February 22nd, 2006

Video Game Legislation Tracker Map Updates

GP made a few updates to our Google Maps-based Legislation Tracker this morning:

- added Missouri bill HB1467

- updated Maryland to include new information on HB707. Del. Kach's legislation had previously been titled HB54

- updated Texas to include video game legislation campaign promise by gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell (D)

We are also checking into legislation that has previously been hinted at in several states. We'll add that information to the map as we confirm it.

Game Industry People in the News

Sad news first.

Crave Entertainment reports that VP Mark "Chip" VanDeVelde, a game industry veteran, died on Saturday. Before joining Crave, Chip was national sales manager for Konami.

Crave is starting a scholarship fund for Chip's 11-year-old daughter, Callahan. Contact Lynda Broderick at Crave for info on how to contribute.
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Is Maryland Game Legislation Sponsor Really This Clueless?

GP tries to remain neutral in the political debate over video games. But we do insist that politicians who jump into the fray at least take the time to acquaint themselves with the subject of their legislative efforts.

So we were disturbed by comments attributed to Maryland Republican Delegate Wade Kach, author of legislation currently before the state assembly. Kach's bill, HB707 specifies that "obscene: (i.e. - sexually explicit) video games can't be sold or displayed to minors.

GP: We're not sure which "obscene video games" Kach has in mind. Under the bill's definition, even the Hot Coffee animations would not likely be covered. His comments, which appeared in a well-written piece in the Baltimore Jewish Times, betray a troubling lack of familiarity with the issues:

"Mr. Kach says he was spurred to offer his bill by a complaint from a constituent. 'They were especially concerned about [a video game called] 'Grant Theft Auto,' which apparently has a lot of [physical and sexual] violence,' said Mr. Kach, who has heard that the game has since been reissued in a toned-down version.

Grant Theft Auto? Perhaps the reporter got that part wrong. But "apparently" has a lot of [physical and sexual] violence?" Doesn't he know? Apparently not, since he merely "heard that the game has since been reissued..." Del. Kach, an hour from Washington, D.C. where Congress and the FTC are still digging into Hot Coffee, seems to have only hearsay information on the biggest video game news story of all time.
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Missouri Video Game Bill Under Consideration

The Show Me State is currently showing you a new piece of video game legislation.

As GamePolitics indicated was likely last month, Missouri House Minority Leader Rep. Jeff Harris (D) has in fact proposed HB1467, which would make it a misdemeanor to sell or rent an M- or AO-rated game to anyone under 17.

Harris' bill is currently before the Crime Prevention and Public Safety Committee of the Missouri House, but no action has yet been taken. A Harris staffer told GP yesterday that the bill has until May to be acted upon on die. A similar measure proposed by Harris failed to clear the same Republican-controlled committee in 2005.

Walsh & NIMF Issue Parental Alert For Movie Promo Sex Game

Is it Hot Coffee all over again?

Not exactly, but...

The National Institute on Media and the Family held a press conference today during which NIMF president Dr. David Walsh issued a so-called Nationwide Parental Alert. NIMF took the action in order to warn parents of graphic sexual content in a free online game being used to promote the upcoming movie Running Scared.

The only other time NIMF has taken such a step was in response to last year's Hot Coffee revelations. Today's NIMF release reads in part:

"Parents need to be aware of explicit pornography in an online game easily accessible to children readily available on the Internet. 'It is clear to everyone that this content shouldn't be accessible to children,' said Dr. David Walsh. 'New Line Cinema, should be ashamed that it thought it could get away with this tactic, without being held accountable.'"

GamePolitics and other news outlets reported on the game, which features player-controlled oral sex, last week.

In large part, NIMF's July, 2005 parental alert moved Hot Coffee from a web-only item to a mainstream news story that continues to have repercussions for the video game business. The Running Scared online game, of course, has no connection to the ESA, ESRB or any major video game publisher, and a NIMF spokesman told GP the organization is aware of that.

Still, the game industry may take at least part of the bad publicity hit should Walsh's alert resonate with the media, parents and politicians the way Hot Coffee did. Not fair, of course, but the average soccer mom is only going to hear "video game sex" and probably won't grasp the distinction.