State politicians proposing more game regulation

Washington state bill would hold game companies responsible for "inspiring" real-life violence; Arkansas proposal literally keeps M-rated games out of kids' reach.


Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Lawmakers across the country continue to propose legislation that would safeguard youths from the supposedly harmful effects of games that depict violence or that are rated "M" (for Mature content) by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

This week in Arkansas, state senator Shawn Womack authored a bill that would require shops that rent or sell M-rated games to display them at a height of at least five feet from the floor. The bill, introduced March 3, would allow the Arkansas Department of Public Health to fine vendors up to $500 each time they violate the law.

And three Washington state representatives--Mary Lou Dickerson, Jim McCune, and Jim McDermott--have authored a bill that seeks to hold game companies accountable when minors commit violence seemingly inspired by a video game they've played.

Their bill cites the "increasingly realistic depictions of violence" in games, particularly torture and sexual assault, as well as the killing of women, people of color, and police officers. "These games choreograph violence in a stylized and romanticized way that encourages children and adolescents to associate violence and killing with pleasure, entertainment, feelings of achievement, and personal empowerment," the bill states.

That bill also references studies that correlate the playing of "violent" games with hostile behavior among children and adolescents, arguing that exposure to these games desensitizes them to real-life violence, perhaps inspiring copycat activity. "Throughout the country, law enforcement officers report that offenders committing violent crimes admit that they are intentionally copying the types of violent acts they play out in video or computer games."

Recently, an Alabama family filed suit against Take-Two Interactive and others, saying the publisher's Grand Theft Auto games inspired a young man, Devin Moore, to kill three police officers.

Though Dickerson, McCune, and McDermott's bill seeks to hold game companies partly accountable for allegedly inspiring such criminal acts, others feel it shifts the blame from where it belongs: on the perpetrator. "We're removing the responsibility from the person who committed the act to somebody else who's completely removed from the situation," Washington Software Association member Lew McMurran told Seattle-area television station KOMO News.

California assemblyman Leland Yee has authored a bill that would prevent vendors from selling or renting violent games to children under 17. Legislators in Indiana and Missouri have proposed similar bills, but courts in those states have blocked them, saying they violate the free-speech rights of game publishers. Measures are pending in other states as well.

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