No violence or sex for young Tar Heel gamers

North Carolina state senate passes bill banning sale of "violent" and "sexually explicit" games to minors.

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Legislators in North Carolina have passed Senate Bill 2, which prohibits the sale or rental of violent and/or sexually explicit games to minors. The bill also requires retailers and game rental facilities to post signs alerting customers to the existence of the ESRB game rating system, as well as to provide information on that system upon request.

Retailers and rental agencies are also required to keep inappropriate games out of the reach and view of minors, ostensibly through the use of curtains, walls, or separate rooms. The bill was passed unanimously yesterday.

The bill specifically categorizes a number of items that are said to be harmful to minors if they appear in a game. These include a character "engaging or offering to engage in sexual activity with or for another in exchange for anything of value," the showing of "uncovered, or less than opaquely covered, human genitals, pubic area, or buttocks, or the nipple or any portion of the areola of the human female breast," and any images of "covered human male genitals in a discernibly turgid state," for example.

Store owners found to have distributed inappropriate games to minors will be charged with a misdemeanor, the punishment for which is to be left up to the presiding judge.

In 2003, Washington state became the first in the nation to ban the sale of M-rated games to minors. However, that bill went further than simply halting the sale of obscene and violent games to minors; a provision in the Washington legislation also restricted the sale of any game that portrayed violence against law enforcement officers. For this reason, a district court in Seattle declared the Washington bill unconstitutional in July of 2004.

The North Carolina bill must now be passed by both the state house of representatives and the governor. If passed, the law would go into effect on December 1, 2005. California lawmakers introduced a similar bill into that state's senate this past December, but it has yet to reach the floor for a vote.

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