More States Gear Up for Game Censorship

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Legal

259535It seems like every week there's another state jumping on the bandwagon to try to censor what games Americans can play. The latest states out to squash gamers' rights are Utah and Iowa. Despite the fact that similar legislation in Michigan, Illinois and California have been blocked because of their unconstitutional provisions, these states are moving forward. Florida and Indiana are also attempting to pass similar anti-game bills.

The Utah bill from Republican David Hogue failed to pass the committe of the Utah House of Representatives. Hogue had equated games with pornography, calling out the usualy suspects like "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas." What made this bill especially scary was that it would carry a third-degree felony charge of $300 and imprisonment of at least 14 days with no option for a suspended sentence. A second offense would jumpt to $5,000 and at least a year in jail with no chance of a suspended sentence. This comes from the same state that's been banning "Brokeback Mountain" from playing in theaters--a film which is expected to earn some Oscar nominations this year. So let's get this straight...polygamy, no problem...homesxuality, no way....violent videogames, go to jail. At least the videogame bill didn't pass, but I won't be surprised if they find another crazy politician to draft up another one.

Over in Iowa, it's a Democrat that's pushing for game censorship--which means Hillary Clinton and her federal videogame censorship program, the Family Entertainment Protection Act, has some company. (It's refreshing to see Democrats and Republicans united on such an important issue as censoring what gamers can play.) The Iowa bill follows in the blueprint of the California bill that was recently stalled. It targets the retailers who sell or rent violent games. The law would also add a large "18" sticker to all M-rated games.

One of the primary reasons all of these states are focusing on videogames and violence is because of Rockstar Games' ineptitude. The "hot coffee" scandal gave the entire game industry a black eye. And it fueled the fire for these politicians, who now have a concrete example of the rating system not well as a solid sex-in-games argument (beside the fact that an external device was needed to unlock the mod). So there likely aren't many tears being shed over Los Angeles city attorney Rocky Delgadillo's lawsuit against Rockstar parent Take-Two Interactive. In addition to the on-going class-action lawsuit and FTC investigation, Take-Two now faces charges of unfair business practices for hiding the pornographic mod in its M-rated game. The suit, which claims that Take-Two was aware of the mini-game, demands the publisher relinquish all profits from the sale of the game in California and issue full refunds to consumers. That's on top of paying for the legal costs of the suit, and for paying an additional $2,500 for each act of unfair competition.

When you look at this latest politician's grandstanding, the heart of this suit is actually his politican run for Attorney General of California this November. There's no better way to get local and national media attention than to stand on a pulpit and decry violent videogames. In this case, Take-Two did screw up royally. And while I'm for the freedom of choice when it comes to games--Mature or not--I'm not in favor of what Take-Two did. True, the "pornography" that we're speaking of was on par with "South Park" animation, and it was not easily found in the game (a separate device and a lot of time was required to find it)--but it was still wrong to include it in an M-rated game. Without that mistake, there woulnd't be nearly as much political scrutiny with games in general. And it's not going to go away any time soon.


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