N.Y. Bill Limits Racial & Religious Violence in Games

January 15, 2007 -
2006 had its share of controversial games, including Border Patrol and Left Behind: Eternal Forces.

Border Patrol, which depicted racist violence against Mexican immigrants, was a non-industry, online game. Its creators are unknown and it was freely distributed.

Left Behind, on the other hand, is a commercial product and has both its fans and detractors. Critics claim that the game encourages violence against non-Christians.

New legislation proposed by a legislator in New York State might affect those and similar games, if passed. Rep. Keith Wright (D, seen at left) recently introduced A00547, a bill which would block sales to minors of games which depict, advocate or glamorize:

  • commission of a violent crime

  • suicide

  • sexual violence

  • violent racism

  • religious violence

  • illegal use of drugs & alcohol


Rep. Wright's bill also calls for the equivalent of an "adults only" section for such games. Retailers would be required to check I.D. for buyers who appear to be 30 or under. The bill has been referred to the Assembly's Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection.

GP: While the proposed legislation would impact games sold at retail, it won't affect the likes of Border Patrol due to that game's non-commercial, online distribution.

Comments

Good, cause God knows we can't have that sort of shenanigans in our media.

If only the videogame industry would take after the clean cut and peachy keen movie, music, and book industry. Then we'd all be safe.

Wow, this would block all Super Mario games for a start, as you can commit suicide in those by jumping to your doom. In fact, you can commit suicide in most games in some way or another, so that's most games blocked even before looking at the other elements of the bill. Oh dear.

Ya......get back to me when it can pass legal muster......

I'd hate to rain on this guys parade, but if courts wouldn't allow restrictions based on violence alone, taking it to a whole new extreme won't help .

Sooner or later, the Supreme court has to step in and tell these retarded morons that enoughs enough. Stop passing pointless laws and do something contructive with your time.

Arggghhhh. Idiots!

::Goes off to play lost planet::

[...]

First:I am from Germany,so there could be some mistakes in my text (and if you think it:I´m no Nazi).It´s not a good idea of Bill Limits!Is he crazy?If you play a game like Far Cry (from Germany) ,you won´t become a killer!
And:You are fine in America!They get things like the Playstation 3 much earlier as in Germany...be happy! ;)
Nice greetings from Europe!

Someone asked why politicians do not consider alcohol a drug. The same question can be posed as to why politicians do not go after 'drugs' that are addictive but are made by pharma companies. The real reason is twofold: (1) A great many public employee pension funds have significant holdings in alcohol and pharma stock. A hit on these entities = a hit on pension value; (2) both these industries have a fleet of very well paid lobbyests.

These two things are either inadequate or completely missing from game companies.

The US once banned the sale of alcohol to everyone. The alcohol industry learned how to never let that happen ever again. The pharma industry purely exists under the rules of government (patents, approvals...) their lobby is charged with preserving their right to exist.

Games? Nothing close to that today but they are learning the hard way why it pays to have a strong lobby that constantly interacts with elected officials.

[...] State Representative, Keith Wright, has introduced legislation, which would keep games that include violent crimes, suicide, sexual violence, violent racism, religious violence, and illegal use of drugs and alcohol out of the hands of minors. [...]

Politicians always say that they are thinking about the poor helpless children being exposed to "murder simulators" (a Jackass Thompson quote) when they try over and over to ban rocknroll...er I mean video games.
Oh, those poor helpless kids with roofs over there heads, food on the table, clothes on their backs.

Meanwhile right at this very moment a child is being beaten, another raped, and another has abusive parents or other abusive adults. Thousands upon thousand of other children are hungry, dirty, lack proper education, do not have access to regular health care, are homeless, countless others have no parents.
Why are these issues more important than video games?

In my opinion, not 1 more dollar should be spent on the "war on drugs" or banning violent video games while there are child smuggling sex rings, homeless/abandoned/ or unloved children.

To me these issues are infinitely more important. It sickens me that there are so many abuses of children in this country that no one seems to care about. Especially the politicians.

I do not get it. I am a parent. I will and have taught my children that video games are make believe. I tell them that in the real world you cannot go and bash someone over the head with a baseball bat....but in the video game you can. Video games are no different than fantasy books were in the 1700's. They are no different than rocknroll was in the 50's. Conservatives FEAR change...always have, always will. I sometimes wonder what will be the next medium that the religious intolerant conservative nuttchuggers go after next. Maybe it has not been invented yet.

Someday this madness will stop and video games will be no different than movies, music, books, etc. And the religious right/neocons will move on to something else to fear, hate, and will want to ban/eradicate.

