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Governator Signs Video Game Bill

Governator Signs Video Game Bill

Monday - October 10, 2005
It was a dark weekend in California. Governor Schwarzenegger, showing that he has no political backbone, yielded to the anti-video game sentiment sweeping the nation and signed assemblyman Leland Yee's bill aimed at keeping violent video games out of the hands of children. Don't get me wrong. I am all for keeping violent video games out of the hands of children, but not at the expense of the First Ammendment. The bill will ban the sale of games, "to minors, where such games are defined as those that include killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." (San Jose Mercury News)

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Who will decide if the games contain such "offensive" material? The game makers and publishers themselves. They will be required to afix a 2 inch tall "18" on the outside of the games.

This "rating" system goes above and beyond the voluntary ESRB ratings system which classify games by age with 17 years old being "M" for Mature and 18 being "AO", adults only.

This bill will take effect on Jan. 1 and Arnold's own games based on the Terminator are not expected to fall under the law.

This bill brings up so many hypocritical descrepencies and First Ammendment issues it's hard to know where to start.

First of all, isn't the whole point of the recent backlash against game ratings to take it out of the hands of the game makers and the ESRB? Yet, this bill would have game publishers determine if their content is suitable or not, thus making the system even more rife for abuse without the filter of the ESRB.

Second, note that the law is based on these terrible things happening to, "an image of a human being". Is Arnold's Terminator not offensive because I'm attempting to kill a robot? How about if the image of a human being is really an alien who has possessed a human and, in essence, is no longer human? Will the game publisher be able to slip under the radar and not afix an "18" sticker.

Third, other forms of media, namely movies, music, and books, do not fall under the same laws, yet are all forms of expression and/or art. The movie industry has the MPAA, who determine ratings. The MPAA, much like the ESRB, is an industry funded group. Why doesn't the government regulate what we can and can't see on the movie screen? Because that would be unconstitutional!

Which brings me to the fourth point. Similar bills over the past few years have been ruled to be unconstitutional. However, because of the huge momentum currently sweeping the nation with Illinois and Michigan passing similar laws in the past year and Hillary Clinton's now famous speech about video games added to the fact that the Chief Justice of the US is John Roberts, well, if any of these laws get out of State courts and go up to the Supreme Court, things could get scary.

Finally, what is always very obvious to me when these types of bills are written is that those who write them and use them as platforms to run for re-election do not know what they are talking about. Most of them have probably never played a video game. And, most of them still have in their heads the notion that video games = children.

Instead of writing bills which make no sense just so politicians like Leland Yee, Hillary Clinton, Governor Blagojevich (Ill), and Arnold, can look good and claim to their constituents that "I am tough on violence and I want to protect kids", why don't they leave the game ratings to the people who know what they're doing, the ESRB, and put their full political weight behind the ESRB.

We've always said, here at Lunabean, that the best way to keep violent games out of the hands of children is to educate adults and parents; those who buy the games for their kids. Public service campaigns, in the cast of "the V-Chip" and "The More You Know" could do good.

If you are an adult who thinks that kids can walk into any Gamestop or Best Buy and purchase an "M" rated game, you are wrong. Major retailers are extremely aware that the consequences of selling "M" games to children will only hurt their business in the long term (bad press, fines, etc.) which is why most major retailers have instituted an "ID" policy. I've seen many kids not able to buy a game they want and then run outside to grab their mom or dad to give the store clerk "approval". The kid walks out with the game. I think you can see where the problem lies.

What I'd like to say to these politicians who, at their best are misinformed and at the worst are "playing politics", is that there are currently 12.9 million children living in poverty and 8.4 million of them do not have health insurance (US Census Bureau). What do you think is worse for kids? Playing a violent video game or not being able to see a doctor or not having enough to eat. These "anti-video game" politicians need to get their priorities in order.

Posted by Jeremy at 09:51 AM |

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