As the Inquisitr reported yesterday, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away at a Texas Ranch resort at age 79. While America mourns the loss of an extremely bright and intelligent legal mind, respected on both sides of the politcal aisle, gamers especially have lost someone who the industry can view as a real champion in helping garner the protections video game creators today enjoy.
Whether you agree politically with the bastion of conservatism on the Supreme Court bench, Justice Scalia will forever be heralded by the video game community as an ally. The Entertainment Software Association, the organization that puts on the Electronic Entertainment Expo every year, as well as advocates for the interactive entertainment industry, lauded the late Justice Scalia with a moving tribute, via Polygon.
“The Entertainment Software Association joins those who salute the service and mourn the loss of Justice Scalia. In 2011, when our industry defended the rights of creators and consumers of video games before the U.S. Supreme Court, it was Justice Scalia who authored the historic majority opinion. He declared, with no ambiguity, that video games, like books, movies and other forms of expression, are deserving of First Amendment protections. It was a momentous day for our industry and those who love the entertainment we create and we are indebted to Justice Scalia for so eloquently defending the rights of creators and consumer everywhere.”
The 2011 case, Brown vs. Entertainment Merchants Association, which took a 2005 California law head on, was a turning point in the gaming industry. The 2005 California Law, signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger, put further restrictions on the sales of violent video games, leaning on a 1973 study showing that minors exposed to violent media are more prevalent to commit violence themselves. In an ironic twist, the State Senator who pushed the bill, Leland Yee, pleaded guilty years later for gun-running, extortion, and bribes. The 2011 case was the first judicial decision affording video games the same First Amendment rights of expression movies, art, and books have been afforded for years. Scalia, as the ESA points out, authored the majority decision in the case, stating that the argument against this was, in a way, absurd, given the breadth of media out there today.
Scalia points out that there is no long-standing tradition in place in the United States safeguarding children from violence, citing Grimm’s Fairy Tales as a clear example of this.
“California’s argument would fare better if there were a long standing tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim in-deed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers ’till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy.’ “
Additionally, Justice Scalia pointed to high school reading materials, such as The Odyssey by Homer, where Odysseus is depicted as stabbing out the eyes of the Cyclopes Polyphemus with a heated stake. Moreover, movies, cartoons, and other forms of media children are susceptible to viewing seem to have no averse affect. The court ruled that “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.”
Regardless of your political views on Justice Scalia’s rulings, gamers everywhere should take a moment to remember Justice Scalia for the ally he was in the gaming industry. The industry, and the country, has lost a great legal mind who helped secure the rights of game creators everywhere.