And the suffering of the poor helpless children will go on, and on, and on.

Frack Jackass Thompson, Hillarythefacistpig Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Bill O'nazi Riley.

I read the law in question. The formatting is substandard especially when cut-and-pasted, but the critical section is the following:

1. NO
4 PERSON, PARTNERSHIP OR CORPORATION SHALL SELL OR RENT OR OFFER TO SELL
5 OR RENT TO ANY PERSON UNDER THE AGE OF EIGHTEEN YEARS ANY VIDEO GAME
6 THAT HAS A MATURE OR VIOLENT RATING.


This is an automatic 1st amendment issue, since the mature rating is considered suitable for people 17 or older (rather than 18) - it even prevents such minors from buying those games even when supervised by their parent or guardian.

Movie theatres were given permission by the government to enforce their ratings by requiring either ID, a partent or guardian. Somehow, these politicians want to lock down games harder than movies by trying to prohibit content that contains a violent rating - even if it is as light as "cartoon violence" found in a game considered highly-suitable for children (e.g. Moonbase Commander)

You know, what they ought to start doing is punishing the people that propose and pass these bills. In the end, they just take money from the state that they're from, which comes from our pockets. The politicians and lawyers who do this kind of crap are the ones who need to be fined.

Sorry New Yorkers, but no laws will ever stop anyone from playing the video games that they want. If people cannot buy some video games until they are 30 than they will just download them illegally.

From the actual bill http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn=A00547&sh=t :

--snip--
SUCH IDENTIFICATION NEED NOT BE REQUIRED OF ANY INDIVIDUAL WHO REASONABLY
APPEARS TO BE AT LEAST THIRTY YEARS OF AGE, PROVIDED, HOWEVER, THAT SUCH
APPEARANCE SHALL NOT CONSTITUTE A DEFENSE IN ANY PROCEEDING INVOLVING
SALE OR RENTAL OF ANY VIDEO GAME, TO AN INDIVIDUAL UNDER EIGHTEEN YEARS
OF AGE.
--snip--

You morons obviously can't be bothered to actually read the full text of the bill. The bill states that anyone -*appearing*- to be over the age of 30 shouldn't have to present ID, but that if the person is in fact under 18, such exemption is not a defense to prosecution.

BTW -> You can thank Tipper Gore for this nonsense. Tipper is the fascist who started the whole labeling the music movement, which led to laws banning the sale of "explicit lyrics" music to minors, which is now being applied to video games.

This statement is posted from an employee of Left Behind Games on behalf of Troy Lyndon, our Chief Executive Officer.

There has been in incredible amount of MISINFORMATION published in the media and in online blogs here and elsewhere.

Pacifist Christians and other groups are taking the game material out of context to support their own causes. There is NO “killing in the name of God” and NO “convert or die”. There are NO “negative portrayals of Muslims” and there are NO “points for killing”.

Please play the game demo for yourself (to at least level 5 of 40) to get an accurate perspective, or listen to what CREDIBLE unbiased experts are saying after reviewing the game at www.leftbehindgames.com/pages/controversy.htm

Then, we’d love to hear your feedback as an informed player.

The reality is that we’re receiving reports everyday of how this game is positively affecting lives by all who play it.

Thank you for taking the time to be a responsible blogger.

This sounds like yet another attempt to impose a chilling effect.

@Hayabusa

That was the Penny Arcade guys

Terminator44 Says:
January 15th, 2007 at 7:37 pm
However, this bill deals with the freedom to include certain content in games vs movies

No, it doesn't. It's to do with restricting sales to minors; there's nothing in it that I can see that places limits on what developers are allowed to produce.

@hayabusa75

I don’t know, do we really want JT to wise up?

Lol, that reminds me of a quote. Can't remember who it was, but it was someone being thankful for JT, saying "Imagine if we had a competent opponent who was friendly and courteous, and stuck to his guns even when the fit hit the shan?"
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

This bill will fail like all the others if passed. That's obvious to everyone even the politicans. What I don't understand is why politicans keep proposing this type of legislation when it 100% certain it is doomed to fail.
I really wish the industry could ask for the legal fees to be paid back by the supporters of the bill and those who got it passed from their own pockets rather then the states taxpayer's money. It seems like the only way to stop the tide of these bills. As long as it's free taxpayers money paying for the lose of these bills in court and not taken from their own pockets, then they will keep proposing these bills and passing them. It makes me fuckin' sick.

Here's hoping the NY A.G. is as smart as Utah's. This bill is still way too broadly defined to have any hope of being defensible. And that AO section idea has to be one of the stupidest I've heard in quite some time.

