Q&A: Minnesota game-bill author downplays fears

State Senator Sandra Pappas says bill seeking to fine minors for buying M- or AO-rated games is intended to educate parents, not prosecute children.

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Last week, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved a bill to levy fines against minors attempting who purchase games rated M for Mature and AO for Adults Only. It passed the Minnesota Senate last year and now is headed for the desk of Governor Tim Pawlenty. If Pawlenty decides to sign the bill, it is expected to take effect August 1 of this year.

State Senator Sandra Pappas of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party (pictured above), one of the bill's original authors, spoke with GameSpot today about enforcing the would-be law, what she hopes it will accomplish, and the outcry (or lack thereof) from angry gamers.

GameSpot: I'm curious about the logistics of how this law will be enforced. It's not the attempt to buy the game that's going to be fined right? It's the actual purchasing of the game. That was the way I understood--

Sandra Pappas: I wouldn't get so hung up over that. The whole goal is just to educate parents. And by requiring that the retailer post a sign saying it's illegal and to give the young person attempting to purchase a game a little bit of hesitation--a $25 civil penalty is enough to get the attention of a 12-year-old--that's really what it is. It's an educational attempt.

GS: So it's not about whether this law is going to be enforceable?

SP: No. We're not going to be prosecuting kids. We actually had it as a petty misdemeanor, but we changed it to a civil penalty. It's more important that parents just watch these games and monitor what kind of games their children are playing.

GS: I think it was Representative [Jeff] Johnson [the Republican legislator who authored the House version of the bill] that said one of the reasons for levying the fine against the person trying to buy it, for taking that different approach, was to more narrowly tailor the bill to get around previous constitutional fights put up over other game laws. This law also levies the fine against the person selling the game--

SP: No it does not.

GS: No? I'm sorry, the version of it that I was looking at online said [the fine] was up to $25 for the store owner and the person selling it as well.

SP: They should correct that. That was the House version, not the Conference Committee report. You have to look at the Conference Committee report.

[Editor's note: Pappas is correct. While the House amended the bill to include a fine for retailers before passing it last week, the final version of the bill in the Conference Committee report has had that passage removed.]

GS: Has there been any contact or back and forth with the Entertainment Software Association about this bill and ways this could be accomplished in a constitutionally acceptable way to them? Or in a way that they wouldn't dispute?

SP: They haven't offered any suggestions. They testified against the bill in the Senate last year. I passed it in the Senate last year, so I don't know if they testified this year in the House.

GS: If a law is not enforceable, how does it still stand?

SP: We pass lots of laws that aren't enforced or enforceable. [laughs] We have a seatbelt law, but it's not a primary offense, so you can't be stopped for not wearing a seatbelt. Only if you're stopped for another violation, then you can be cited for not wearing a seatbelt. That sounds a little like an unenforceable seatbelt law. Sometimes what government does is say, "And I said so. This is what you should do, and I said so."

GS: I know it's kind of a moot point if it's not going to be enforced, but the fines against minors--is that especially unusual? Do graffiti or other instances carry that threat with them?

SP: It's interesting. Curfew laws or cigarette possession or alcohol possession--I'd have to go back and look at the statutes and see if those include fines or not, because those are probably not civil penalties. I don't know. That's a good question.

GS: If the industry is going to put up a full fight on this, as it appears that they would, how do you see if playing out in court?

SP: I'm not a lawyer, so I have no idea.

GS: OK. I guess then, if you could let me know how this is constitutional where previous attempts at laws have been ruled unconstitutional.

SP: Legislators don't worry too much about what's constitutional. We just try to do what's right, and we let the courts figure that out.

GS: Have you had any vocal constituents coming out on the side of the gaming industry or against this bill?

SP: Nope. Not against the bill, just in favor of it.

GS: Great, thank you very much. I appreciate the time.

SP: You're welcome.

