Supreme Court

SCOTUS Judges Played Video Games Before Deciding Violent Video Games Case


credit: Talk Radio News Service / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

In 2011, the Supreme Court voted 7-2 to strike down California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, citing the same free-speech protections that every other form of literature gets.

Backers of the ban had argued that games were fundamentally different because they are "interactive," but the majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia rejected this idea on the grounds that all literature contains an interactive component. 

Before making that decision, however, several High Court judges thought they needed to see some of those games for themselves, according to remarks by Justice Elena Kagan earlier this week. "The justices are not necessarily the most technologically sophisticated people," she said, according to the Associated Press.

So they decided to try playing some video games on their own. The result, she said, was "kind of hilarious."

Kagan said the justices often turn to their clerks, who are much younger, to help them understand new technologies.

But they also try to learn on their own. In one case, involving violent video games the first year she was on the court, justices who had never played the games before dove in and gave them a try, Kagan said.

"It was kind of hilarious," she said.

She didn't say which games they played.

I'm really hoping they played Skyrim, becuase I really want to know who sided with the Stormcloaks and who sided with the Imperial Legion. 

Read Reason's Jacob Sullum on the legal challenge to California's games ban here

(Via TPM.)

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  1. First para. twice uses “literate” as a noun, a usage that neither I nor the American Heritage 4th has encountered.

    1. While posting the previous, the second instance was corrected to “literature.”

    2. OED has, though it’s uncommon.

      1. Get out of here with that foreign shit. We speak American here, Pinko.


  2. I went Stormcloaks

    At the stormcloak ending I watched the victory speech then killed everyone in town…

    well killed everyone in town that i was allowed to kill…then just restarted at my save.

    Why was that asshole made king and not me? Seriously hate how the ending of that part of the game was. (the dragon story line ending was pretty cool…at least the dead heroes recognized my awesomeness)

    Oh yeah i personally took over all of Skyrim and kicked out the imperials yet this racist jerkoff gets the crown and i still am treated like trash by the town guards.

    1. Let me guess, someone stole your sweet roll?

      1. +1 arrow to the knee

      2. +2 arrows to the knees.

    2. Why was that asshole made king and not me? Seriously hate how the ending of that part of the game was.

      Greatest. Travesty. Evar.

      1. huh?

        It is a video game…get over it.

    3. I went Stormcloaks for two reasons

      1. I was still miffed that the Imperials tried to cut my head off. And now I had enough power to get my own back.

      2. MORE POWER – I had a headstart in social climbing inside a new nation.

      Its why I eventually became a vampire and finally installed a mod that allowed me to become an undead liche.

    4. “Oh yeah i personally took over all of Skyrim and kicked out the imperials yet this racist jerkoff gets the crown and i still am treated like trash by the town guards.”

      Its doubly stupid when you realize that every other questline ends with you being the head of that guild – Companions, Dark Brotherhood (unless you exterminate them because you got pissed that they tried to kill you, multiple times), Theive’s Guild . . .

      At the end of the Stormcloaks you should have been able to take the crown (no-one could stop you and most were already supporting you) and at the end of the Imperial line you should have been made the military governor of the province.

    1. Populous II.

  3. I know that if I were a Supreme Court Justice, I’d want to set up weekly Team Fortress 2 matches. Build some camaraderie! Release some of that resentment!

    And I don’t know what you’d take away on the Skyrim choice. I’m a libertarian anarchist, and I’m tempted to side with the Imperials (I kept my character out of that mess). The Stormcloaks seem like nativist whackos.

    1. Yeah. The Imperials actually seem more libertarian. They allow for greater individual freedom of their subjects, whereas the Stormcloaks only want the White Nords to have rights and the Argonians, Khajiit and Elves can go fuck themselves.

      1. The Stormcloaks seem pretty similar to the Confederacy in the Civil War. They may have the better philosophical argument from a high level (religious freedom and secession, states’ rights and same), but once you see the goal they’re looking to achieve it’s easy to root against them.

        In my first two playthroughs I just avoided them entirely (which seemed appropriate given the first two characters I rolled). Going super Breton wannabe briarheart conjured axe smashtime on the Stormcloaks was pretty awesome in round three, though.