@Jabrwock:

All good points, my friend. As I've said before, sometimes the perception of how we are is just as important as how we really are, and we need to always be thinking of all angles.

@Terminator44:

I don't know, do we really want JT to wise up?

@Daniel:

"When will you people understand that?"

This statement sounds funny coming from you.

These people need to stop it. They've lost over and over again. When will they realize that they're beaten and leave violent video games alone. Also most games aren't racist. Sure most of the people that are killed in Scarface the World is Yours are minorities, but the player doesn't kill them because they're minorities it's because that's the only way to advance in the game. Brokenscope, you want me to contrubute to the discussion? How about this since when do games involving violent crime merrit a rating of AO? These politicians need to stop trying to pass video game legislation.

As I've said before, you all need to register to vote. If you all register to vote and make your voices heard, the politicians will realize that attacking video games is not going to get them re-elected and they will stop. When will you people understand that? Politicians only care about one thing and that's getting re-elected. Let's do something about this crap DAMN IT. REGISTER TO VOTE DAMN IT.

@Terminator44

movie directors are given the artistic freedom to include this content in their works yet So-and-So is trying to restrict that right for game developers.

That's exactly the way it needs to be worded. Unfortunately right now most people go "you let the same content be in movies..." Implying that cinema is some how "getting away with it"... Adding the artistic freedom bit changes it from being "how come they are getting away with it" to "how come you're not giving me the freedom to express myself in a similar fashion.

Words can mean the difference between "I'm disappointed that you were unsuccessfull in defending the bill you asked me to craft." and "You stupid retards, I knew I shouldn't have trusted you incompetent jerks with handling MY masterpiece!"
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

I wonder if this guy is a member of the communist party, because if he proposes a bill that does nothing but uses the constitution as toilet paper, then he should go to a country like North Korea. I am more than sure that Kim Jong Il will make him his bitch within no time. You all agree?

@Jabrwock

"That’s exactly the way it needs to be worded. Unfortunately right now most people go “you let the same content be in movies…” Implying that cinema is some how “getting away with it”… Adding the artistic freedom bit changes it from being “how come they are getting away with it” to “how come you’re not giving me the freedom to express myself in a similar fashion."

I see. Your problem isn't that movies and games are sometimes compared, but how the comparisions are worded. Got it.

"Words can mean the difference between “I’m disappointed that you were unsuccessfull in defending the bill you asked me to craft.” and “You stupid retards, I knew I shouldn’t have trusted you incompetent jerks with handling MY masterpiece!”

LOL, if only JT could realize that.

@Jabrwock

Sorry, but I'm going to have to disagree with you this time. If you were talking about comparing retail enforcement, then you would be correct. However, this bill deals with the freedom to include certain content in games vs movies, which you just said is acceptable when comparing the two. I'm certainly not advising that we imply that we should be "getting away" with content. Rather, we should be asking why "movie directors are given the artistic freedom to include this content in their works yet So-and-So is trying to restrict that right for game developers." This will tackle the legislators' double-standard head-on while not slandering the movie industry. Like you said: "It's all in the wording." I didn't mean to word my original post to make it seem like I believe either movies or games including that sort of content is a bad thing. Many parents would likely agree that it is a GOOD thing, as many movies that have this sort of content are hailed as cinematic masterpieces (Ex. Boys in the Hood similar to GTA). Trying to draw parallels between the games industry or movie industry would be helpful to our image, as that will enable us to explain the content of games with easy-to-understand (for parents) language and relevant examples. But you are right about one thing: It needs to be positive.

@Terminator44

It's a similar perception problem. While a valid legal argument, in the public mind it's the equivalent to "But is allowed, why can't I?". The argument gets perceived as "since someone else is 'getting away with it', why can't I". The goal shouldn't be to portray that, but rather deal with the concept of "getting away with it". Once we deal with the idea that someone else isn't really "getting away" with anything, then it's a more acceptable idea to allow us the same freedoms.

The problem is that we appear to be justifying our position by pointing to the perceived bad behavior of someone else. Which is the wrong approach. Instead, we should be making similarities to the freedoms of others, and highlight that. We don't want to "get away" with the same stuff others can, we want to be given the same artistic freedoms that others have.

It's all in the wording. :)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

doh, “But is allowed, why can’t I?” should be “But [sibling] is allowed, why can’t I?”
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Jabrwock

And what is your problem with the "equal treatmeant" argument? You've made several posts debating the "1st Amendment" argument, but I've seen no one get back to my own point, which is what started this whole discussion in the first place.

