Cazenovia You’re 15 and the video game you’re playing rewards you for assaulting a mother and her daughters.
You’re 16 and the object of your game is to put a rifle bullet through the head of President Kennedy as he motors pass the Texas School Book Depository that fateful day in Houston.
Do you have a problem with this?
The State of California did, which is why it passed a law banning the sale and distribution of these video games and others like them to young people under the age of 18.
But the United States Supreme Court didn’t, and recently struck down the California law on First Amendment freedom-of-expression grounds.
While one justice, Samuel Alito, pointed out the appalling content of the video games under review, such as the ones described above, a majority of the court held that “disgust is not a valid basis for restricting expression.”
Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia, reasoned that depictions of violence have never been subject to government regulation. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed,” he wrote, pointing to the gory plots of Snow White, Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel.
The Justice has a point.
I don’t know about you, but at five, listening to Hansel and Gretel, I was not OK with old ladies who ate children.
It was reassuring when the cannibal got her just, um, desserts, but I can remember that even her end (she’s stuffed into an oven), albeit deserved, still shook me up in all its gory violence.
Interestingly, some experts agree with the court’s underlying premise that even though perverse, the video games in question are still all pretend — and that the First Amendment protects pretend.
One expert, Cheryl K. Olson, a public health researcher, says that the court’s comparison of violent video games with traditional fairy tales is apt.