        1. The game again and again hints that you are the chosen one and the reincarnation of the first Imperial King.

          And yet with Stormcloaks and imperials that scenario never plays out.

          Anyway the storm cloaks seemed like the choice that worked best with this unrealized scenario as the Stormcloaks were opposed to the Aldmeri Dominion.

          The Imperials could be as clean as fresh snow but the fact remained that the Aldmeri Dominion were tyrants and the Imperials were their proxies.

          I guess what really pissed me off is by the end of the game my character was pretty much a god in a sandbox…saddly the political choices one had in that sand box only had two choices.

          Why wasn’t the political ending of the game more of a sandbox as well? One where you can actually manipulate how it ended.

          What is the point of being the chosen one when you cannot effect one bit the make up of the very cause you are the chosen one of?

          1. Why wasn’t the political ending of the game more of a sandbox as well? One where you can actually manipulate how it ended.

            I agree. As is, the closes you can come is to side with the Imperials, defeat Ulfric, then assassinate the Emperor as part of the Dark Brotherhood thus plunging Skyrim into unseen chaos that I swear I’m totally gonna see in Elder Scrolls VI: The Cat’s Meow (IT’S GONNA HAPPEN! YOU CAN’T AVOID ELSWEYR FOREVER BETHESDA!).

            1. I really wanted the DLC to address the political endings of the game.

              Instead they made them about super vampires, child adoption and some weird Daedric Prince sideplot.

          2. I highly recommend New Vegas for this, as it has a much deeper political environment. Plus, it gives you the option to say ‘fuck it’ to all the major powers and form your own society. The title of that final quest? ‘No Gods, No Masters’.

      2. My character was a Nord so why should I give a shit about the Argonians, Khajit, Elves, etc?

    2. Forget Team Fortress. They should be playing Dwarf Fortress if they want to experience true brutality.

    3. I’ve been on the fence on this issue for the same reason.

      I mean on the one hand It is kinda hard to make me feel sympathetic to an “empire”, but in the grand scheme of things the reason for the Stormcloak rebellion is the fault of the Thalimor, not the Empire who was forced into it and to this point, outside of wanting to execute me just for trying to cross a border at the wrong time I havn’t seen any evidence that the Empire is a particularly evil government.

      1. They are enforcing Aldmeri Dominion tyranny.

        Killing people for worshiping the wrong god.

      2. I prefer the New Vegas approach, where you can either follow the agenda of one of the three factions, or find an obedient second who will help you define and execute your own agenda.

      3. I went pro-Imperial for similar reasons. The Empire banned Talos worship only because the Aldmeri had them by the throat. Seemed to me like the best way to reverse that is to strengthen the Empire so that they can win a future rematch against the Dominion, and step one for that would be to defeat Ulfric and bring Skyrim back into the Imperial fold. Incidentally cutting down as many Thalmor as possible, of course.

        Moreover, the situation in Markarth seems to foreshadow what a Stormcloak victory would mean — Brutal atrocities as Ulfric purges the non-Nords plus any Nords who dared oppose him. The Forsworn are a bunch of vile racist bastards too, and I happily killed their king once we’d broken out of Cidhna mine, but Ulfric’s faction are the ones who started all the suffering down there, and I’d expect no better if they conquered Skyrim as a whole.

    4. Well, the ideal option is peace. Meaning that while both sides are fairly dickish in their own way, the Aldmeri are vastly worse, and are the primary beneficiaries either of a drawn-out conflict, or of a decisive win that depletes the resources of either the empire or Nords.

  4. Okay, I simply have to know which games they played. Fallout 3?

    1. Which Borderlands 2 classes did each justice pick? You just know Kagan went with the Gunzerker.

      1. I would assume the Siren – you know the hottish, skankish one.

        1. But that’s the one I play!

          1. Maybe you Kagan have the same…tastes.

    2. Civilization. Version unspecified.

      GTA would have been awesome.

      1. Yes, that would be my first choice. Question is, did they get their money back from the prostitutes?

      2. I’m just picturing Scalia playing Grand Theft Auto.

        1. “Fuck the new professionalism! I’m killing cops. . .in tanks! Woo-hoo!”