Why the hell are people this stupid in office? Seriously.

@Thefremen

Especially since, as Brer pointed out, some are now trying the argument that maybe minors should be excempt from the 1st amendment. And then what would we do? The wall is gone, and we've made no case for ourselves beyond the fact that the wall existed in the first place. But if they argue that the wall doesn't apply to minors... then what?

That's how it works in Canada. Minors aren't considered to have as many constitutional protections as adults. So slapping a ratings sticker on and fining people who sell to minors is perfectly legal up here. Some politicians (and lawyers) in the US have suggested following such a path. First you place restrictions on what rights minors have, THEN go and restrict games. If the minors' rights are limited, then there's no legal basis for throwing out the bill...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Thefremen

Ouch! Since when was I saying the 1st wasn't a legit argument? I'm just pointing out that it's EXTREMELY easy for the "other side" to polarize the argument.

The argument has been used to the point now where your average Joe hears "1st!" and goes "oh gawd, not another businessman/artist trying to justify selling/showing smut to 4 year olds". Because he's been conditioned by the politicians to do so.

The problem is that we're just screaming "1st!" on it's own, and those who propose these bills just use that to their advantage. "See, they don't care at all, see how they hide behind a technicality!"

If we continue to use only the 1st Amendment as a shield, without engaging in more in-depth discussion of WHY it's a valid concern and not just a tool to protect speech, then we get dismissed as being somehow in favor of perverting children, which automatically puts parents on the "other side".

We need to address the "but games are different" crowd, because to dismiss them out of hand just because, while making us satisfied that we've won the argument, does nothing to convince those who are clamoring for such laws, the parents. They are the ones we need to address. Their concerns need to be at least acknowledged.

Talking about how education is better is a good start. Scoffing at their concerns because "the 1st triumphs over all" only makes them more determined to beat us "next time".

I'm not saying we need to kowtow to their demands. Just that throwing up a wall and going "nyah nyah 1st Amendment, bite me" isn't getting us anywhere.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@sqlrob

At the same time, you're not permanently killing yourself, so whether that really counts as "suicide" is debateable" (esp. since Nameless is perfectly aware that he keeps resurrecting by the point you have a chance to deliberately kill yourself to advance plot).

As a side-note to the point Jabrwock made, there's a small but vocal minority of legal scholars ready and willing to argue that the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to minors. As a case in point, I direct you to "Saving Our Children From the First Amendment" by Kevin W. Saunders (He also wrote "Violence as Obscenity: Limiting the Media's First Amendment Protection" so he's definately worth reading if you care about arguing the issue.)

"I’m not sure of any games that reward suicide on the player’s part."

Well, there's a game called Persona 3 that gives you powerups for shooting yourself in the head, but none of the characters actually die from doing that. Hmm, I wonder if that would even be considered suicide then. ;)

Using the 14th amendment, the Holy Bible would have to be restricted as it contains most, if not all, of those things.

Going slightly off-topic, I know of some games that have drug use (when will these politicians realize that alcohol is a drug?) without glorifying them. Using them has negative consequences to health, psionic powers, and/or vision. There really should be more games like them.

@aniki21: "I’m not sure of any games that reward suicide on the player’s part."

Planescape: Torment. There's problems you can't solve without killing yourself.

Fuck you jabr, this bill bricks in the mouth of the first amendment. it does exactly wha tha says not to. It is as obvious a violation as someone leaning against a "no loitering" sign for hours on end or shooting someone in the face in front of a "no shooting people in the face" sign (yes, they have those. They're erected wherever Dick Cheney happens to be).

I suppose if were talking about a politician proposing to put millions of Jews into ovens and we said "my goodness but that does certainly bear a striking resemblance to the holocaust" you would say we've godwin'd and polorized the arguement. Go read a Farenheit 451 or read the first amendment. Or watch schoolhouse rock.

Of course the criteria for said legislation is well beyond stupid. We've established that before even commenting. The laughable part here is he wants all these games shoved into some back room with beaded curtains like it's the porno room in a video store. Here's the kicker for me though:

"Rep. Wright’s bill also calls for the equivalent of an “adults only” section for such games. Retailers would be required to check I.D. for buyers who appear to be 30 or under."

Even if the rest of the bill's language was perfect and completely constitutional, that's the part that would likely get it thrown out. There are 30 year old gamers but, this guy is trying to kill the industry to gain the favor of a few zealot overly-conservative mothers. Mothers who are likely placing the fear of god in their kids with a belt, I'd imagine.

