Illinois game laws overturned

District Judge rules that regulations would have violated First Amendment right of free speech.

The game industry scored a victory on Friday when US District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly declared a pair of Illinois game restriction laws unconstitutional, Game Politics reported.

The Violent Video Games Law and the Sexually Explicit Video Games Law (SEVGL), introduced last December by Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), were set to go into effect January 1, 2006. Had they stood, the laws would have limited the sale and/or rental of games with violent and sexually explicit content. Retailers caught renting or selling such games to persons 18 or under would have been fined up to $1,000 for violating the statute.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association joined the Entertainment Software Association and the Video Software Dealers Association as a co-plaintiff in the suit, which was filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

In a 53-page ruling, Judge Kennelly defended games as a protected form of free speech and dismissed the state's scientific evidence suggesting causal links between violent games and violent behavior. He called the wording of the laws unconstitutionally vague. In particular, he took the Sexually Explicit Video Games Law to task for parroting the language of traditional obscenity laws but omitting key parts that ensure a work's merit as a whole will be taken into consideration when determining its legality. He specifically brought up the recently released action game God of War and mentioned the game's minigame in which main character Kratos has implied sexual relations with two women.

"Because of this one scene, a game such as God of War, which essentially parallels a classic book like The Odyssey, likely would be prohibited for minors under the SEVGL, because the statute allows a game to be regulated based on one scene without regard to the value of the game as a whole. Such a sweeping regulation on speech--even sexually explicit speech--is unconstitutional even if aimed at protecting minors."

Last month a Michigan law imposing restrictions on the sale of violent games to minors was temporarily blocked. A pending California gaming law set to go into effect January 1, 2006, has also precipitated a lawsuit from the ESA and the VSDA, but no ruling has been made in that case as of yet.

In other game legislation news, New York Senator Hillary Clinton said she will introduce federal legislation to restrict the sale of violent games to minors when Congress next reconvenes.

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Discussion

177 comments
Cloud737
Cloud737

Another victory! :D This law sucks, along with the one`s that came up with it.

swordsman_stram
swordsman_stram

Even if the law did become true it wont stop all this violence that is blamed on games. My opinion this law should`ve become aproved because the future depends on us kids. Wat good would a 32 year old who sits home with no job and plays computer all day do?

A_Norman
A_Norman

My home state is the best....hoooooray!

irina1208
irina1208

Excellent, I just wish those good polition people lived in Califronia made schanegger get rid of his stupid laws

RyanSaotome
RyanSaotome

I must say, good chap. I think our children should be allowed to watch porn, kill prostitutes with bats, and molest monkeys.

kaito2
kaito2

I would encourage anyone who is in doubt about the true motives of groups like the NIMF to click on this web site: http://www.esrb.com/downloads/nimf_fail.pdf In summary, it shows that their agenda isn't about protecting children, but about banning video games they don't like.

kaito2
kaito2

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Khadgoroth
Khadgoroth

About time. I knew there was some reason that I moved to Illinois.

kaito2
kaito2

I am also a gamer and a parent, and I am glad that this law was overturned. Don't be a government tool and buy the rhetoric about "protecting the children." The ultimate responsibility for that belongs to parents. This was all about appealing to the new generation of parents who blame their incompetence in parenting on everyone but themselves. I'm sorry, but how do you make parents more responsible by taking away more of the responsiblity and giving it to the government, or a retailer, or anyone other than the parent? It doesn't suprise me in the least that legislators "omitted" certain things in the wording of the law to make it intentionaly vague. This is corrupt government at its best: make a law as vague as you can so that YOU can decide when you want to enforce it. Think about the reprecusion that would have on the industry. Game makers/retailers not knowing what the gov't might decide to consider "inappropriate" (by the way, an incredibly subject term), would only make/sell games that were completely sterile (imagine the return of Pong). Someone mentioned community standards as a precedent for allowing this law to pass. Yuck! "community" standards have to be the best example of bad law. When I hear "community standards" I think of Jim Crow laws in the old South. These were laws voted on by a majority of the people (white) to set a "standard" for the minority of the people (black). People then, and obviously now, forget that America was not founded as a democracy (that is actually what America sought to escape), but as a republic. Community standard laws negate the individual to the group. With respect to the arts (yes, including porn) people's definition of what is appropriate is going to vary. If you don't think a game, a book, music is appropriate for your children, that is fine, but don't try to decide what is appropriate for my children. That brings me to another point. I really don't understand the whole Bury my Child's Head in the Sand school of parenting. The thinking that if we just keep these books, CDs, games, magazines away from them they will be OK; and that magically, at the age of 18 or 20, they will have the mental capacity to cope with these things. Here is a thought: why not teach your children the critcal thinking skills needed to analyze and interpret what they see or hear, and to put it into perspective? Again, parenting is a full time job, get used to it, or pay the consequences. Oh sorry, I forgot this legislation is aimed at parents who DON'T want to pay the consequences. For those of you who pointed out the the game industry is only out ot make money; congratulations, you passed high school economics. Although, you mistakenly forgot that they really need to appeal to the people who have the most money: in general, people OVER 18. In fact, they really need to take the desires of parents into consideration if they are going to continue to grow their customer base. Remember that the ESRB rating is voluntary, and was done so that they could sell more games. Ratings were just a way to appeal to parents who wanted to informed about the content of the games they were thinking about purchasing for their child. Not suprisingly, in a recent survey done by the ESRB, 84% of parents surveyed felt the ESRB is doing its job. But what about the other 16%, you ask. Well, their free to ignore the ESRB ratings and make decisions about what kind of games their children buy on their own. But wait, doesn't that mean parents have to take responsibility for their children? Uh, duh!

