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Debate: Ban on sale of violent video games to minors

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Background and context

The US Supreme Court ruled in June of 2011 against California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors. The California law would have imposed $1,000 fines on stores that sold violent video games to anyone under 18. The ruling highlights what is a much larger, national and international debate regarding the effect of violent video games on youth, and the potential need, subsequently, for the regulation of their sale. The California law defined violent games as those 'in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being' in a way that was 'patently offensive,' appealed to minors’ 'deviant or morbid interests' and lacked 'serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.'"[1] Accepting that this description of violent video games may be true, the debate about banning them relates largely to the limits of free speech and government censorship.



  • Violent game ban puts children above corporations. Leland Yee, a California state senator who wrote the law, said in a statement that “the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children. It is simply wrong that the video game industry can be allowed to put their profit margins over the rights of parents and the well-being of children.”[2]


  • Violent video games are defended by the first amendment. Justice Scalia wrote in his opinion defending the June 2011 Supreme Court ruling against the California ban on the sale of video games to minors: "Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection."[3]

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