Video Game Bill Introduced in North Carolina Senate

February 8, 2007 -
Yesterday, North Carolina State Senator Julia Boseman proposed a video game bill designed to restrict the access of minors to violent video games.

The move was not unexpected. A staffer told GamePolitics recently that Boseman was planning to introduce video game legislation.

The new bill, SB87, adds violent games to an existing North Carolina statute which defines material harmful to minors. Although the bill's language differs somewhat from recent legislative proposals in Utah and Louisiana, it is similar to those efforts in that it seeks to define video game violence in the same terms used to restrict minors' access to pornography.

To that end, Sen. Boseman's legislation would restrict minors' access to games which feature "the realistic visual depiction of serious injury to human beings, actual or virtual; appeal to  a minor's morbid interest in violence; are "patently offensive" to prevailing community standards; and lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

The proposed law also requires such games to be displayed in an area not accessible by minors and mandates that retailers must inform consumers about the game rating system

The bill, which applies to arcades as well as game retailers, establishes a variety of misdemeanor offenses for violations of the proposed law. As reported by GamePolitics, Sen. Boseman proposed video game legislation in North Carolina in 2005. That bill passed the Senate, but failed to move in the House.

If passed, SB87 would become law in December.

Comments

Let us charge teenagers as an adult but lets not let them buy video games that are rated M.

So when they commit a crime there adults?
And when they buying a game at a store there a child?

Join me now and declare WAR ON INCOMPENTENCE

Chuma: "how exactly can a computer game be actual violence?"

I was wondering that myself. The sheer ambiguity of that "actual or virtual" line may be the most absurd thing about this bill: actual or virtual humans? Injuries? Depictions? Does "virtual humans" mean humanoids, or just computer-generated images of people? If the latter is the case, then what the hell does "actual humans" mean in a video game context? It's completely ambiguous.

"Meanest Mommy In The Whole World", FTW!

I hope I'm still that intelligent and down to earth in 14 years ^_^

the Sourceress: "I think that we do a disservice to teenagers when we treat them like children instead of like young adults. I believe that teenagers are very competent, capable, and intelligent people, and that if we quit treating them like children, and expecting them to act like children, and start treating them like adults and expecting them to act that way, we will be pleasantly surprised with the results."

I agree entirely. Though I'm 17, I can assure you I'm not biased on this - I don't own any M-Rated games, and unless I've forgotten a few instances, I didn't play an M-rated game until after I was 17. I know I'm far from the norm in that respect, but I'm sure there's others like me (and no, I wasn't refraining just to be a "good boy", I just don't have much interest in shooters and the like).

Teens catch so much flak from just about every direction, and so much of it is believed and incorporated into the average mindset, that I'm very surprised they haven't locked us all up in our individual basements by now. I knew the facts about death fairly early (my great-grandmother died when I was six, and a favorite cat at about seven) and from about 12 or 13 on I also had a sense of my own mortality, that sense that popular culture says is completely absent in teenagers. I don't dispute that there are some who don't grasp this concept, but I know a large number of people who are as I am. It's become a vicious myth, because of how it can be used to limit our rights and give non-minors a pretense to treat us like 6-year-olds.

“[…]The realistic visual depiction of serious injury to human beings, actual or virtual; appeal to a minor’s morbid interest in violence; are “patently offensive” to prevailing community standards; and lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.”

There goes America's Funniest Home Videos, and the TV news (which can easily be argued does not hold any value these days.

Then again... perhaps that's not such a bad thing...

I think the point where most of these "Oh But De Chilluns!" ideas fail is that they fail to make a distinction between 5-year-olds and 15-year-olds. Do I think that 5-year-olds should be watching media with explicitly violent or sexual content? Absolutely not. (And I'm the Meanest Mommy In The Whole World because of it, btw.) Do I feel the same way about 15-year-olds? Absolutely not. Until the latter half of the 20th century, teenagers were essentially considered adults. In fact, until the latter half of the 20th century, a girl who was not married and having babies by the time she was 18 was considered an "Old Maid". Just because our society has evolved to the point where we are not prepared to be functional adult members of society until we are in our twenties does not mean that our biology has kept pace. Our biology is still back in the Stone Age, hitting puberty at 13 or 14 and going "Bring It On!!!" And any discussion on teen sex that fails to take this into account is doomed to failure.