Discussion

82 comments
Underworldy69
Underworldy69

The thing that would make me feel bad for Minnesota is if they get fined even if they have a parent (Probably Not) and they have to return it back. They payed, so they should keep it is all I am saying. How does kids get fined like this anyway? The guy who sold the game to the kids obviously isn't going to rat them out, and I doubt anybody in the stores will either.

Slyfox00138
Slyfox00138

The bill isnt so bad. In the end, the age restrictions are there for a reason and the government should do all it can to enforce those restrictions. Im not big on censorship or the like, but after reveiwing the bill it seems to be pretty reasonable. Fair play to Senator Pappas for allowing the interview.

byge
byge

Another great way to see that America's politicians have nothing better to do than write down laws that will probably never be enforced and waste tax payers money. LOL im glad i dont live in the us

Flimsyfishy
Flimsyfishy

well, as a friend of mine would say is that it would help keep 12 year old boys off of mature rated x-box live games... kind of mean i know, but it would. all he would have to do is have 25 bucks extra and i think he could get the game... i'll check to see if pawlenty signed the bill

flashtek
flashtek

That was horse hockey, I personal sent a letter to all of the Reps. and Sen listed on the bill for both house and senate.

Baahhhh
Baahhhh

I find the subsequent reactions to the politician's quotes quite amusing. I concur with the pretenses of her insipidity acting in the opalescent jar, swelling with idiocy. This pathetic country (The United States) has, for too long, contradicted the tiers of its establishment, which I believe began with its conception. Now, my contempt for society and the "grand" formation of human interaction notwithstanding, I truly despise all that represent the corrupt organ of the donor of stupidity, but it is an avid contempt, justified by simple existence. If this country desires perpetual prestige in the world, so long as this species perseveres, then it must lie in conformity with its people. This is exemplified by the quote "No document will preserve the freedom of the people...only the people retain such power." As I have said, I personally hate this species and its attempts at attaining aggregation in the form of social hierarchy, but I do believe that those words formulate a great meaning. It is both ironic and saddening that such hopes have all but dissipated into a cloud of ignorance and lucid truth.

Enderexor
Enderexor

I will pass my Judgement on this matter short sweet and to the point. Its a Pork Barrel law. Hilllery and about every other Liberal Democrat I know has tried something like this at least once. Its just trying to get more votes from conserned or uneducated Parents. After all Teenagers can't vote! You can make as many stupid, unenforceable, unConstitutional, "we are doing this for your own good", laws as you like and Parents will praise it as "raining in al these rebels and know nothing punks." Thats what teens are looked at as now a days. So they will try and get reelected by attacking teenage interests.

rollenlee
rollenlee

It seems to me that the main purpose of this attempt at legislation is to get parents involved and aware - i.e., to do some parenting. Stuff like this should come with some suggestions for extra reading, though, like Johnson's "Everything Bad is Good for You" - for a notion of what's going on beneath the surface of the gameplay - or Shone's "Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer" - to see that a more venerable medium has its own issues and that some fun is a good thing. If you're looking for some really heavy reading (but rewarding for the history of the game and the social impact) check out Kline, Dyer-Witheford, and de Peuter's "Digital Play: The Interaction of Technology, Culture, and Marketing." Naturally, "laws" like these won't come with extra funds to provide the population with some access to a better understanding of the video game medium...

darkspector23XP
darkspector23XP

I agree with asking for ID for M and AO rated games. The videogame industry is only protecting their profits. I read on a website that the videogame industry would lose $100 million U.S. per game developer in each region if stores had to card people for M and AO rated games. Too many things have to do with money these days.

uberalucard
uberalucard

I'm a bit confused on how any child could be fined. If the retailers aren't involoved in any way with the law, it would be logical to assume that they won't keep records of what child buys a game. So, how would they be "caught"? Take the game and wave it in front of the police station, shouting ito a microphone "IT'S RATED 'M'"?

