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IEMA Statement on California's New Anti-Violent Videogame Law
posted by: Shawn Rider
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date posted: 11:18 AM Wed Oct 12th, 2005
last revision: 11:20 AM Wed Oct 12th, 2005

Click to read.Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into California state law a bill requiring retailers to not sell or rent \"violent video games\" to minors. That is, the law bans the sale or rental to people under age 18 of any game featuring \"killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being,\" and further states that a game will be subject to the ban if any \"reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors.\"

The issue here is that there is already an Entertainment Software Rating Board that reviews almost every game published. This group rates games according to age and content, providing both a simple rating (\"T\" means \"Teen\") and a more detailed rating (game content is listed in phrases like \"cartoon violence\" or \"strong language\"). The ESRB rating system has been praised worldwide, and games published by members of the Entertainment Software Association (virtually every publisher in the country) must all bear their rating in every advertisement, and in two specific locations on each game box. The ESRB has gone to great lengths to make their ratings system understandable and accessible by parents everywhere.

Doug Lowenstein, president of the ESA, released a statement in which he said: \"We are disappointed that politicians of both parties chose to toss overboard the First amendment and free artistic and creative expression in favor of political expediency.\"

The ESA will file a lawsuit protesting the vague language of the bill, which will likely be seen as having a chilling effect on freedom of speech. The ESA is further upset about the bill because the responsibility of labelling the games with an \"18\" sticker in California will fall to the game publishers. Publishers are not happy about the additional cost and responsibility of labelling these games specifically for California.

Retailers are standing solid with the publishers in this battle. Hal Halpin, president of the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, said in a statement today, \"It is clear that this course will lead only to this law, like all previous efforts to alter the First Amendment regarding violent video games, being overturned - yielding no significant change and squandering much-needed resources.\"

The retail organization\'s statement chastises Schwarzenegger for what they perceive as political lawmaking and affirms their commitment to the ESRB and ESA:

\"IEMA retailers are already voluntarily committed to inhibiting the sale of Mature-rated games, not unlike the successful self-regulatory efforts of the motion picture business. We would have hoped that legislators would work proactively with the industry to help educate parents about the ratings system, and are disheartened to learn that this politicization of the issue is instead becoming an opportunistic trend. We remain supportive of the ESRB and stand ready to aid the ESA in their lawsuits, as we have done in the past.\"

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