Gaming Goes on Trial: Results from The Supreme Court Hearing

Nathan Grayson

The past 24 hours, for those of you who haven't been keeping up, were pretty darn important for the future of videogames. The Supreme Court went through with its hearing for the California violent videogame bill, which – if passed – would put the ESRB out of a job and usher in a whole new set of regulations for videogames. The worst case scenario? The bill passes, and many games are more or less lumped in with pornography, leading to potential removal from retail locations altogether. So, what happened? How'd it go? Well, initial responses from the Supreme Court justices look promising. Some highlights (via Gamasutra ):

"If you are supposing a category of violent materials dangerous to children, then how do you cut it off at video games? What about films? What about comic books? Grimm's fairy tales? Why are video games special?" - Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

"What's next after violence? Drinking? Smoking? Will movies that feature scenes of smoking affect children? ... Movies that show smoking can't be shown to children? Will that affect them? Of course, I suppose it will. But are we to sit day by day to decide what else will be made an exception from the First Amendment? Why is this particular exception okay, but the other ones that I just suggested are not okay?" - Justice Antonin Scalia

"One of the studies ... says that the effect of violence is the same for a Bugs Bunny episode as it is for a violent video [game]. So can the legislature now, because it has that study, say we can outlaw Bugs Bunny?" - Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Granted, a final ruling won't be made until June of 2011, so this is hardly over. On top of that, the justices are known for pummeling both sides of an argument with near-impossible questions, so their harsh volley against the California bill was nothing out of the ordinary. Also, as Gamasutra points out, the current justices tend to lean more conservatively, which doesn't bode well for things involving the entertainment industry.

So, the long and short of it? You may now take a breath and maybe even smile a little. But this was just a quick skirmish, and the war's far from over.

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