    3. Probably not JFK Reloaded.

  5. Look, clearly the Stormcloaks are the good guys, but their leader is an asshole. I’m still torn between the two.

    1. Which just shows how well designed the game is. Racist Stormcloaks led by a dickhead, or colonial oppressors enforcing religious diktats?

      I’m actually replaying Skyrim now. My current impulse is to just kill every Stormcloak, Impie, and Thalmor that I see.

      1. I slaughtered Thalmors. Evil and dicks.

        1. Fuck yeah I killed them. It blew my mind that you could get a bounty just for slaying them when they were hauling good upright Nords to their secret prisons.

          1. If you wait for them to attack you, you don’t get a bounty. Skyrim enforces the NAP.

      2. At least Fallout: New Vegas let you be a wild card and not side with the NCR, Legion, or House.

        1. I’m replaying right now. Last time, in my “good” play-through, I sided with House, but I didn’t like it.

          1. That’s why you don’t side with House if you’re good.

            Don’t be good.

            Be amoral and power-hungry. Play off all three factions against each other and then, at the last minute, betray and murder House, Destroy the Legion’s presence in the Mojave, and then throw the general off the dam and seize New Vegas for your own.

            I had some mods that made the dam battle extra awesome. I flew a vertibird gunship over to the Legion camp, did a dawn raid clearing a landing zone, then landed along with three other VB’s dropping off more soldier’s.

            Then I turned around and assaulted the damn, broke the Legion’s back, and when the NCR came to claim credit I told them to GTFO, punctuated with throwing a guy off the dam.

        2. And Yes Man had the best lines in the entire game. I played all outcomes except the Legion. There should have been a separate ending for the Brotherhood of Steel. I got to like those guys.

          1. I helped the Legion when I played as an evil character.

            1. I just could not bring myself to do that, and I even became the Grand Papa Khan’s best buddy. I enjoy killing Legionnaires too much.

              1. Yeah, they sucked. I just allowed my love of classical Rome to rule.

                1. You know what I’m tempted to say at the moment, right?

                  1. That you want to worship me like a god? I get that all the time. I don’t recommend it, honestly.

                    1. I was thinking more on the lines of FUCK OFF, SLAVER! then bowing down and worshiping you, but I can see how you could come to that misunderstanding.

              2. BTW, the cute short haired blond girl drug dealer camping out with her stoner boyfriend in the are behind the Khans settlement, was eerily like someone I use to know down to her look, voice and manner of speaking.

                1. That’s bizarre because I also camp out in a trailer with my live in boyfriend in a gorge behind a criminal gang that’s based on ancient Mongolians.

                  What are the odds?

                  1. Yeah, I know! Both of them really reminded me of this couple that a friend of mine rented a room from. I guess stoners just come in tropes.

                2. Could be. They’re often, maybe even usually, based on real people.

          2. Originally there was a Brotherhood ending, but apparently Obsidian was rushed for time and had to cut it.

    2. So was the Imperial general a complete asshole. I almost joined up, until his bad attitude talked me out of it.

      1. They obviously did that on purpose, because every time I thought I’d lean towards one faction, I’d get annoyed.

        1. Yeah, I just wanted to do the Jarl of WHiterun a solid, but I get there and he is cursing about Nords. Fuck him, the civil war as a plot didn’t interests me that much anyway. I had no interest in playing COD:Skyrim in the first place.

          1. The Imperial missions were more fun than the Stormcloak ones. Since I ended up just killing everybody anyway, I went with the Imperials the second time.

    3. Look, clearly the Stormcloaks are the good guys

      You are just saying that cuz the imperials tried to chop your head off at the start of the game for no reason.

  6. Nah, I’m sure they played one of the most popular shooters, like Call of Duty. Hopefully, they bitched about the campaign being too short.

