The Court rules that video games fall under the First Amendment, says that claims that the interactivity of video games means they deserve special scrutiny is “unpersuasive,” sides with studies that dismiss a link between video games and violent behavior, and says California’s targeting of video games, but not other media, suggests it’s “disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint”:
Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And “the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary” with a new
and different communication medium…A legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test. …the State wishes to create a wholly new category of content-based regulation that is permissible only for speech directed at children. That is unprecedented…This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence. And California’s claim that “interactive” video games present special problems, in that the player participates in the violent action on screen and determines its outcome, is unpersuasive…Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively. Any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media. Since California has declined to restrict those other media, e.g., Saturday morning cartoons, its video-game regulation is wildly underinclusive, raising serious doubts about whether the State is pursuing the interest it invokes or is instead disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint.