Contrary to Roger Ebert's opinion that video games, in principle, can never be art, the Supreme Court ruled this week that the medium warrants First Amendment protection.
For some, video games have always been art. But the Supreme Court made it official on Monday in a ruling against a California effort to ban violent video game sales to minors. As Justice Antonin Scalia concluded:
Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world).
The 7-to-2 decision means that California cannot impose a hefty fine against retailers who sell violent video games to minors. Video game stores must still adhere to the game ratings provided by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), including "Mature (M)" ratings for over 17-year-olds and "Adults Only (AO)" ratings for those 18 and over.
Scalia noted that California's argument would fare better if access to depictions of violence was restricted in other mediums too. "Certainly the books we give children to read... contain no shortage of gore," wrote Scalia, citing Grimm's Fairy Tales, Homer, Dante's Inferno (which inspired a video game of the same name) and William Golding's Lord of the Flies.
Are video games "art"? You decide. Let us know what games you think are worthy of their new-found constitutional privileges.
Here are some of the most popular recent releases, courtesy of Mike Dodson at the Berkeley :
Popular Video Games in Berkeley:
Super Street Fighter IV (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS), Rating: Teen, ages 13 and older
Infamous 2 (Playstation 3), Rating: Teen, ages 13 and older
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3 (Playstation 3, Xbox 360), Rating: Teen, ages 13 and older
Dragon Age II (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Mac and PC), Rating: Mature, ages 17 and older
L.A. Noire (Xbox 360, Playstation 3), Rating: Mature, ages 17 and older
Portal 2 (Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Mac and PC), Rating: Everyone 10+
Marvel vs. Capcom 3: Fate of Two Worlds (Xbox 360, Playstation 3), Rating: Mature, ages 17 and older
Outland (Playstation Network and Xbox Live), Rating: Everyone 10+
FlingSmash (Wii), Rating: Everyone