    1. Hopefully they bitched about it being worthless trash otherwise they have no taste.

      1. I hope they called each other “Nubes” while saying it.

        1. Who the fuck spells it that way? It’s either newbs or n00bs. Maybe with a Z thrown in there.

          1. Dude, every one knows its ‘fags’ and ‘nigger’.

      2. Show us on the doll where the CoD game touched you.

        1. It touched my time. I played a lot of COD4 until my I realized it was terrible. It also touched my friends who are only just realizing it’s bad.

          1. “It” or “you” were terrible?

          2. You played a “lot” of it? How long does it take you to realize a game is terrible?

      3. The first Modern Warfare was good, but they’re just pumping out the same game year after year now, each more idiotic than the last.

        1. It…was grossly over-rated. BF is better. BC1 is way better.

          1. Battlefield needs a hardcore mood to be better. I shouldn’t have to hit an opposing player multiple times with a .308 for them to finally die.

            1. I wonder if Arma 3 will be as woefully buggy as the first Arma? Regardless, that’s definitely a series where once you hit them, they stay hit. Kinda kills the run and gun style of play though.

      4. i played tons of COD2 – the younger “BOOM-HEADSHOT” players drove me crazy.

        Red Orchestra is the thinking man’s WW2 FPS. No health packs, real bullet drop, only iron sights, and no ammo count. It’s easy, easy to die.

        1. I’m sure it’s a much better game but I am sick sick sick of ironsights and other ‘realism’. I’d rather Halo.

        2. The thinking man’s FPS is Spec Ops: The Line

      5. The campaign or the entire game?

        Saying CoD multi-player is trash is a bit of a stretch.

        Something like 20 million people play that game….somehow i think having that many players requires it to be at least a passable lobby military shooter….if not then what are those people in it for? The lore?

  7. Anything for their Xbox live IDs. I want to be Xbros with Scalia and Thomas.

  8. MOHAA – I’d rather be killing Germans.

  9. You guys I’m pretty sure they played Ducktales.

    1. Ah woo-hoo!

  10. Scalia obviously worked for Caesar.

  11. Dig Dug.
    They played dig dug.

    1. LOL. That hit me pretty funny.

  12. So, here’s my first line-up of their choices (I’m not terribly good at this, so please feel free to edit their picks):

    Scalia: Grand Theft Auto
    Kennedy: Assassin’s Creed
    Thomas: Grand Theft Auto

    1. Thomas: Grand Theft Auto


      1. Racist?? Thomas ALWAYS votes with Scalia!!

    2. Kagan: Leisure Suit Larry

      1. Ah, the classics. Scalia probably played Police Quest.

    3. Roberts: LEGO Lord of the Rings

  13. so Skyrim – how engrossing is it? Will I forsake my friends (ha! like I have any) and family for an alternative reality?

    1. Yes. Yes you will. I encourage it.

    2. It’s worth it. If you put all your time into it, it only takes a few weeks. It took me a year to play through it the first time. I wasn’t dedicated enough.

    3. Skyrim is the most complete/immersive open world-type game.

      Its flaw is that it gets imbalanced (in your favor) as you tool up and advance through the levels. You have to restrain yourself from making the best armor or most powerful weapons you can, or damn near everything becomes a one-shot kill, and that’s after you let them beat on you for awhile.

      1. There’s a couple of mods to fix that – one allows enemy leveling above what the base game does and another allows you to select how fast you increase skills.

        1. I’m a consoletard (for now, at least). No mods for me.

    4. Get it on PC and then go to the ‘Skyrim Nexus’…..9263&pUp=1

      ‘Become a Skooma Dealer’ is just a tiny, tiny taste of the stuff you can do with the game. It only sucks in tht you can only have 255 mods running (and the DLC and patches count against that number).

      1. Oh, and then download Falskaar and Wyrmstooth – two very large (player made) additions to the game.

    5. Kumail Nanjiani said on the Nerdist show a year or so ago that Skyrim was why video games were invented. He is right. It is the most engrossing fictional world I’ve encountered in any format (books, TV, games) or genre.

      Periods of long play have affected my dreams.

  14. The justices are not necessarily the most technologically sophisticated people,

    And people say that never an honest word comes out of her mouth.

  15. So is anyone else much too excited for Rome: Total War 2? I’m pretty sure it will ruin my life for a few months.

    1. which is nothing compared to the lives souls you have ruined.

