It's a big victory for the industry and further legitimizes video games.
Today, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is toasting the U.S. Supreme Court "landmark ruling" that upheld constitutional protections for game designers and artists. The issue was a 2005 California statute restricting the sale and rental of video games; the ESA contended that such a rule "presented unconstitutional limitations on expression."
Well, by a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court agreed and cited many of the same reasons that some of the lower courts cited when striking down this statute. The bottom line is that video games contain expression, which falls under the same protection "as the best of literature." Various studies could not prove that games were harmful to minors and furthermore, it's up to the parents – not the government – to decide what minors can and can't play. By the way, the ESA sorta helps with that. You know, the ratings?
Said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA:
"This is a historic and complete win for the First Amendment and the creative freedom of artists and storytellers everywhere. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed what we have always known – that free speech protections apply every bit as much to video games as they do to other forms of creative expression like books, movies and music. The Court declared forcefully that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional; and that parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children."
In order for California to uphold the statute, they would've had to "prove a compelling government interest for the law and also that California’s proposed remedy was the narrowest possible way of furthering that interest." The Supreme Court ruled that the state failed in both respects and Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, provided these statements:
"The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, ‘[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.’"
Lastly, in regards to the "least restrictive" point, the majority opinion said California couldn't verify that "the Act’s restrictions meet the alleged substantial need of parents who wish to restrict their children’s access to violent videos. The video-game industry’s voluntary rating system already accomplishes that to a large extent." Boy, we couldn't have said that better ourselves.