12 states petition Supreme Court for game restrictions

Powerful allies for California's last-ditch attempt to limit sale of violent games

Eleven states have banded together to support California's attempt to reintroduce legislation restricting the sale of videogames to minors.

While the law was thrown out by an appeals court, its next and final port of call is the Supreme Court. Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Virginia and Texas are all now on-board.

Website Gamasutra has seen a brief of the 12-state alliance's intentions, which claims that the need to "prevent minors from buying or renting without parental approval a defined class of video games which invite players to commit digital homicide, torture, and rape" is permissible under the first amendment, despite previous court decisions to the contrary.

Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal explained his state's support for the bill, accusing the games industry of having no self-regulation but seemingly unaware of the ESRB. "Protecting children from digital danger requires proactive parents - but they need and deserve help.

"The videogame industry should act responsibly - play nice, not nasty - and agree to sensible self-imposed restrictions that block children from buying the most violent games. I am calling on the videogame industry to follow the leadership of the motion picture industry, which sensibly stops unattended children from viewing violent or graphic movies."

Senior figures in the US videogame industry are deeply concerned about the potential law, fearing that major chains such as Wal-Mart would outright refuse to stock adult-rated games.

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Latest comments (15)

Mikael Malmivaara Studying Business Management, Edinburgh Napier University9 years ago
Well, the law does seem reasonable. While yes, the attorneys do seem a bit silly for not realizing that the ESRB exists, they would still aid in enforcing the ratings in a way. Besides, if I had kids, I most definitely would not let them play half the stuff I played when I was but a young lad.
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It does seem dumb that in the US showing a breast is considered unbelievable, but allowing kids to buy games that are clearly designed for adults is a bit dumb. You can buy guns, shoot anywhere (2nd amendment right to bear arms) but if you bare flesh you are the scum of the earth. Kids should not be able to buy mature rated games any more than watch mature rated movies. Its just common sense is it not (any parent should agree).
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Brian 'Psychochild' Green MMO Developer 9 years ago
The problem with the law is that it establishes a double-standard in U.S. law. The principles of free speech should apply to all media, including games.

If these same states had written a law restricting minors' access to books, they would be laughed at. If these states had written a law to restrict minors' access to movies, they'd face opposition and the influence of Hollywood. Unfortunately, games are a way to score cheap political points by trying to "protect the children" from some indistinct hazard. It's typical fear by the older generation against a medium they don't understand, just as theater, film, rock'n'roll music, comic books, and television have had to deal with in the past.
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Show all comments (15)
Kingman Cheng Illustrator and Animator 9 years ago
The right to carry firearms > computer games for adults but bought by kids.

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Private Industry 9 years ago
They should call on the retailers and parents since it is the responsibility of retailers to make sure the games are sold to people who meet the age according to the ESRB rating of the game. As is it the responsibility of parents to not buy your 10 year old kid Manhunt, almost nobody would buy his kid a porno so nobody should his kid stuff like Manhut and so on, and setup the parental controls on your Console/PC. Wii, 360 and PS3 have all parental controls implemented. All it would take them is looking 2 minutes in the manual to figure out how to set it up if they are not familiar with operating a console.

There is no need to make a defined class of games, just follow ESRB rating and make sure those retailers and the parents stick to it.
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Terence Gage Freelance writer 9 years ago
A couple of things that stick out to me: are there many games available for sale in the US where you can rape, or in any way sexually assault?! I thought that was only a few disgusting and extremely niche Japanese games which aren't even available through Western retailers.

What does this mean for the M for Mature, A for Adult - and so on - ratings. Are these not legally enforceable?! Perhaps a revision of the system and more specific definitions are needed, a la PEGI.
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Private Industry 9 years ago
Don`t think any of the rape games are distributed in the US and there are currently only 24 games rated Adult Only (including Fahrenheit for a short sex scene and San Andreas after the Hot coffee incident). None of those 24 games has Sexual Violence, so no rape.

