Louisiana's HB1381 which passed through the Louisiana State House and Senate (without a single vote against it) was signed into law last week by Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco. It was put into effect immediately.
The law follows guidelines, instead of ESRB ratings, which determine the legality of selling, renting or leasing a video game to a minor. If you live in Louisiana and break one of these guidelines, you may find yourself fined up to $2,000, imprisoned for up to a year, or both. One would assume that such penalties would come with clear cut guidelines, yet one would also assume a state would never pass anything written by Jack Thompson, so all bets with this law are off even the clarity of the law.
According to HB1381, the very simple "M-rating" (not suitable for gamers under the age of 18) has now been replaced with three guidelines, or conditions, which merit a game illegal to sell, rent or lease to a minor. These guidelines are as follows:
(1) The average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the video or computer game, taken as a whole, appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence.
(2) The game depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors.
(3) The game, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
While each of the guidelines are clearly subjective (and, therefore, impossible for a retail clerk to decipher before selling a game), I find #3 to be the most frightening. It is now up to our governmental leaders, the same crowd that respects Jack Thompson and voted blindly for this law, to determine what does and does not have artistic value. The ramifications of this are huge. Imagine this on a federal level, then imagine it applying to music, movies and books. If you can make laws like this specific to one artistic medium, then those laws can easily be applied to other forms of artistic media. This is why, time and time again, these laws are shot down as they are found to be unconstitutional. Granted, we are moving closer and closer to a theocracy every day (which is why we really need to protect our video games, music, movies and books), but we are also the United States of America, and we don't stand for governmental censorship. Right? So, why do the peoples' representatives from the great state of Louisiana?
Last time I checked much of New Orleans looked just like it did last September. I know the government needs to get back to making decisions beyond disaster clean-up and rebuilding. However, I also think these people need to be held accountable when they frivolously spend money on a "feel good" law they know will be overturned, all in an effort to pad their own "family values" resume. Shame on them.
And, of course, the challenge has already been filed by the EMA and ESA.