Back in 2005, California created a law to ban the sale or rental of violent video games to anyone under 18. However, the law never actually took affect, as it was challenged by the video game industry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Well today, in a 7-2 vote, the U.S. high court rejected California's law, saying it violated minors' rights under the First Amendment (the right to freedom of expression). The decision effectively puts video games on the same legal footing as books, movies, music and cannot be restricted to anyone.
One of the justices who agreed with the California law makes an interesting point. Stephen Breyer says the court's decision creates a conflict in the First Amendment. "What sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting the sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her?" Breyer said.
But another justice, Antonin Scalia, made this point. Unlike depictions of "sexual conduct," Scalia said, there is no tradition in the United States of restricting children's access to depictions of violence. Scalia pointed out the violence in the original versions of children's fairy tales like Cinderella, Snow White and Hansel and Gretel, who killed their captor by baking her in an oven.
By the way, in Canada, most provinces restrict the sale of mature video games to kids and teens under the age of 17.