Last Friday, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty signed a bill restricting game sales into law. Though it was immediately challenged in court by the Entertainment Software Association, its rather mild terms didn't exactly sow panic among gamers. The law would fine minors who attempted to buy Mature- and Adults Only-rated games $25 and ask game retailers post a sign warning of the fine in their stores.
Late yesterday, another game bill moved one step closer to law in Louisiana. However, the measure has stirred up a much larger controversy in the industry for two reasons: its draconian terms, which are based on previously upheld obscenity laws, and its coauthor, vociferous antigame activist Jack Thompson.
Written by Representative Roy Burrell (D-District 2) and Thompson, HB1381 would make it illegal to sell, rent, or lease a game to a minor if it met three conditions. First, if the "average person" would think "appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence." Second, if it "depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards." Lastly, a game would only qualify if it "lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors." Violators could be fined between $100 and $2,000 and sentenced to up to 12 months in a state prison.
After being approved by a key committee last week, HB1381 was passed last night in a 35-0 vote in the Louisiana State Senate, according to watchdog site GamePolitics.com. The bill will now be presented to Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco, who made national headlines during the disastrous aftermath of Hurricane Katrina last fall. The Governor is expected to sign the bill, given the unanimous vote and the recent linking of games and teenage murder suspects in the Louisiana media. If that happens, expect an ESA legal filing to follow shortly.