uberalucard
uberalucard

I'm a bit confused on how any child could be fined. If the retailers aren't involoved in any way with the law, it would be logical to assume that they won't keep records of what child buys a game. So, how would they be "caught"? Take the game and wave it in front of the police station, shouting ito a microphone "IT'S RATED 'M'"?

broncosfan
broncosfan

Any constitutional lawyer worth his salt is going to get this bill tossed within weeks, if the Supreme Court doesn't do it first.

skemaal
skemaal

In all, she said nothing and she doesn`t really know what the hell is going on. Again, just someone from the rear seats the no one knows about; that stands against an issue that shhe knows nothing about in order to have 15minutes of fame.

sinceps1
sinceps1

Control will continue to progress for our expanding government, one small step at a time.

sinceps1
sinceps1

Blazer88 "He who?It's a she.And yes you think people in charge of making laws would have to have some understanding of wether they violate the constitution or not,even though they do not have to pass a judgment that as she states.However that is the typical kinda of answer you would expect from a politician isn't it?When someone else in politics does something they don't like they are quick to call it unconstitutional,..aren't they?So they do aparently know it when it against something they don't like.But in this case when it's something they they are for,..even if it may clearly violate rights,..they claim an ignorance.Also GS should state what here party is.But since they didn't I did for them,and she is,.no shocker here,.a democrat of course." It's unconstitutional to restrict gun, cigarrete and liquor sales but they do so anyway. If you lived in the early 1900's I'm sure they wouldn't say, ID sir? They just want more control so they restrict access from citizens.

pb1285n
pb1285n

Why are the going after the kids? They should be going after the retailers selling it to kids. As long as they have nothing to be afraid of they'll just keep selling these games to minors. Create a hefty fine and make examples of a few retailers and you'll see a huge change in attitude from them.

rumsfeld47
rumsfeld47

One more, for good measure: in Missouri, over HALF of the state legislators do not have college degrees. I'm willing to bet that the percentage of non-college grads is even higher in Minnesota. A good interview question would be, where did you get your degree from? You don't have one? Then what qualifies you to write laws?

rumsfeld47
rumsfeld47

Gamespot, I love you so much I could give you a kiss. Keep these interviews coming. I'm a political junkie; there is nothing quite like the amazing ignorance that can come from state legislators mouths when they explain their bills. My favorite quote: "Legislators don't worry too much about what's constitutional. We just try to do what's right, and we let the courts figure that out." Hahahahahahaha! That's better than Ray Nagin's "chocolate city" remark. For somebody to sworn to uphold the Constitution to admit that they'll pass whatever law they please, the Constitution be damned, has got to be one of the biggest admissions of incompetence I've ever read, ever. Ever. These kinds of regulations are not inherently anti-game; the Constitution does not include a right for 6 year olds to play sex mini-games in God of War, just as a 6 year old can't buy a Playboy. Don't freak out when you hear about this legislation; Hillary Clinton will not invade your parent's basement and take your God of War and GTA. And if you're under 18, you can't vote, you can't work, you can't drink, etc. etc.--it sucks. (Nobody cares what you think because you don't matter as a human being until you turn 18. Don't hate me for saying it.) But reasonable gamers can agree: there are plenty of games you wouldn't want your child to play until they were old enough to handle the content. The reason we are having this issue in the first place is that 1. GAME STORES SELL STUFF TO KIDS ALL THE TIME, AND THEN 2. ROCKSTAR JUST HAS TO BE EDGY, BECAUSE THEY'RE THE EDGY DEVELOPER, AND PUTS A SEX GAME IN THE MOST POPULAR GAME OF ALL TIME AND THEN DOESN'T HAVE THE BALLS TO OWN UP TO IT AGAIN (DIDN'T DISCLOSE IT TO THE ESRB--that's twice.) I'm a waiter; if I served alcohol to an underage person, I'd personally be fined $500 and fired immediately, my restaurant would be hit for $2000 and lose our liquor license, and we'd all be liable for civil suits. Believe me, I card people. So why does this law give $25 tickets to 6 year olds for ASKING to buy a game? Trying to commit a crime is not the same as committing a crime, duh, duh, duh duh duh! God, people are stupid. Gamespot, keep it up.

