Supreme Court to Hear Case on Sale of Mature Games

By Brian Leahy, Apr 26, 2010 7:00pm PDT In the Supreme Court's next term, which begins in October, the highest court will hear a case on the sale of mature video games to minors. The case is based upon a decision made by the California, which declared a law signed by Governor Schwarzenegger to be unconstitutional.

The law called for strict regulations preventing the sale or rental of mature video games to minors with fines assessed to retailers that were caught selling/renting to minors.

Opponents of the law argued that video games are already self-regulated by the ESRB, assigning ratings to each game, along with First Amendment Free Speech protections.

Now that the Supreme Court is hearing the case, the door has been opened for federally mandated regulation for the entire country. Analysts and experts do not believe this will be the case.

"As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few 'historic and traditional categories' that are 'well-defined and narrowly limited'," said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association. "We are hopeful that the Court will reject California's invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment."

It is important to note that minors would still be legally allowed to play mature games, but not purchase them directly. Many retailers already require a parent or guardian to be present when selling an M-rated game to a minor.

CNBC's Chris Morris notes that "M-rated titles do not make up the majority of games on the market, but they tend to be the industry's biggest hits." We'll keep you updated with more developments on this story.

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  • The vague descriptions of violence really irk me. Maiming an image of a person? Well, if you apply the law in those words, that cuts out pretty much anything with any drop of human blood. Most Star Wars games. Almost anything with up-close combat, like mixed martial arts or boxing games. Tons of stuff that's Teen-rated - maybe even less.

    You can't just say, "well, that's ok because a reasonable person wouldn't ever ban a game like that.", because there are a lot of unreasonable people, including local judges, that could easily apply this law to a huge range of games. The wording is ridiculously vague. Why give people that hate video games - and let's face it, there are a lot of people out there who will never understand and never get video games, including plenty in positions of authority - the ammunition to ban them for anyone?

    If you're over 18, you might be thinking, well, it doesn't apply to me. Sucks to you be teenage noob! HAHAHAHA ... but if this law goes national, then it will put a serious dent into games that are in that mid range, the ones that may need a little violence but would still rightly get an ESRB Teen rating.

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