines and punishments beyond that.
Part of the decision reads “Instead, the State wishes to create a wholly new category of content-based regulation that is permissible only for speech directed at children. That is unprecedented and mistaken. This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that ‘interactive’ video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome, is unpersuasive.”
Exactly what gamers have been saying for years.
A significant amount of Teen games have widely varying levels of violent content. Ratchet and Clank for example is rated Teen, yet there is very little violence against humanoid targets, and there is absolutely no blood or gore whatsoever. Xenosaga on the other hand is borderline Mature in its graphic violence, the intro to which involves large amounts of dead bodies lying around is sizable pools of blood. Still rated Teen.
So, all in all, the Supreme Court has spoken and has said that any law that restricts the sale of violent content to minors is unconstitutional, and thus, unenforceable.
You can read the 92-page PDF here. Enjoy. Scalia’s opinions are always a good read because of how much of a snarker he is.