A Supreme Court case over whether minors should be able to access violent video games in California had the justices debating the definition of violence and the boundaries of the First Amendment.
The lawyer for the state of California, who was advocating for a law banning the sale of violent video games to those under 18 years of age, told the court that the law has two goals. First, it's intended to help parents protect minors from accessing violent video games. And, secondly, he said it's to protect minors from the harmful effect of using violent video games.
The justices responded to his argument by asking how society defines violence and whether the law would apply to violent books, movies and even fairy tales. Analyst Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal says that by seeking this video game law, California is essentially asking the court to make an exception to the First Amendment.
The lawyer arguing for the video game industry and against the law said that the law would not address any specific societal problem. He cited studies showing that playing violent video games does not affect a teenager's behavior later in life.
"Justice Kennedy in particular told this attorney that there is today a social consensus about what is sexually offensive material. And there have been many court decisions about that. But there's no consensus, no court decisions on what constitutes a violent video game. And that, he said, indicates to him that this law is vague." - Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal
"Chief Justice Roberts, for example, he said, well, what about this distinction between books and video games? A child isn't sitting passively there with a video game. That child is doing the killing, the maiming, the sexually assaulting." - Marcia Coyle, National Law Journal
1. How do you define violence?
2. What is the First Amendment of the Constitution?
3. What does the Supreme Court do?
1. Do you think violence in books can be compared to violence in video games? Why or why not?
2. Do you think California should be allowed to pass a law banning the sale of video games to minors? Why or why not?
3. Do you think playing violent video games leads to violent behavior? Why or why not?
4. Do you play video games that could be considered violent? Why do you play them?
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