jrxbond
jrxbond

Clearly this guy doesn't play video games. He probably had family or school folk who urgently petitioned it OR Considering it's 'educational' value in comparison to books like the Oddyssey, he may have just tried the damn thing himself and said it's bad ass like the rest of us MEN!! As well, I've played games since I was 5 and there was only one episode that I actually was pissed off and hit my brother because he was kicking my arse. The great thing about it though is that, during that same week I seriously thought about what I did and not once since that day did I ever get pissed off again. So, this goes to show that children with good values overcome 'trial and error' hugely based on how they are treated and raised by those that 'love' them. Violent games like mortal kombat didn't do anything to destroy my resolve on life. These adults with naive sense of life need to head back to college and re-learn the distinct values placed in good relationships in familes over ideals of a interactive game.. by the way have rich ideals of destroying evil over conquering good. Some exceptions ilke grand theft auto are just tools to let that gangsta out in a truelly unharmful way. Matter of fact, most adults don't truelly grow up and if they do a lot of adults are defined by the culture of books and now video games. It gives them an edge on life and a direction or goal that can be good or bad but it is their right as a free man to endeavor into whatever they perceive is their destiny.

RVD3210
RVD3210

A victory for the VG allies! woohoo! o no!? its hilary clinton! leader of the Axis of destroying video games! And the others Jack Thompson too! hope VG-Day comes soon(on this day the allies preapre a plan and bomb the axis in court and video games will be their old selves again!) yipee!

mikekare79
mikekare79

Score one for the good guys! Parents need to step up and start paying attention to what their kids are doing. No need to wasted my tax dollars doing it! I work too hard to just sit back and watch even more of my money go to waste.

too_tall13
too_tall13

ive never been more proud to live in IL. Overturning this law was a no-brainer. However, there are some people out there who would have obviously gone the other way. So I'm thankful we helped create a step in the right direction. sadly, this battle is going to go on longer than the war in the middle east :( but its a step in the right direction. the real kicker is going to when Hillary submits legislation to Congress again early next year. I highly doubt she'll write up something thats vague. Chances are it will be something that will be seriously up for debate and have some valid arguments. thats where the true test will be. but in the meantime, this is a positive step for free speech, freedom of expression and hopefully taking of blame off of the gaming industry, since of course they are not the ones labeling and selling games. they just make them. it'll be interesting to see how this goes. but for now we have one battle down. all we need now is a few more :)

SnowFarmer
SnowFarmer

While I agree with the judge in this case, I do feel there is some role for oversight in the game market. Just like we don't allow minors to walk in to an adult video shop and buy porn there are some games that should be 18+ only. Hopefully the industry can get its' act together and put a workable system in place before we end up with some moronic solution imposed on us by some politician trying to make points. Yeah it might suck that some of you 15 and 16 year olds might have to have you parents buy a game for you, but that is a much better solution than any solution that would come out of your state house or congress.

JimboJillgeorge
JimboJillgeorge

yeah blagovich is a tool and is only going after video games to try and win himself a re-election,which won't happen because everyone in the state of Illinois(including myself) hates him.he's just going after the current hot button,which sadly is video games.that's stupid that everyone is going after video games lately,especially sicne the same suggestive material thats in video games can be found in movies,music,tv,books even.but yet video games are the only ones they really care about.im glad that judge overturned the nazi(aka rod blagovich)'s evil plans to ruin video games for minors(like myself).i think it all falls upon the parents to what their kid's play.i've been playing video games since i was like 3 and my parents have always known what i've played and they've always been cool with it.i mean when i was 6 my dad bought me doom.so the parents should take responsibility,not the government.

thaid
thaid

When will we stop trying to regulate morality? It's not the governments job to protect children from sexually explicit, and violent material.