    2. I’m looking forward to the new XCOM, myself.

      1. heh – Right now, I’m playing the original version for the nth time. It crashes every once in awhile on my ancient XP laptop, so saving often is mandatory.

        Damn, I hate those aliens.

      2. I’ve been playing a ton of Space Hulk the last week. It was a bit clunky on release day, but the patches have fixed it up, and the ruleset is excellent, so I’m digging it. Already finished the tiny campaign though.

        1. I’m curious about that one. Some of the literature written for the world mellieu is not bad. I’m thinking of James Swallows Nemesis. Not exactly Alastair Reynolds, but close enough to wet the appetite for space opera.

          1. It’s like the Go of turn-based strategy, in my opinion.

      3. I’m really worried about the new XCOM. Looks icky. I did like the reboot though, like LH I was playing the original for an age on PC after PC running an emulator.

        1. Looks icky how? I think the retro-60’s setting is the coolest ever!

          1. Sorry, wandered away for a moment.

            I’m stressy about the storyline/single main character part, and it also seems like it has preachy subplots I’m not interested in. I guess mostly I want more XCOM with different and varied weapons and skills path choices and that’s about it.

            Maybe I just fear change.

    3. Let’s be honest, Warty; you ruined your life a long time ago. Rape convictions haunt you forever, especially megarape convictions.

      You know, you should take a page from Cartman and just get in your timesuit and go forward to the game release date. If you go too far, you can rape Buck Rogers.

      1. No way, dude. Those otters will eat my entrails on their tummies.

    4. My PC recently deciding that it’s had enough is probably a good thing for my personal life. Back when it was functional I was super excited about that and EU IV.

      I always wanted to mod together the Total War battle engine and the Paradox maps. Playing Crusader Kings while being able to general the battles in Medieval seems like it would be way too much fun and entirely too time consuming, which is just perfect when you’re trying to ignore your wife while drunk at 3 AM.

      1. What you’ve described would be my version of the Matrix.

    5. No.

      GTA 5

      I am not terribly excited…but i am sure i will like the game and have fun with it….though i am a bit upset you can’t have Girlfriends like you could in 4 or San Andreas

    6. I’m already getting no sleep playing Europa Universalis IV, I don’t know how I’m going to handle both. I’ll probably wait till the Steam Christmas sale if I can manage it.

    7. I’m way more excited about Europa Barbarorum 2. The first Rome: Total War was too much hollywood, and not enough history.

  16. I’ve been playing “Rising Storm” – Japanese vs Americans WW2

    1. I ran this by some guys at the VA hospital and got the following reviews:

      “Much more fun than the original!”

      “One thumb up – I’d give it two thumbs up if I hadn’t lost my arm in the war.”

      “Awesome stuff. And it’s old school – unlike those later games like Korea and Vietnam, they actually let you win!”

  17. I’m really hoping they played Skyrim, becuase I really want to know who sided with the Stormcloaks and who sided with the Imperial Legion.

    Played neither side in my case. Just seemed to petty given everything else going on. I did enjoy kicking the elves out of the conference room when negotiating the temporary truce.

    ‘Skyrim belongs to the Nords, motherfuckers.’

    1. I joined the Stormcloaks…but I really wanted to join the Forsworn.

      1. Now, that would have been an interesting diversion. I felt they could have been explored as a culture a bit more too. But still more defining differences given there for them than the bandit tribe north of the Wall in that other fictional world.

      2. Hell yes! I love their appearance. I’m still using Forsworn armor just for the look.

        1. If you upgrade to max it is like the 3rd or 4th best set in the game.

          Plus it really is the only armor you should wear if your character is female.

          But i did wish i could have worn the male horned head piece on my female character.

          1. Hahaha, I’m in the process of upgrading it, and yes, I’m playing a female character.

        2. What is the best set in the game? Dragon?

          1. That or Daedric

          2. Daedric and Dragon will both max out the preset levels for armor. I think even the light Dragon set will. So its basically a style choice.

