Oklahoma legislature passes games bill

Measure that would classify violent games with pornography passes the House without a single opposing vote.

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While a piece of Utah legislation seeking to have video games with "inappropriate violence" classified under the same statute that applies to pornography fell into legislative limbo earlier this month, a similar Oklahoma bill has gathered a full head of steam.

Last week, the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved HB3004 unanimously, with 97 Representatives voting for it, none against it, and four excused from the voting. Utah's bill faced slightly tougher opposition in its House of Representatives, passing by a vote of 56 to 8, with 11 legislators absent or not voting.

The Oklahoma bill makes it illegal for stores to sell or allow minors to view any game with inappropriate violence. If passed, retailers would not even be able to display the games for sale unless the bottom two-thirds of their covers were obscured by "blinder racks" in the same way that adult magazines are.

While the bill's formatting on the matter is a little different, the text bears a striking resemblance to that of Utah's piece of legislation when it comes to defining inappropriate violence. According to the law, that term would be defined as any depiction in a game that, when taken as a whole, has the following characteristics:

"a. the average person eighteen (18) years of age or older applying contemporary community standards would find that the interactive video game or computer software is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community with respect to what is suitable for minors, and
b. the interactive video game or computer software lacks serious literary, scientific, medical, artistic, or political value for minors based on, but not limited to, the following criteria:
(1) is glamorized or gratuitous,
(2) is graphic violence used to shock or stimulate,
(3) is graphic violence that is not contextually relevant to the material,
(4) is so pervasive that it serves as the thread holding the plot of the material together,
(5) trivializes the serious nature of realistic violence,
(6) does not demonstrate the consequences or effects of realistic violence,
(7) uses brutal weapons designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and damage,
(8) endorses or glorifies torture or excessive weaponry, or
(9) depicts lead characters who resort to violence freely"

The bill's definition of inappropriate violence specifically mentions games, so similar depictions in books, movies, or music would not be covered. If passed, store owners caught selling such games to minors would be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $500 on a first or second offense and $1,000 on future offenses.

Having passed the House, the bill has now moved to the Oklahoma Senate.

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