As far as I remember games with a AO rating can not be displayed on shelves at retailers and only allowed to be displayed in the same area where Adult movies are, not really the place where gamers look for games. That`s as far as I remember maybe someone living in the US can confirm or deny that.
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Neil Alphonso Lead Designer, Splash Damage Ltd9 years ago
The issue isn't AO games, it's M rated games. It would have a huge effect on the industry if Walmart dropped all M titles other than blockbusters like MW and RDR, amplifying the retail sales numbers we've been seeing as of late.

It also essentially means government involvement with video game ratings, which is a slippery and messy slope.

Calling on parents for responsibility is not something that's done in the US. Quite scarily, it rests on the Supreme Court to save the industry from this one, but at least they're not as directly effected by vote pandering as the states bringing these petitions. It is however, very worrying that this case has made it this far.
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Benjamin Crause Supervisor Central Support, Nintendo of Europe9 years ago
I personally believe the problem are politicians who think they can score and parents who are unable, unwillingly or overwhelmed by to days ever so fast growing media world.

Parents are responsible for their children. They need to take care of it. It is often very difficult but how many parents actually sit down and watch their kids play for ten minutes and ask them why they like this kind of games?

Why do children have so easy access to these games? Because stores sell them to minors. Simply make sure that any store who sells games to minors is slapped with a strong fine ($US 15k+). They'll think twice of it.

Age ratings are there to protect minors and the unsuitable audience but to allow freedom of choice for adults. In Germany we have similar motions and as a grown-up I feel heavily censored in my right of free choice.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam9 years ago
That seems to be what the states are suggesting. As the Connecticut guy quoted in the article says, "The videogame industry should act responsibly and agree to sensible self-imposed restrictions that block children from buying the most violent games. I am calling on the videogame industry to follow the leadership of the motion picture industry, which sensibly stops unattended children from viewing violent or graphic movies."

Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. If the ESRB actually did this instead of screaming "1st amendment" at the slighest hint of regulation, a lot of these problems would no doubt go away.
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Aidan Fitzpatrick Artist 9 years ago
"digital homicide, torture, and rape"

really? we're back to the old misinformed hysterical scaremongering of the Jack Thompson era?
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Neil Alphonso Lead Designer, Splash Damage Ltd9 years ago
The ESRB has no actual power to influence retailers. Retailers hold the cards, and they're not inclined to care as it would hurt their bottom line and currently the development industry is taking the blame. Their due diligence is to be profitable, not necessarily responsible.

Hollywood has much more power over their retailers, with high-priced rental exclusivity periods and the like. There are no laws or fines regarding film rentals to minors, government involvement of film ratings ended after Freedman v. Maryland 380 U.S. 51 in 1965.
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Phil Shaw Studying Games art and design, Norwich University College of the Arts9 years ago
This could have a knock on effect, if the worries about major stockists, like Walmart, decide to NOT stock adult titles then we'll see a dramatic fall in games revenue. That's not to say that people won't buy games, I'm sure anyone really wanting a particular title can easily find an online stockist and get a copy that way. Just like age restriction on movies and the "parental advisory.." stickers on CDs games should be regulated and restricted, to a degree. Inevitably the buck stops with the parent, if you don't want your kid committing digital homicide don't allow the game to be bought in the first place!
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Philipp Nassau Student - Business Administration (M. Sc.) 9 years ago
This is mainly populism, but it seems reasonable even under the 1st amendment to not allow minors to buy games not suited for them. If the parents decide their kids can handle it they can buy it for them, no big deal and you habe a lot more control over what they play. In fact, in Germany the age ratings are legally binding, you are not allowed to sell a game rated 16+ to anyone under 16. The impact when this was introduced was nowhere near as dramatic as everyone predicted, mainly because the majority of games is not even rated AO. We have, however, no big supermarket sales point here in Germany (and Wal-Mart is powerful in the US, I understand that).
What this may lead to is developers cutting their 2 minute sexually arousing scene to make the lower rating. That's not perfect but economically reasonable.
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Lewis Mills Creative Partner, Ninja Beaver Studios9 years ago
Although you can no longer see the episode on You tube anymore, this said it all (and more, so download if you can and watch):-

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Lewis Mills on 21st July 2010 12:17am

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