            1. To think of the hours I spent learning to blacksmith and maxing out on the skill, and the hours I spent learning enchantment to make a set of vestments to improve the skill, and learning to make potions so I could quaff a high modifier there too, just to create a set of armor and accompanying longsword that would pretty much annihilate anything the moment it turned hostile.

  18. Those silly California “liberals” always pulling some shenanigans trying to take away the people’s liberties.

  19. They tried playing the violent video games, but the mushroom always got away before they could reach it. And the didn’t know how to evade the turtle shells, lol

  20. I totally would see Scalia doing ACIII

  21. If you think Tiffany`s story is flabbergasting,, a month ago my uncles step-son got a cheque for $6924 just sitting there in their apartment and their buddy’s mother-in-law`s neighbour did this for 3 months and made more than $6924 in their spare time from a pc. use the tips from this website…

  22. Possible libertarian strategy: get the key players in all three branches of .gov hooked on video games.

    Chief Justice Roberts: “Alright, alright, leave me alone! I’ll be out in just a few more minutes!”

    Can you imagine the epic congressional committee meetings/Skyrim sessions? All we’d need is a few Doritos deliveries every day, and we could shut down Congress near permanently.

    1. Get them playing civilization. Maybe they would realize the perils of central control.

      1. Or the efficiency of just switching your government type to Autocratic and building a shitload of catapults.

        1. The other thing is the lesson that some people will never stop fucking with you. One of the more frustrating parts of that game is how you can never live in peace with some civilizations. They just keep coming back until you have to annihilate them.

          1. When you start playing at the higher skill levels, that describes all the other civilizations.

            To me, Civ2 was the most enjoyable version. Later versions are more complex, but they also bog down more in the later stages.

        2. Nah. Rome – get copper and iron, crank out Praetorians.

      2. I’ve always thought that Civ and Sim City would be a perfect harmless substitute activity for the totalitarian jerkoffs running our various governments. Sort of like a reverse Ender’s Game.

  23. I guess this explains why Scalia recently replaced “I respectfully dissent” at the end of his opinions with “FINISH HIM!”

  24. How Sugar Free has not written some fiction about this is beyond me.

    1. It would have to be LARP, though. The possibilities are endless.

      1. [Sugarfree’s PG-rated cousin just emailed me this:]

        “Sir, this memo just came from the Chief…”

        Anthony Kennedy’s young law clerk looked up and stopped in midsentence, mesmerized by the sight of the Justices, including Roberts whose quill-pen-on-papyrus memo the clerk was supposed to bring to Kennedy, gathered around a bank of computer terminals in Kennedy’s office – FBI surplus, by the look of them.

        “Look!” exclaimed Breyer. “I defeated all the alien invaders – I just shot them all down! I told you I could rig the entire game like Captain Kirk so that I win despite the rules!”

        “Madre de Dios, I just made all those ghosts die a second time!” crowed Sotomayor. “I told you that Ms. Pac-Man can do everything your Mr. Pac-Man can do, only more stylishly!”

        1. “Did you hear that?” an intense Kennedy said to the screen. “Are you going to let Ms. Pac Man beat your record? Shit-” as the unmistakable sound of Pac-Man’s death-music played over the room.

          “Well,” said Kennedy, “you know the drill from our golf games – whoever records that as a win, I’ll give them my swing vote in the next big case.” A majority of the Justices, including Sotomayor herself, promptly concurred that Kennedy had won.

          “Mama Mia,” Scalia declared, ignoring Kennedy’s politicking as he focused on controlling Luigi, “Bowser’s position is-a totally unsupported by text or history, so I’m-a gonna kick-a his ass and throw him into the fiery pit of Hell, where he-a belongs!”

          Alito and Roberts were playing quietly in a corner, until the stentorian tones of Roberts’ “I sunk your battleship, sucker!” burst forth.

          “That’s only because the arbitrary taxes you slapped on my battleships made them unmaneuverable,” groused Alito.

          Meanwhile, Thomas, Kagan and Ginsburg were playing a game of naked Twister on a mat placed near the computers. On the cry of “left foot green,” Thomas collapsed in a heap, groaning that he could no longer endure all the legal contortions of his colleagues…

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