IKKF
IKKF

FINES!? ARE YOU KIDDING!? NOOOOOOO!!!!

CDWJUSTIN
CDWJUSTIN

millions of tax payers money down the drain for bull crap...but what ever there gonna blow it anywho

CDWJUSTIN
CDWJUSTIN

big pain in the ass though millions of tax payers money over bullcrap..but lol there gonna blow in on crap anywho...LoL

RageSet
RageSet

My fear is simple. The signing of this into law is just the "stepping stone" to what they really want; control over what can and can't be created. Imagine Developers having consoles/PCs that have unlimited resources and with that allows limitless imagination...only to be limited by law. This is like signing a law that will tell Stephan King readers (under 17) that if they purchase a novel of his, they can be fined or worse..jailed. I love America, but the BS has to stop. If we are going to reduce one media industry...why not limit all? Let's say artists can't paint nude pictures, rappers shouldn't talk about their lives in the ghetto, writers can't write about death and etc...let's just be void of all entertainment!!!!

theskank
theskank

oh, I'd also like to point out that gamespot doesn't even refer to her as a women. Under her picture it says "See it " SHE'S AN "IT" hahaha

theskank
theskank

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

darklink676
darklink676

interesting............... but still

urluckyday
urluckyday

It's a fair idea...I mean as long as a little note doesn't go on your permanant record or something about trying to buy an M game, then it's fine...you know...colleges and employers look to see what kind of criminal background you have, so as long as they don't actually report it, then it sounds fair enough...

kaito2
kaito2

"I wouldn't get so hung up over that" In other words, whether what you do is deemed legal or illegal will be up to the whims of politicians, not objective law.

AidenPryde3025
AidenPryde3025

We're legislators and we don't care if a law is constitutional or not? This woman sounds like shes stupid.

smbius
smbius

Wow. This is sad. This is why the US is separated into states. I know this maybe taken out of context but If anything, BEING CONSTITUTIONAL HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH DOING THE RIGHT THING. The politicians in Minessota are very ignorant. I'm glad California (although corrupt in some ways) is smart enough not to deal with pointless bills.

Deanyzy
Deanyzy

Why don't they just make it like it is in England? when it's rated 18 no one under 18 can buy it unless a parent buys it for them. same with 12 and 15. they should do the same for films over there too so they don't have to cut films so much. whne it's rated R,18, or Mature no minors should be able to walk in and get it unless a adult who know thazt they can handle it buys it for them. It saves America getting their knickers in a twist about games.

KynKoolij
KynKoolij

Big Brother's fetus is developing...he's getting fingers and toes now.

Gigastormz
Gigastormz

"Its interesting that this particular lawmaker of the great state of Minnesota doesn't really know our laws all that well. The comment she made about our seat belt laws would have been acurate in December of 2004. But the law was changed effective January 2005 so that the non wearing of seat belts was now a primary offence and people could be pulled over for just that reason. There were ads all over the local television for most of the last year about it. I'm amazed that she doesn't know this. " I'm from Minnesota and there are commercials all the time about being ticketed for not wearing your seatbelt. She sounds like she has no idea what she's doing.

POICB
POICB

Being Canadian, I don't claim to know everything about the American legal system but that quote "Legislators don't worry too much about what's constitutional..." floors me. You guys have a piece of paper that outlines, in great detail, what is allowed, but the legislators would rather base their decisions on their own moral code and if it infringes on someone's rights they can try to fight the system to get it back. That clogs up an already crowded court system, but more importantly, it means they can take away a fundamental freedom and then let you, the tiny little individual, fight with the whole system in charge to try to get it back. That's a fight you'll probably lose. Wow, man, just wow.

