It was only a matter of time. Jumping on the video-games-are-evil bandwagon, Senators Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman say they plan to introduce legislation that would ban the sale of graphic video games to minors.
From Video Business Online:
The Family Entertainment Protection Act also would require the Federal Trade Commission to conduct annual retail stings to monitor retailers’ compliance with the industry-backed ratings system for games and empower the agency to investigate “misleading” ratings.
The law would impose fines on retailers found to be not enforcing ratings.
Another provision would require an annual “analysis” of the ratings system, currently overseen by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, to ensure the system “accurately reflects the content in each game.”
The provision does not specify who or what agency would conduct the analysis.
“I have developed this legislation to empower parents by making sure their kids can’t walk into a store and buy a videogame that has graphic, violent and pornographic content,” Sen. Clinton said.
She said she was motivated to act in part by the discovery earlier this year that Rockstar Games had left sexually explicit material on the release version of GTA: San Andreas. Game companies often leave material from early versions of a game in the final product but code it in a way to make it inaccessible to users under normal circumstances.
But in Rockstar’s case, third-party hackers came up with a modification program, or mod, that unlocked the material on GTA: San Andreas and released the program on the Internet.
Retailer and game industry groups strongly condemned the proposed legislation.
“It is ironic that Senator Clinton’s response to the ‘Hot Coffee’ incident is to punish retailers,” the Video Software Dealers Assn. said. “Nothing about that incident suggests any deficiencies in retailers’ programs to assist parents in choosing games wisely for their children or to enforce voluntarily the game industry’s ratings. Retailers did not author the material embedded in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and they could not reasonably have discovered it.”
California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (you know, star of all those shoot-em-ups) signed a similar bill in October, after vetoing it twice before. Video game makers in California have filed a lawsuit over the bill.
Laws implementing restrictions on the sale of video games have been struck down in several other states.
An Illinois ban on the sale of video games to minors was signed by Governor Rod Blagojevich earlier this year. Industry reps have filed a suit against that bill, too, saying that it’s unconstitutional. A ruling is expected soon, possible even as early as today. If not struck down, the bill would take effect on January 1st.