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Schwarznegger signs California game rating bill into law

Californian governor Arnold Schwarznegger has signed into law a controversial bill which calls upon game retailers to post clear information explaining the rating system applied to videogames in the USA.

The bill, Assembly Bill 1793, is significantly watered down from its original form - which was a two-part bill that called for the classification of some games as "material harmful to children" and the treatment of M-rated games in the same way as pornography is handled.

That would have seen Mature games being placed in a separate area of videogame stores which was inaccessible to children, and would have imposed a $2000 fine and up to a year's imprisonment on retailers who sold them to minors.

However, pressure from the industry and other groups saw one of the double pair of bills being rejected entirely, while Bill 1793 only limped through the Assembly vote after having most of the actions it would have called for removed.

The passing of the new Californian law comes at a time when the UK is revisiting the issue of how 18-rated material should be kept out of the hands of minors, following on from the raising of the question in Parliament last week.

Here, it is illegal for a retailer to sell an 18-rated game to anyone under that age, with a 10,000 UKP fine and up to six months imprisonment allowed for by the existing legislation - but this is rarely, if ever, enforced by police, and several recent high-profile cases have made it clear that many retailers are ignoring the law.

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Rob Fahey: Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.