April 25th, 2006

Parents Television Council Backs Oklahoma Video Game Bill

Prior to yesterday's vote, the Los Angeles-based Parents Television Council threw its support behind video game legislation in the Oklahoma State Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Glen Coffee, passed unanimously (see GP story above).

In a press release issued Saturday, the PTC, which claims to have over one million members in the United States, called on the Oklahoma Senate to pass Coffee's measure.

"This bill will protect children from the graphic violence and explicit sex that is common in many video games without infringing on the rights of adults. Currently, retailers have no legal obligation to curtail the selling of graphic, harmful and violent video games to minors, the parents in Oklahoma want that to change," wrote PTC executive director Tim Winter.

"Voluntary compliance by the video game industry has been a failure..." Winter continued, "In addition, medical research offers overwhelming evidence that these ultra-violent games can cause damage to a child's brain."

The PTC press release goes on to say that the organization has "intensified its efforts to increase public awareness to the impacts of violent video games and their affects on children... chapter directors have called on... lawmakers to make the sale restrictions of violent video games to children a high priority. Violent video game legislation has passed in Michigan, Illinois and California, and is being considered in many states including Missouri, Kansas, and Minnesota as well as at the federal level in Congress."

GP: No mention in the PTC press release that the Michigan and Illinois laws were found to be unconstitutional, nor that the California statue may face a similar fate next month when a Federal District Court judge is scheduled to rule on the video game industry's challenge.

Plus, a tip of GP's hat to regular Fandel Mulkey for letting us know about this one!

IEMA's Halpin Rips California's Yee Over Remarks

Last week, GamePolitics broke a story detailing California Assembly Speaker pro Tem Leland Yee's (D) plans to introduce legislation shielding college newspapers from faculty censorship.

Yee's bill was especially interesting in light of his status as architect of California's video game law, which currently faces a First Amendment challenge from the video game industry. The case should be decided sometime in May.

Over at 1UP, Luke Smith did some follow-up with Yee, asking for clarification on what at first glance might appear to be irreconcilable positions on a pair First Amendment issues.

"The difference," Yee told 1UP, "is that we are looking at children. And that's the major distinction. And what we are limiting with children are these ultra-violent video games. These kind of horrendous acts of violence that we are limited children's access to. That is the major difference."

Nor did Yee express confidence in the video game industry's ability to self-regulate.

"The Federal Trade Commission's undercover study (said) that nearly 70% of kids would be able to purchase an M-rated video game. More recently, the Harvard study says that the ESRB doesn't give accurate information," Yee remarked. "The content descriptor doesn't give accurate information about the material found within these games. The coup de gras was the 'hot coffee' incident where hidden sexual material was found in an M-rating game. It was failure upon failure of the ESRB to regulate itself that I felt I needed to step in..."

IEMA boss Hal Halpin was quick to issue a rejoinder, sending his comments to both 1UP and GamePolitics.

"It is unfortunate that Mr. Yee remains woefully uninformed regarding the FTC's findings with regard to voluntary retail efforts at self-regulation," Halpin said. "He is either quoting an out-dated several year-old study, or has missed the press regarding their latest findings: that the nation's leading retailers, our members, are successfully carding for M-rated games 65% of the time - which puts the games industry on par with his 'Gold Standard,' the movie theatre owners, who card at 69% of the time. While we appreciate Mr. Yee's convictions and his right to a perspective, we would appreciate an effort to, at the very least, represent the statistics correctly to his constituents. Misleading them must surely not be in anyone's best interests."

Oklahoma Senate Passes Game Bill Unanimously... Will Guv Sign?

Legislators in Oklahoma are apparently in consensus when it comes to video game violence. A bill proposed by State Senator Glen Coffee (R, seen at left) passed 47-0 yesterday. The measure's next stop is the desk of Governor Brad Henry, a Democrat.

HB3004 is the same bill which, as reported by GamePolitics, passed the Oklahoma House, also unanimously, in March.

State Rep. Fred Morgan (R) is the original author of the bill, which takes the "games as porn" approach, amending an existing Oklahoma statute defining those things deemed "harmful to minors." HB3004 would add what it terms "inappropriate violence," to the banned-for-minors list, applying "contemporary community standards" to any such judgment.

Games-as-porn is a recently-developed legislative tactic which is popping up in state assemblies with increasing frequency (Utah, Delaware, Louisiana) as legislators seek to navigate a path that avoids the well-publicized First Amendment failures such bills have experienced recently in Illinois and Michigan.

If Gov. Henry signs the bill, HB3004 will become law on November 1st.

UPDATE: We spoke with Gov. Henry's office this morning and learned that an amendment added by the Oklahoma Senate will cause HB3004 to go back to the House for approval before it is delivered to the Governor for consideration. Once the measure arrives on his desk, Gov. Henry will have five days to sign the bill.

UPDATE 2: A well-placed source told GP that, while the Guv's legislative staff would need to review whatever final version is passed by the legislature, he would most likely be inclined to sign the bill into law. That, of course, would trigger the video game industry's next First Amendment battle.

CRIME FILES: Dad Shoots PC 'cuz Junior Games Too Much

This is one of those crazy "man bites dog" stories.

Except in this case the "man" is Dad and the "dog" is his son's gaming PC. The biting was done with a handgun.

Tampa's WTSP-10 is reporting that a Dunedin man, Joseph Langenderfer, (handsome devil seen at left) was upset that his 22-year-old son spent too much time playing computer games and wouldn't do the laundry.

So he blasted the computer monitor while his son Tim sat nearby. Langenderfer's current address is the Pinellas County lockup, where he awaits a court appearance on an attempted murder rap.

GP: No word on what the poor kid was playing, but it was probably one of those "victim simulators."

Also, a GP shout-out to reader Joe Bourrie for alerting us to this one...