January 11th, 2006

Parents Television Council Editorial Hypes Florida Game Bill

What are the chances? A guest editorial. In a Florida paper. And not written by Jack Thompson...

But it's true. Today's Vero Beach Press-Journal carries an op-ed written by Matt Butler, Florida Regional Director for the Parents Television Council.

Butler takes pen in hand to tout Florida's proposed video game legislation, SB 492. The bill was introduced in October by State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami, pictured). GamePolitics first broke the story of Diaz de la Portilla's plans to introduce SB 492 on October 26th of last year.

While we certainly agree with Butler's premise that adult-themed games should be kept away from children, we noted a few factual errors in his op-ed. Butler writes, "Despite the failure of their voluntary guidelines, the multibillion-dollar video game industry is fighting this legislation as it did (unsuccessfully) in Illinois, Michigan and California."

Actually, the video game industry has been quite successful in these cases, not having lost a single one. The Safe Games Illinois Act was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge in a withering opinion. The California and Michigan laws have been enjoined pending a final decision on their merits.

What's more, Butler says, "The evidence is conclusive: Countless independent studies confirm that repeated exposure to graphically sexual, violent and profanity-laced video games has a harmful and long-term affect on children."

We're not so sure about that, particularly the "long-term" effect. Is there a longitudinal study Butler can cite supporting this statement? In trashing the Illinois law, federal district court judge Matthew Kennelly was unsparing in his rejection of the research evidence presented by Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Butler also refers to Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla as simply "Sen. Alex Diaz." We'll assume that's a typo.

Like other critics, Butler is keen to lump video games with more commonly accepted threats when he writes, "We place similar restrictions on the sale of firearms, tobacco, alcohol and pornography. This is no different."

Butler is correct that retailers could do a better job of keeping games out of the hands of minors. There is room for improvement.