The depiction of this sort of case as a "rite of passage" for the medium wouldn't be too far off base. Comic books, films and literature have all had their rights assailed by individuals, institutions and lower courts -- almost all of which were summarily overturned by the Supreme Court, ensuring their future protection under the First Amendment.
The issue at hand during the Supreme Court hearing wasn't whether "violent" games -- a term never explicitly defined by the original California law -- were harmful to minors. The issue was whether video games qualified as a form of protection-worthy expression; an issue which the Supreme Court handily settles in the syllabus of their full opinion:
Video games qualify for First Amendment protection. Like protected books, plays, and movies, they communicate ideas through familiar literary devices and features distinctive to the medium. And "the basic principles of freedom of speech . . . do not vary" with a new and different communication medium.
That very excerpt proves the broader importance of today's decision: In Constitutional law, precedent enforces precedent, as evidenced by the quote in that opening thesis, which was pulled from the Supreme Court's opinion that films deserve First Amendment protections in Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson
Of course, the Supreme Court's decision was just as much a victory for the First Amendment as it was for video games. Laws which prohibit expression can be upheld provided they satisfy "strict scrutiny," a form of review which determines whether a prohibitive law serves a compelling government interest, cannot be broadly used to prohibit other forms of expression and cannot be achieved by a less restrictive piece of legislation. AB-1179, with its weak evidential backing and ambiguous terminology, failed to meet those standards.
Regardless of how the decision was reached, the establishment of a precedent (or, as is the somewhat radical term in the case of a Supreme Court opinion, a superprecedent
) which classifies games as forms of protectable expression is a major victory for the industry. It will hopefully ensure the outright dismissal of future cases prohibiting the sale of mature games, and will prevent more government resources (such as your hard-earned tax dollars) from being squandered on said cases.
Games aren't going to become more or less violent because of the Supreme Court's opinion. But, ultimately, that's the big victory games claimed with today's decision: The medium is going to continue to shift and grow without continued interference from its detractors. The determination of what content belongs in our games is now a decision to be made solely by their creators -- what comes next is entirely up to them.