|Violent games bill
passes California Legislature
has 30 days to sign AB1179 or veto it; bill would take effect
The California Assembly has adjourned until next year, but not
before squeezing a few bills in under the wire. One such bill
was Assemblyman Leland Yee's AB1179, which looks to prohibit
retailers from selling violent games to minors, lest they be
fined $1,000 for each violation.
AB1179 was passed by the California Senate yesterday by a vote
of 22-9. The bill then went back to the Assembly, where it was
approved 65-7. Now the bill goes to the desk of California
governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who must sign or veto the bill
by October 9.
"Governor Schwarzenegger is no longer an action star but an
elected representative of all Californians; I am hopeful that he
will consider our children's best interests by signing this
commonsense legislation into law and giving parents a necessary
tool to raise healthy kids," said speaker pro tempore Yee in a
If signed by Schwarzenegger, AB1179 would go into effect January
Yee has previously introduced similar legislation to this
effect, and while one such bill was signed into law by
Schwarzenegger last year, it had been thoroughly watered down
along the way. Yee's AB450 (which eventually became AB1179),
stalled in the legislature earlier this year, but the Grand
Theft Auto: San Andreas Hot Coffee scandal once again attracted
public attention to the issue and spurred the bill out of its
Yee's bill also would require violent games to be labeled as
being for sale to adults only by way of a solid white "18"
sticker no smaller than 2 inches by 2 inches on the front of the
package; the "18" would be outlined in black. For an idea of how
visible that sticker will be, keep in mind that Game Boy Advance
boxes are slightly smaller than 5 inches by 5 inches.
The bill makes no mention of the Entertainment Software Ratings
Board (ESRB) or its ratings system, instead offering its own
definition of what constitutes a violent video game. According
to the bill, that would be "a video game in which the range of
options available to a player includes killing, maiming,
dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being,"
so long as it's offensive to community standards and without
artistic merit or allows players to hurt other characters "in a
manner which is especially heinous, cruel, or depraved in that
it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the victim."
The bill also defines terms like heinous, cruel, and torture.
However, with no definitive governing body set up to determine
in advance which games fall into this category, it appears
publishers and retailers will have to decide for themselves what
fits the government's definition of a violent game, and worry
about fines and legislation later.
Other states have instituted laws like this before, but previous
attempts have been declared unconstitutional. At the moment, an
Illinois law banning the sale of violent games to minors is
being challenged, and the dispute is likely to be fought on a
nationwide level in the coming months. Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton (D-NY) called for federal legislation in the wake of the
Hot Coffee scandal, though nothing has come of that yet.
Interestingly enough, Yee's bill, the full text of which is
available by searching for AB1179 on the State Assembly's Web
site, does not require labeling of games containing consensual
sex of the sort that tipped off the Hot Coffee controversy in
the first place.