Wow, did I, or did I not say like a year ago that these game laws could/would prove to be a slippery slope into censorship of religion too? Looks like this guy forgot the 'death by a thousand paper cuts,' creeping incrementalism assault on freedom needs incremental success though. Turn up the heat too fast, and frogs will start jumping out of the pot.

Anyhoo, SCOTUS already decided this one in Brandenburg v. Ohio, so the law is quite doomed without some wobbly science or Ewoks to confuse the court.

@Hank

The problem with crying "1st Amendment" is that it polarizes the discussion. Either you are for allowing children to be exposed to smut and violence, or you are a puritan. By yelling "1st" immediately in reaction to a proposed law, you are preaching to the choir. Those who agree will nod, those who worry about content will tune you out and assume you are some kind of kooky capitalist who only cares about the almighty dollar, or some kind of freaky artists who just wants to be able to sell crap.

There are several other ways to tackle it, such as discussing how difficult it is to actually define violence, especially violence linked to racial hatred. While it looks good on paper, hate crimes are EXTREMELY hard to prove. Are you shooting that character because he's arab, or because he's a member of an ideological faction, or just because he's currently pointing an AK at you?

The same applies to "glorification". How do you define that? Does it involve receipt of "points", progression of the story, or other "benefits"?

What are the limits? Does wiping out the Covenant count as oppressing a religion? (Remember, their view is that Humans are an affront to God) How about playing Starcraft and wiping out the Protoss (who are clearly religious). Or promoting the view that "one mind" belief is the best (zerg). Does it have to be a "real" religion/race? Does it only apply when talking about socially acceptable religions (ie is it ok to kill practitioners of the occult?)

What do they mean by suicide? What does that say about personal sacrifice? Would the special mission at the end of Wing Commander (where you give up your life to allow the carrier to escape) be considered glorification of suicide? What if you made a VG version of "The Exorcist" where priest leaps to his death to try to redeem Regan's soul, would that be glorification, or a necessary plot element?

Who's definition of illegal use of drugs? Is it ok to show adults drinking? How about if in the game world, certain drugs are considered "legal". (IE what if it's about a futuristic world where MJ is considered "just another pharma drug"?) If the game is made in Europe or Canada, do they have to consult the NYS drug laws to make sure they don't portray a drug that is banned in New York?

Does the fear of being found to be "glorifying" a subject instantly make it a taboo, which in itself merely pretends a problem doesn't exist?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Doomed like the rest

@Jabrwock

What other kinds of arguments would you like to hear?

That's ridiculous. I'm Hispanic, and I say, if someone wants to sell a game about killing Hispanics, African-Americans, or Asians, that's their right and they should get fair treatment. What's next? You won't be able to kill Caucasians in games? Where will that leave us? You can only kill aliens? What fun is that?

@aniki21

On the other hand, it *is* a valid 14th Amendment argument. Equal treatment before the law. It's what got same-sex marriage through the courts in Canada...

But yeah, the cry is getting kinda stale. Simply yelling "1st!" and "Movies do it!" Is about as effective as crying "OMG teh chIldR3N!" when trying to justify such bills.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

What's interesting is that this is one of the few bills that has better defined violence. Still shouldn't be passed, though that never stopped them before. The flaw is, as always, deciding if a form of violence falls under the types listed. The extreme end of course would be obvious, such as racial slurs while beating a man/woman of said race, but what about other games? Some WWII games are rated T yet one could argue the nazis were racist as they hated jewish people. What about fantasy swordsmen sticking their weapons into orcs and goblins and calling them filthy creatures? That could be considered racism, though against creatures that don't exist in real life. Plus, what about superhero games and the like where the badguys beat someone up? Does the rating go up even if the player doesn't commit the crime itself? Better definitions are needed.

Terminator44 Says:
January 15th, 2007 at 9:24 am
So it’s okay for all that stuff to be in movies and music, but a big no-no for video games?

*sigh*

We really need to get over that hang-up.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION MOTHERFUCKER, CAN YOU READ IT?!

So it's okay for all that stuff to be in movies and music, but a big no-no for video games?

This bill is nothing more than Wright's way of saying that he still believes video games are for kiddies.

Klokwurk Says:
January 15th, 2007 at 8:50 am
In fact, you can commit suicide in most games in some way or another, so that’s most games blocked even before looking at the other elements of the bill.

I assume the depiction of suicide would be defined more closely than just that simgle word; presumably it would refer only to depictions of imitable techniques outside the player's control that are "advocated or glamorised".

I'm not sure of any games that reward suicide on the player's part.
 
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