March 9th, 2006

Who Needs Ratings? Total Ban on Violent Games Proposed in TN

Don't blink. You read that headline correctly.

As reported by WATE-6, Knoxville, Tennessee State Sen. Tommy Kilby (D, at left)) has proposed legislation that, in its current form, would make it a crime to sell or rent what it terms "extremely violent" games to anyone, of any age.

Kilby told the T.V. station he wrote SB3981 after receiving feedback from parents and police. Fellow Democrat Les Winningham has proposed an identical bill, HB4053, in the Tennessee House of Representatives.

WATE-6 spoke to one very annoyed 32-year-old gamer. Dave Roland said, "This is not the place of legislature to choose what I as a 32-year-old male am able to play."

GP: Kilby's bill was just introduced last week. There will certainly be time to amend its specification as to age. But it's rather troubling to see it even proposed in its current total ban fashion. The GP Legislation Tracker has been updated to reflect the new bill.

Florida Senate Video Game Bill Steams Ahead

Down in the Sunshine State, SB492, video game legislation proposed by State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla (R) cleared the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee by an 8-0 vote yesterday.

GamePolitics previously reported that SB492 was being held up by its sponsor pending a federal judge's ruling on the California law, after which the Florida legislation is modeled. With no final decision so far in Calfornia, however, Diaz de la Portilla apparently decided to push ahead.

The senator told the Tallahassee Democrat, "We have an obligation to do everything we can to protect our children" Minors would also be barred from playing violent coin-op games in arcades.

A similar bill in the Florida House of Representatives, HB0647, was discussed by the House Business Regulation Committee last month. Action has been deferred on that measure for now.

Video Game Study Bill Passes Senate Committee, Moves On

As reported on CNet, a bi-partisan bill to fund a federal study of the effects of media on children has survived a crucial committee vote and will now move forward.

The Children and Media Research Advancement Act (CAMRA) was proposed early in 2005 by U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Sam Brownback (R-NE).

GP: As a historical aside, CAMRA was one of the first stories ever covered on GamePolitics.

The "sweeping study" envisioned by CAMRA would be conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bill was passed by the Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Although the original version called for $90 million to fund the research, no amount was specified by the committee. Lieberman Press Secretary Rob Sawicki said a funding cap would be set during the congressional appropriations process.

CAMRA would mandate a review of the cognitive, physical and socio-behavioral impact of electronic media on child and adolescent development. Issues such as physical coordination, diet,sleeping habits, attention span, peer relationships and aggression levels might come under its purview. TV, movies, the Internet, mobile phones, and of course, video games would all be included.

"This is a big step toward helping parents get the information they need about the effect of media on their children," Lieberman said following the committee vote.

Marv Johnson, legislative counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), however, expressed concern that study results might be used to justify media content legislation. "Down the road when - if there is some sort of finding that there is harm in this - then we're going to see calls to regulate speech because of the potential harm. That's where there's going to be a problem."

A similar bill introduced by Rep. Edward Markey, (D-MA) has yet to be considered by the House.

GP: Don't sound the alarm bells just yet. With so many conflicting arguments about the effects of games, it's hard to argue with an actual study conducted by the CDC.

Michigan Democrats Back 25 to Life Boycott

The nationwide law enforcement backlash against Eidos' 25 to Life is blossoming into a serious public relations black eye for the video game industry.

GP tracks national news, of course, and at least once a day for the past several weeks there has been a local television or newspaper report concerning the understandable negative reaction police officers have to the game.

Politicians, of course, are taking notice as well. In Michigan, where a constitutional battle still rages over the video game bill signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm last fall, state Democrats have backed a boycott of 25 to Life.

As reported by The Observer, Rep. Kathy Angerer (left) introduced a resolution on the controversy yesterday. HR0208, co-sponsored by numerous Democratic legislators, is designed to "express support for a boycott of '25 to Life,' a video game that invites players to kill law enforcement personnel, and to urge parents, retailers, caregivers, and others to join this boycott and to keep this game away from children."

"Clearly this is a bad thing," said Rep. Marie Donigan a press conference held earlier this week at the Royal Oak Police Station. "(Police) must not be targets in blood-thirsty video games."

"The main significance of (this protest) is awareness," Police Chief Ted Quisenberry said. "We can't have these conferences every week when the latest versions come out."

Meanwhile, an editorial in today's Oakland Press commends the lawmakers for resisting calls to ban 25 to Life as urged by the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial Fund. The Press editorial board says, in part, "A lot of people... are calling for a boycott. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), however, has undertaken a petition drive to have it banned by law. And that's more dangerous territory than the game itself... One of our First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution is that of adults to see and read what they want, without censorship..."

In related news, the NLEOMF petition to ban 25 to Life has garnered over 220,000 signatures.

Arcade Operators Trade Group Adopts GP Legislation Tracker

GamePolitics is pleased to announce that we have authorized the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) to display our one-of-a-kind Legislation Tracker on their website.

The AMOA is an industry group that, among other things, represents this interests of coin-op arcade game operators. You can check out how they are displaying the Legislation Tracker here.

Oklahoma Video Game Bill Passes Committee

A committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed video game legislation proposed by Republican Rep. Fred Morgan. The measure will now move to the House floor for a vote.

Morgan's bill, HB3004, was approved by the Corrections and Criminal Justice Committee. As of this writing, the listing for the proposed law on the Oklahoma House website still contains language relating to child pornography rather than games.

A Morgan staffer told us that should be corrected soon. At this time, however, we have no information on the wording of the legislation.

UPDATE: TMC.net has a little more on the Oklahoma bill, including comments from Rep. Rex Duncan (R), who said, "Video games teaching youngsters to kill cops have no redeeming social value in Oklahoma. If parents don't keep this garbage from their kids, our society will continue its march toward lawlessness and disrespect for the value of life." Duncan also said decisions on what meets "community standards" outlined in the measure might be similar to the test of how a community judges pornography.

Uh-oh. More "games as porn" thinking...