Skip to main content

The 10 best moments from the Schwarzenegger v. EMA's Supreme Court oral arguments

JUSTICE KAGAN: You think Mortal Kombat is prohibited by this statute?

MR. MORAZZINI: I believe it's a candidate, Your Honor, but I haven't played the game and been exposed to it sufficiently to judge for myself.

JUSTICE KAGAN: It's a candidate, meaning, yes, a reasonable jury could find that Mortal Kombat, which is an iconic game, which I am sure half of the clerks who work for us spend considerable amounts of time in their adolescence playing.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I don't know what she's talking about.

First of all: what? The lawyer who is advocating that violent video games be regulated hasn’t played Mortal Kombat, one of the most iconic violent video games of all time? Weird. Didn’t he do any research?

Some might say that because this lawyer is so ignorant, he’s somehow emblematic of the unfounded moral panic all over America regarding violent video games. That’s probably not quite fair: after all, this lawyer didn’t make the law - he’s just trying to get it passed. After all, how is he supposed to know every game ever made, and whether or not it fulfills the obscenity test? Having an encyclopedic knowledge of every violent game ever made is more our bag, anyway. But if you’re going to name-check a game, at least hire a kid to play it for you so you can watch. You’re getting paid for this, right? Do you want the Supreme Court to think you’re a lousy lawyer?

What does this mean for the future? In terms of the outcome of this case, not a ton. At the very least, this exchange shows that Justice Kagan, like Justice Sotomayor, is capable of understanding the nuances of how videogames are played, and it also means she’s not so out of touch as to not know which games might be “candidates” under this law for regulation. Plus, it’s kind of cool to know that as a kid, you can grow up playing Mortal Kombat all day and still end up clerking for a Supreme Court Justice. Strange that those MK-playing kids made it so far in their careers without being inspired to murder someone.