|How much more "aggressive" do kids get after playing violent video games? About as much as they do after watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon, or after a seeing a picture of a gun.|
Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association et al. (2011)
"Because the Act [California's attempt to ban sales of violent video games to minors] imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it passes strict scrutiny—that is, unless it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest. R.A.V., 505 U.S., at 395, 112 S.Ct. 2538. The State must specifically identify an "actual problem" in need of solving, Playboy, 529 U.S., at 822-823, 120 S.Ct. 1878, and the curtailment of free speech must be actually necessary to the solution, see R.A.V., supra, at 395, 112 S.Ct. 2538. That is a demanding standard. "It is rare that a regulation restricting speech because of its content will ever be permissible." Playboy, supra, at 818, 120 S.Ct. 1878.
California cannot meet that standard. At the outset, it acknowledges that it cannot show a direct causal link between violent video games and harm to minors. ...
The State's evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, "[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology." Video Software Dealers Assn. 556 F.3d, at 964. They show at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children's feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game.
Even taking for granted Dr. Anderson's conclusions that violent video games produce some effect on children's feelings of aggression, those effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media. In his testimony in a similar lawsuit, Dr. Anderson admitted that the "effect sizes" of children's exposure to violent video games are "about the same" as that produced by their exposure to violence on television. App. 1263. And he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner, id., at 1304, or when they play video games like Sonic the Hedgehog that are rated "E" (appropriate for all ages), id., at 1270, or even when they "vie[w] a picture of a gun," id., at 1315-1316.
2740*2740 Of course, California has (wisely) declined to restrict Saturday morning cartoons, the sale of games rated for young children, or the distribution of pictures of guns. The consequence is that its regulation is wildly underinclusive when judged against its asserted justification, which in our view is alone enough to defeat it. Underinclusiveness raises serious doubts about whether the government is in fact pursuing the interest it invokes, rather than disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint. See City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 51, 114 S.Ct. 2038, 129 L.Ed.2d 36 (1994); Florida Star v. B.J.F., 491 U.S. 524, 540, 109 S.Ct. 2603, 105 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). Here, California has singled out the purveyors of video games for disfavored treatment—at least when compared to booksellers, cartoonists, and movie producers—and has given no persuasive reason why."
 One study, for example, found that children who had just finished playing violent video games were more likely to fill in the blank letter in "explo_e" with a "d" (so that it reads "explode") than with an "r" ("explore"). App. 496, 506 (internal quotation marks omitted). The prevention of this phenomenon, which might have been anticipated with common sense, is not a compelling state interest.