Supreme Court: Sale of Violent Video Games to Minors Constitutional

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In lively prose Scalia discussed the history of violence in children's books and fairy tales.

"Hansel and Gretel kill their captor by baking her in an oven," he wrote.

But Justice Samuel Alito, while agreeing that the California law should be overturned took issue with comparing books with videos. Writing for himself and Chief Justice John Roberts, Alito said the law was vague but he said he would not "squelch" future legislative efforts to deal with what is perceived by some to be a developing social problem.

"In some of these games," Alito writes, "the violence is astounding. Victims by the dozens are killed with every imaginable implement, including machine guns, shotguns, clubs, hammers, axes, swords and chain saws."

Alito says that the average reader of a passage in Crime and Punishment will not experience the description of violence in the same way if he were participating in a violent video game.

"Compare that reader with a video-game player who creates an avatar that bears his own image;who sees a realistic image of the victim and the scene of the killing in high definition and in three dimensions; who is forced to decide whether or not to kill the victim and decides to do so; who then pretends to grasp an axe, to raise it above the head of a victim and then to bring it down."

Alito suggested other laws, differently framed, might pass constitutional muster.

Opponents of censorship believe that there should be no special category for the video games. "Violence has been a category of speech that has always enjoyed full protection," said Joan Bertin of the National Coalition Against Censorship.

"The courts have always understood that discussions and depictions of violence in art, literature, film, theater have a great deal of value. It would be impossible to draw a line between good violence and bad violence."

American consumers spend more than $10 billion a year on video games.

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