NEWS - Saturday, May 7, 2005

Violent Video Game Bills Move Forward

Violent Video Game Bills Move Forward Legislation concerning the sale of violent video games to minors has been pending in many states in the U.S., but bills in Illinois and California just took steps forward bringing them closer to becoming law. House Bill 4023 will go before the State Senate in Illinois and AB450 will be voted on by the full Assembly before going to the Senate for review. Legislation that would make it illegal for retailers to sell or rent Mature-rated video games to minors moved forward in Illinois and California this week. Illinois bill headed to Senate The Safe Games Illinois Act (House Bill 4023), supported by Governor Rod Blagojevich and sponsored by Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville), was approved 6-2 in the state’s Senate Housing and Community Affairs Committee. The next step for the bill is to go to the State Senate. Unlike other similar proposed legislation in the U.S., the Safe Games Illinois Act would allow state officials to label video games with their own ratings, ignoring the industry standard Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB). According to the bill, titles that include "dismemberment, decapitation, disfigurement, maiming, mutilation of body parts or rape" would be stamped "18," and retailers caught selling these games to teens under 18 would be subject to a $1,001 fine as well as a blemish on their permanent record. [ "Retailers are making their best efforts to ensure that their stores are complying with their policy of carding for ’Mature’ rated games and would like to be given the same opportunity as the movie theater owners and music retailers," Marie Sylla, Director of Government Relations & Counsel, IEMA ] Certain aspects of the bill still aren’t clear, however. Exactly how the different ratings system would affect those of the ESRB has not been spelled out. The finer points of the legal and financial penalties have not been set in stone either, and Demuzio said that she would not bring the bill to a vote from the full Senate until all questions regarding the fines and labeling are resolved. CA bill passed on reconsideration Meanwhile, in California the CA House Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media passed Democratic Assembly Member Leland Yee’s AB450 by a count of 6-4. This happened only days after the same committee failed to pass the bill by only one vote. Upon reconsideration, though, the committee passed the bill, enabling it to go before the full Assembly and eventually the State Senate for review. When the committee first voted against the bill, the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) was quite happy about the outcome. "We are pleased that the California House Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media did vote out A.B. 450, the Yee bill which prohibits the sale of certain types of video games. It is evident that most of the committee members recognized the obvious flaw with the legislation --that it is wholly unconstitutional," said Marie Sylla, Director of Government Relations & Counsel, IEMA. The IEMA’s reaction was tempered somewhat, though, because they knew the bill would likely be reconsidered. "However by no means do we consider this vote against Yee’s bill a win for the industry, as it is likely that Assemblyman Yee will push for reconsideration on his bill. Retailers are making their best efforts to ensure that their stores are complying with their policy of carding for ’Mature’ rated games and would like to be given the same opportunity as the movie theater owners and music retailers," said Sylla. Yee compares to cigs, Governator has no view Yee, who is also a child psychologist, has compared violent video games on many occasions to alcohol or cigarettes. "For the same reason we don’t allow kids to buy pornography, cigarettes, or alcohol, we shouldn’t allow them to go to stores and buy video games that teach them to do the very things we put people in jail for -- abusing women, joining street gangs, killing police officers, or even assassinating President Kennedy," said Yee. Of course, his mention of Kennedy refers to a highly controversial web-based game, JFK Reloaded, which is not even available for purchase at retail. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (aka the governator) has still not taken a position on the issue of violent video games. It would be interesting to see what his stance is, since he has, after all, starred in violent movies himself, and violent video games based on those films have also used Schwarzenegger’s likeness. Both bills in Illinois and California face a tough road ahead, as does similarly proposed legislation in other states, since they may be viewed as violations of free speech. Federal courts in the past have struck down such legislation because of the First Amendment.

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