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Developer Attends Utah Video Game Hearing, Offers Impressions

You want the inside scoop on yesterday's video game law hearing in Utah? We've got it covered like a blanket here at GamePolitics, including the impressions of a local game developer who attended the hearing.

Although he indicated last week that he would be there, anti-game activist Jack Thompson didn't make it due to what he described to GP as a "pressing litigation matter" in Florida.

Lame duck bill sponsor David Hogue (R) and Rep. Scott Wyatt, apparently the bill's new sponsor, offered an amendment to have HB257 mirror the language of Thompson's ill-fated Louisiana video game law.

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, according to an industry source, did a thorough job of explaining the bill's constitutional problems to the committee. As GamePolitics has previously noted, Shurtleff has a friendly relationship with the ESRB, and has engaged in a Utah-based campaign to educate parents about video game ratings.

GP has learned that some legislators apparently left the hearing, causing the committee to lose its quorum just after lunchtime. That development led to an adjournment with no action taken on the bill. Discussions are likely to resume next month.

As mentioned, a video game developer attended the hearing. We provide his report, preserving his request not to publish his name. The content, which arrived in e-mail, has been edited slightly for readability (not that it wasn't well-written, but the author didn't plan on it going straight into a GP article. Material in parentheses was inserted by GP. We greatly appreciate this on-the-spot info):

"Well, Jack Thompson wasn't there today, so I'm disappointed... What did happen is that the sponsor, Rep. Hogue, came up and talked about his bill. He brought up Columbine, and all sorts of school shootings. He described how violent 'videos' were, and how they should be regulated."

"He brought up the American Psychological Association (APA); how violence in video games made kids violent; and how kids between 14-18 are in a critical development stage. And of course, he brought up those favorite whipping boys, 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' and - as Hogue calls it - 'The Bully'."

"Then they brought up an amendment to the bill, and basically changed the bill so that instead of defining certain types of violence, they just use the same three prong test as with pornography. Some committee members brought up the idea of porn equalling violence in video games, asking 'if we can regulate porn, why can't we regulate violence the same way?' At least one committee member did bring up the first amendment, and it was discussed briefly."

"The Attorney General (Shurtleff) came up and discussed the bill and its likelihood of passing court scrutiny. He mentioned that every district court has ruled against every violent video game law made so far, and that the odds of this bill surviving court scrutiny was 'very slim'. Rep. Hogue tried to defend the bill, saying that this bill does something different from other bills, and that it doesn't try to take games off of shelves. Other committee members brought up concerns about supporting a bill that would be 'tied up in the courts' and 'waste of money defending it'.

"Then an old lady came up and complained how society was becoming more violent, and that something needs to be done. She said that this bill needed to be passed, and it didn't matter if we wasted money defending it. It's for the children, etc."

"The ESA guy (apparently a lobbyist - the industry routinely offers testimony at these hearings) came up and talked about how in eight court cases so far, we've won eight of them. He mentioned the ESRB, and how he was working with the Attorney General in promoting the ESRB to Utah parents. Then, during question time, well, some of the committee members were rough on him. One of them nearly accused him of making violent games for kids. Of course, the ESA guy wasn't a game developer, but an attorney, so he really couldn't comment on that. Other committee members appeared to honestly not know what the ESRB was, and has questions about it."

"After the ESA guy, time ran out and several members of the committee had to leave. They tried to deny a motion to adjourn, but they left anyway. They decided that this issue was of too great importance to leave unresolved, so they shelved it until October. I'm rather disappointed that I didn't get to speak, but at least I get a chance to refine my testimony for next time."

Tags: david hogue, jack thompson, legislation, mark shurtleff, utah
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