LL&D Law
Constitutionality of Laws Regulating Violent Video Games - Part 3

by Susan Loving
9/29/2011 4:03:00 PM

             The past two weeks we have discussed the case Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, in which the Supreme Court found a California law prohibiting sale of “violent video games” to minors, violated the First Amendment. The decision can be found at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-1448.ZS.html.

             The Court struck down the law after its supporters acknowledged they could not show a link between video games and harm to minors. Opponents of the law cited studies suggesting no such link, and Department of Justice statistics showing steadily decreasing rates of violent juvenile crime during the “video game era.”

             The Court’s discussion of the issue is quite interesting. As we previously noted, the Court said studies suggest any effects on minors from video games are indistinguishable from effects from unrestricted media, such as children’s stories and required high school reading. The Court noted Snow White poisoned the wicked queen and made her dance in red hot slippers till she died. Hansel and Gretel baked their captor in an oven. Odysseus blinded the Cyclops by grinding out his eye. Dante watched corrupt politicians boil in a lake of pitch, and Lord of the Flies recounts children savagely murdering a boy.

             Every new form of media, the Court said, raises controversy about its effect on children. In the 1800s, the Court observed, dime novels depicting crime were blamed for juvenile delinquency. A 1909 New York Times article stated: “The days when the police looked upon dime novels as the most dangerous of textbooks in the school for crime are drawing to a close .... They say that the moving picture machine ... tends even more than did the dime novel to turn the thoughts of the easily influenced to paths which sometimes lead to prison.” Radio dramas were blamed next, the Court said, then in the 1940s and 1950s, comic books. Superman comics were described as “particularly injurious to the ethical development of children,” and blamed for fostering a preoccupation with violence and horror, leading to juvenile crime. After comic books, the Court observed, television and music lyrics were blamed for causing juvenile violence.

             More information on the pros and cons of restricting video games may be found at ProCon.org, http://videogames.procon.org/#Background.



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