JRGuinness
JRGuinness

Go Illinois!!! You're still not as cool as Texas, but keep on rocking!. To Senators Clinton and Lieberman: What makes you think that if the same legislation was blocked on the state level for being unconstitutional, that it will be passed onthe national level? -JRGuinness

DevSingh1359
DevSingh1359

Man you guys in IL are lucky...I wish someone like Judge Kennelly took action where I live...

SirMothy
SirMothy

lol begun the gaming war has................

GrahamKracker7
GrahamKracker7

This is good..games are proving to be protected by our very own american rights.

ruff_edgz
ruff_edgz

I'm not upset with this law not passes but I do have a problem still with children still having access to buying games that are rated 'M' for Mature games. The ESRB have made these ratings not for the video game industry but for the parents to look at for help selecting games at are right for their children and kids under the age of the rated game should NOT be able to buy this game without a parent around to buy it. If this rating system by the ESRB isn't used, whats the point.

edmorleysmith
edmorleysmith

true, theories about social fear and paranoia, poverty, and race all come into the equation as well as guns, but would nevertheless be interesting to see the affect of tougher laws in the u.s.

NeoJedi
NeoJedi

Very good... but hey, we don't have that in Canada. :)

RacerSVT
RacerSVT

booyah!!!!! Now we watch the rest of these hearings go down like dominos.....

RESISTEE926
RESISTEE926

I think T games shouildt be prohibited 4 violence but sexualy explicit games might skould be prohibited

edmorleysmith
edmorleysmith

violent music, movies, games and books have all been the centre of this debate at some point. Same talk over here in the uk, but its not a big issue due to our relatively low crime rate (100x more murder in us). Thus maybe covering old ground but surely politicians should focus on gun laws, rather than violence in videogames?

Dominicous
Dominicous

Glad for some common sense out of our government for a change. However that's just one hurdle to overcome.

loverman08
loverman08

Chalk on up for the Game industry, take that Hillary!!

devilone
devilone

this is one small step towards the right direction. i wonder how many of those politicians have this and/or other games in their homes and don't know about them because they're too busy fighting for the games to be taken off shelves.

Hect3a
Hect3a

What a load of Bull**** good thing i live in the UK

vallen1311
vallen1311

OK. First off, saying that this means we should allow rape and murder and incest and what not is just plain stupid. There is a huge difference. Also, don't applaud IL. This was a no-brainer. No judge could have allowed a law that is that vague. In case you didn't understand it, the judge meant that they could determine what could be considered M and AO on the fly. That left the law open to control just about every aspect of every game. I do feel that minors shouldn't play these types of games, but remember that the gaming industry isn't selling these games to minors. The retailors are. Stop blaming the game industry. Hastings used to be really bad about selling stuff to minors, but seem to have stepped it up considering I still get carded at 24. As for looking at the motives of the game industry, how can you look at their motives and not politician's? You have to look at both sides. If someone makes a law that is specific enough and in no way censors anything than that would be great. What happened here is that the law was too vague and left too many holes that could have been used to censor not only games, but open it up for government to step in and begin to censor other forms of media. The one thing that won't be bothered by any of this is News media. No one ever complains that they overstep their boundaries, because if they do they don't get very far. Why is it okay for the news to do whatever they want? There have been plenty of kids that have seen something on the news and immediately went and tried it. The reporters and such defend themselves by saying that they are simply the middle man. That is the same arguement people have against the game industry. The retailers are just the middle man. I just wish the retailers would stand up and say "The buck stops here!". That would put an end to all of this. Also, the retailers don't want this law cause it will only cause them a loss in profit. It is best for them to make sure minors aren't buying games they shouldn't based on the rating system.

YukoAsho
YukoAsho

The reason for pornography's restriction is because, quite simply, the porn industry doesn't produce any form of speech, really. This has been enforced through judicial precedent. This is a far cry from most movies and games, which are clearly excercises in artistic expression (yes, for profit, but it's artistic nonetheless). However, to the pro-regulation crowd, answer this: Why is it okay for the movie industry to have limited enforcemnt (meaning only the big chains enforce at the theatre and only like one or two enforce at the home video level), but gaming needs this unprecedented and overbearing government oversight? Why are the huge, clearly visible ratings on the front and back of game boxes not acceptable, but the barely visible MPAA rating on the back of movie DVDs are perfectly acceptable? If these games are causing kids to become heartless murderers, why has youth violence consistently gone down since 1996? As long as the pro censorship crowd cnanot produce real answers to these questions, I will never accept the merit of censoring videogames.

madd_hatter
madd_hatter

YAY! GO ILLINOIS!!!!!! TELL THEM WHO'S BOSS! Even though this wouldn't effect me in any way because I'm 19 turning 20.

