Can the state of California ban minors from buying violent videogames? According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the answer is—and we're paraphrasing here—"Hells no."
Some background on the case, Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, provided by Wikipedia: "In 2005, California's Congress passed CA Law AB 1179 ... which banned the sale of violent video games to anyone under age 18." This decision was overturned, but then Governator Arnold Schwartzenegger stepped in and appealed the decision. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, the Justices of the Supreme Court recognized that this California law restricts First Amendment rights to freedom of speech, regardless of the fact that it's trying to protect minors.
The decision, reported by IGN, mentioned other media that had been blamed for "juvenile delinquency," such as penny dreadfuls, movies, drive-ins, comic books, television and music lyrics. But are videogames a new category of violence, requiring special regulation? Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, "California claims that video games present special problems because they are 'interactive,' in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome."
Justice Samuel Alito, who concurred with the judgment, wrote, "The Court is untroubled" by the increasing sophistication of interactivity in videogames. "According to the Court, the 'interactive' nature of video games is 'nothing new' because 'all literature is interactive.'"
Alito, however, points out:
"In some of these games, the violence is astounding. Victims by the dozens are killed with every imaginable implement, including machine guns, shotguns, clubs, hammers, axes, swords, and chainsaws. Victims are dismembered, decapitated, disemboweled, set on fire, and chopped into little pieces. They cry out in agony and beg for mercy."
Because of this, Alito said that, "I would not squelch legislative efforts to deal with what is perceived by some to be a significant and developing social problem."
So if the youth of America shoot up aliens and blame it on Duke Nukem Forever, we might see a Supreme Court decision that could restrict their rights to use shrink rays and chaingun cannons.
To sum up the decision—and we're paraphrasing here—the Supreme Court dislikes the idea of seeing a child mow down pedestrians after killing a hooker he's just slept with. But as of right now, the justices love our right to free speech even more.