Video Games

Censorship issues regarding video games tend to be based on concerns that minors will be harmed by exposure to video games with violent speech and images. Many parents and community watchdogs fear that children who frequent the make-believe world of video games will replicate the games’ violence in the real world. Unlike the case with obscene material however, the U.S. Supreme Court has never carved out a First Amendment exception for violent speech and images. Instead, the Court has affirmed that violent content is protected by the First Amendment, regardless of its social worth because “the line between the transmission of ideas and mere entertainment is much too elusive for this Court to draw.”

Sexual and violent content in video games is reflected in ratings done by the Entertainment Software Rating Association, an independent group. The ratings are intended to give consumers information about content and degree of maturity of intended users. However, state and local legislators have seized on these ratings to propose restricting sales of some games to minors. In general, these efforts have been unsuccessful, but they have often generated years of litigation.