Gazornenplat
Gazornenplat

hehe... I said "wrong" mistakes. Anyways, I understand that the crimes I mentioned involve hurting other people (except incest if it's mutual).

Gazornenplat
Gazornenplat

Let's just make robbery, rape, murder, and incest (while we're at it) all totally legal because it's the "parent's job" to prevent their children from making "wrong" mistakes.

Gazornenplat
Gazornenplat

Why, then, is it illegal for a minor to buy porn?

Kastigador
Kastigador

Re: What's wrong with not letting kids buy adult video games? I agree that something has to be done with keeping children from playing adult themed video games. It's just not a problem that government is going to solve. In the end, the issue here isn't simply with preventing kids from playing the games, but in how it's being undertaken. A lot of people, myself included, feel government should not be involved in censorship, period. Not just because of a fear that they'll censor things we have an interest in, but more a fear that they'll suffocate creative expression as a whole with an overly broad law that has unintended effects. These expensive fines and broad legalese may cause rental places and retailers to step up enforcement of a minimum purchase age in the short term, but in the long run it'll cause them to carry less titles that involve this kind of censored material. Why? It's really dollars and cents here. These large national retailers will have a choice: Repetitively train and internally audit all of your workers to consistently card for video games(like alcohol or cigarettes) or push back on video game companies to develop less flagrant material so you don't need to worry about this costly dimension to the business of selling video games. In the end, the retailers would win out since they hold the first line of purchasing power. The laws would stick, and people would simply adjust to this change of content. Video game companies would generally only develop games that were going to be carried by all major retailers, and they'll easily come to the business decision of internally censoring their content. Who is going to risk millions and millions on a game most major retailers won't even carry? There are better decisions that merely require a hint of parental supervision. I understand keeping control of what kids play on video game systems is a novel challenge for parents these days(most of whom never really got to know video games the way younger adults know them now). Newer systems like the 360 have parental controls built in. You certainly can't argue that the industry hasn't made a definite effort of trying to internally address the problem. Politicians are the ones messing everything up here. Stepping up on their PR soap box, throwing together laws so they have something family friendly on their resume come re-election time. Do you think most of them could honestly give a damn, let alone have a clue as to what the overall experience of these games are even like? Doubtful. They'd sooner set up some organization of mindless government career bureaucrats to decide for us. In the end, people like Hillary Clinton score double digit points in the family/moral values category which she has never been very strong in. Combine that with democrat party points for fighting big business and it doesn't really matter whether her ideas are good or bad, or even if they ever see the light of day. It's just good press.

RMagruder
RMagruder

Well, as far as I'm concerned the people who are busy trying to have no limits whatsoever in society are missing the point.

Community standards have always existed and as long as they are democratically done (e.g. you vote on them, send reps to vote on them, whatever) then they are fine. It's the "anything goes' mentality that allows child porn peddlers to get away with targeting our children in this country, and guess what? When you try to stop them from doing what they do, they scream "Free Speech" and run into the arms of the ACLU.

Enjoy your games, but be careful who you are getting bed with in the free speech wars, because as the saying goes, sleep with dogs, don't be surprised when you get fleas.

Randy

diablo89
diablo89

owned...im moving to illinois

Saije
Saije

Exactly, they arnt enforced strictly, which is what this law was to address. I have a cousin who is about 12 years old and plays GTA: San Andreas (Crazy I know, but his mother is stupid). Now back when he was about 8 he was the nicest kid in the world, if you were to see him now, he is a little bastard. I have to restrain from smacking him in public because of his blatant disrespect to me, others and most importantly his mother. Im not saying this is all caused from one game, that would be stupid, no doubt public school, the general media, and games all had a small part in corrupting him which lead to an overall whole. But what most people say is that because public schools, other kids and the general media are corrupting children already, its ok for games to go ahead and join the pack. Man you guys would hate me as a politician cause I think that instead, I would take drastic steps to completely reform this country and its public schools (which suck, these kids feed off eachother like some viral sickness and become worse and worse), General Media (which is horrible, thank god for the few restrictions we do have which keep what is practically porn out of the mainstream), and gaming (which has moved on from its generally innocent roots, into a fad phase where all the stupid pot smoking losers of this generation are getting into it and ruining the industy, albeit in a moral sense ). Heres an idea, get off your couch and go play some sports, lift weights, heres another good one. Renounce the degenerate trash you've allowed yourself to emulate and attempt to fight for whats right for a change, like our forefathers. Who, if they could see the current state of our country, would probably be very ashamed.