Seraphim_24
Seraphim_24

End user responsibility is a good thing. I would rather the end user be made to be responsible than the industry. People need to take more responsibility in general rather than scape goating. I would rather the government do this than come down on the developers or resellers. In this case kids and parents need to be responsible for thier own purchasing decisions... However, this proposed law would be difficult to enforce. In the end I still think government attempts at regulating video games is a waste of tax payer dollars based of of paranoid baby boomer rhetoric that has no basis in reallity. Video games do not force people to become violent. I have been playing violent games since I was 12, I am now 26. Youth violence has dropped significantly since the baby boomers day, and its sad that they have so little faith in the young. I therefore would like to see younger folks run for office. Its time for a broader minded younger government. The old people simply have too much needless fear of things they don't understand.

Autolycus
Autolycus

and next time your house is broken into and you ask where the police officer was, be prepared to hear "i was giving a 10 year old a find over @ best buy". Not only do you have to watch this country try to be parents for you morons(sorry you are complete idiots if you need someone else to raise your children for you), but now we have to see it pull off things we need like police officers on the street to keep your child alive... idiots

Autolycus
Autolycus

BOOKS CAN be violent as well. I guess we need to be an NC-17 rating on library cards and stickers on all the books. IF YOU WANT THE PARENTS TO KNOW, PUT SOMETHING ON THE NEWS. Don't waste the time of this country for an "unenforceable law". IF YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT GAMING, DON'T TRY TO TELL US(OR THE POPULATION) WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR CHILDREN. its YOUR job to raise them, not the states or the countries. if you arent ready to give up your life 100%. dont have sex and dont have kids, because frankly...i would prefer you to die instead of having children

chrisdojo
chrisdojo

as usual....... parents don't know how to parent so the government thinks it can fix the situation.

Lasafrog
Lasafrog

Good interview, and I believe it's a very decent law. As an avid gamer and father, I dig the idea of my boy not being allowed to buy the GTAs of the world unless I do it for him. I think most younger gamers take huge offense to these types of laws, but it's really just a help to parents that want the best for their kids. I may be fine with buying a "Mature" title for my boy before he's 17, but at least this type of law gives me the chance to make that decision.... Man, I feel old :)

drgribb
drgribb

I think Chuck Norris should roundhouse kick her face...

map4000
map4000

Parents should know that some games are good for kids and some arent,educating them is something essential because they are the ones that should be taking care of their kids and what they play.

nintendorocks
nintendorocks

Even her face makes me angry. And she kept interrupting Brendan. If you are not going to enforce a law then why even make it? And legislators don't care about what's constitutional??! Is she stupid?! Yeah, ok. You keep thinking that crazy lady.

Angel_Belial
Angel_Belial

I mainly agree with Legir (who posted on page 2) - the stores should be the ones who get fined. If a twelve year old girl or boy walks into a store and wants to buy a game rated 15+, she or he should not be allowed to buy it, UNLESS accompanied by a parent. If the store sells it to her or him, IT should get the fine, not the child... I personally don't see how you can fine kids for wanting games they know they really shouldn't have (that's like a teenager wanting to buy a bottle of vodka - does she/he get fined for it? Not where I live - she/he just gets sent packing, because the store knows it can get into serious trouble if it does sell the vodka to the teen). Anyway, not a bad interview. I don't even live in America, so this doesn't mean much to me personally, but it's still interesting to know.

Nradd99
Nradd99

"Legislators don't worry too much about what's constitutional. We just try to do what's right and we let the courts figure that out." If what Pappas says is true, then the entire country has a reason to be afraid. Where are we as a nation when legislatures don't about the constitution? Furthermore, they aren't doing what is right, only what they think is right. The chance of someone who "doesn't care about the constitution" being right is about as likely as the release of Duke Nukem Forever (or whatever it was called).

Sn0brawler
Sn0brawler

Well Earl, I'd gladly pay it for you.