California has made repeated attempts to regulate the sale of video games deemed “objectionable”, the most recent being Civil Code sections 1746-1746.5 which states (in part):
“A person may not sell or rent a video game that has been labeled as a violent video game to a minor.”
“Any person who violates any provision of this title shall be liable in an amount of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or a lesser amount as determined by the court.”
As you can imagine this was immediately challenged by the game industry and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals struck it down in February of 2009 stating:
“The Supreme Court has carefully limited obscenity to sexual content. We decline the state’s invitation to apply the (same) rationale to materials depicting violence.”
Now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the state’s appeal of that decision, a hearing which will occur sometime after the new session begins in October, 2010.
Things don’t look particularly cheery for the state of California however. In a recent 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court refused to ban so-called “crush” videos in which real life people crush real life defenseless animals to death. If something as repellent as a video showing a woman crushing a kitten to death, actual real life cruelty, is protected speech then there’s absolutely no question that video games, digital fiction violence, will be granted a protected status as well.
Hopefully once the Supreme Court ruling comes down we will see an end to local laws attempting to regulate game sales, laws that have been struck down by the Federal Court system time and time again in Illinois, Louisiana, Washington State, Michigan and Oklahoma.