Violent video games off-limits to kids in Calif.

October 09, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that makes it illegal to sell or rent violent video games to minors in California.

The signing of the bill Friday, authored by Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Leland Yee, shows how far the video game industry has fallen out of political favor in a few months. California joins Illinois and Michigan in passing an anti-violent video game bill in the past year, and similar bills have been proposed in just about every state, though the courts have found prior prohibitions unconstitutional.

The law takes effect Jan. 1, although the video-game industry vows to challenge it in court.

The governor said in a statement, "Today I signed legislation to ensure parent involvement in determining which video games are appropriate for their children. The bill I signed will require that violent video games be clearly labeled and not be sold to children under 18 years old. Many of these games are made for adults, and choosing games that are appropriate for kids should be a decision made by their parents."

Yee's bill stalled last year and again in the spring in the Assembly, but it passed easily this time. Yee said in an interview that many legislators were ready to sign on the heels of the video-game industry's worst public relations gaffe: Hidden sex scenes were uncovered this summer in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, causing the game's maker to pull the game from stores.

California stores have had only a voluntary obligation to restrict the sale of games rated for adults, and children can buy whatever they want in some stores.

The new law doesn't use the game industry's rating system, which labels games as "mature" or "adults only" for those 17 and up. Yee said that courts have held that states can't endorse a private industry rating system.

Instead, the bill bans the sale or rental of "violent video games" to minors, where such games are defined as those that include killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.

The bill says the game's sale to minors would be banned if a "reasonable person, considering the game as a whole, would find appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors."

The law also classifies a game as subject to the ban if the violence in it is "patently offensive," "cruel," "depraved," or "heinous."

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