What has this to do with violent video games, you may ask? Well, it's the same kind of thing: I think that we do a disservice to teenagers when we treat them like children instead of like young adults. I believe that teenagers are very competent, capable, and intelligent people, and that if we quit treating them like children, and expecting them to act like children, and start treating them like adults and expecting them to act that way, we will be pleasantly surprised with the results. I firmly believe that if we give teens the actual information - on sex, on drugs, on violent media, or whatever else - not the propaganda, not the hype, but just the straight facts, and then we ask them to draw their own conclusions and make good decisions, the vast majority of them will do just that. And for those times when they don't, well, it's not like teens have a monopoly on making stupid decisions - one only has to read the news, with Congressmen hitting on teenaged pages, or preachers doing crystal meth with male prostitutes, or whatever the Scandal du Jour is, to see that adults are quite capable of being idiots despite being older and having more experience. And after all, how is one to get experience if one is not allowed to make decisions and live with the consequences?

I say - quit treating teens like children, and start treating them like young adults, and society will benefit greatly.

(And I should add, at this juncture, that I am almost 37, so this is not just a "The Man is repressing me!" kind of rant. I've been there, done that, and grew out of it. That does not change the fact that I think teens have a lot to offer, if we'd just give them a chance.)

So. Having said all that, I have to admit that it is at least refreshing to see that the Morality Police are picking on violent media now too. It used to really bother me that it's a Horrible Problem for kids to see sexuality in the media, but graphic violence is just fine. Yeesh! No wonder we have such a screwed-up country. Whatever happened to "Make love, not war"?

"[...]The realistic visual depiction of serious injury to human beings, actual or virtual; appeal to a minor’s morbid interest in violence; are “patently offensive” to prevailing community standards; and lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors."

There go the Horrible History books and 85% of YouTube.

The law restricts anyone under eighteen from buying a game that falls within its definition of harmful to minors, regardless of the rating. So, what exactly is the point of informing a customer about the ratings system?

15-year-old: “I’d like to buy this game.”

Clerk: “Okay, but first I must tell you this game is rated T by the ESRB for violence and is recommended for ages 13 and up.”

15-year-old: “Whatever, I’m fifteen.”

Clerk: “Oh, I’m terribly sorry but you can’t buy this game until you’re eighteen.”

15-year-old: “Huh, why the hell not?”

Clerk: “Because an average adult person applying contemporary community standards found that the depiction of graphic violence in this video game has a predominant tendency to appeal to your morbid interest in violence, is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community concerning what is suitable for you, and the game lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for you.”

15-year-old: “’Average adult person’? Who exactly?”

Clerk: “I’m really not sure.”

15-year-old: “Well, what about ‘contemporary community standards’? How are those defined?”

Clerk: “Excellent question! I don’t know.”

15-year-old: “Then how do you know whether this game is harmful to me or not?”

Clerk: “Honestly, I don’t. We at “Games ‘R Us” are just playing it safe to avoid getting smacked with the Class 1 Misdemeanor Stick.”


Andrew Eisen

I'm just waiting for legislation that would restrict minors’ access to MEDIA which features “the realistic visual depiction of serious injury to human beings, actual or virtual".

Good-bye News...

Isn't the definition of insanity trying the same thing over and over expecting different results?

hmmm reminds me of current game legislation that is trying to be passed in different states.

in the words of my roommates. "i just wish i could kick people in the teeth sometimes."

Are any other NC residents planning on contacting their local press to make these bills a little more noticed? Especially with such a high failure rate, I'd love to get these politicians in the spotlight with everyone asking what the hell are they doing?

@sabin_blitz

Yep, the miller test has only been upheld by the courts when it pertains to the depiction/description of *sexual conduct*...

In the US, at any rate.

And I think the only reason it was never overturned, is not that it's particularly constitutional, but that the SC didn't want to overturn 100 years of precedent without a really convincing reason. That and pr0n is clearly pr0n, you can define it. Violence is so dependant on context, but a bare pubic area is a bare pubic area...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

"I declare a WAR. A WAR AGAINST INCOMPETNENCE."

Please let me keep that as a quote? :D

Sure go ahead as long u uphold the quote.

Here we go again. Another law to band violent video games from childre. Wont you please thing of the children. I swear every politican must have been dropped on their head. And yet people still elect these nut cases.

Also it should be noted that the Miller test doesnt not work in relation to the internet and pr0n. See what happend with the communication deceny act.

There has to be a way to punish these politicans for making stupid laws. But there always re-elected. I declare a WAR. A WAR AGAINST INCOMPETNENCE.

Hmm... I have a cunning plan. I wonder if we could get paid to use the same language in all of these bills to construct a new one and pitch it to some gullible senator. There must be some cash in this, and you obviously don't need to be a competant lawyer to do it as we have all seen. Then we can shove all the profits into Child's Play and watch as another precident is made.

At least then not all the cash from these pointless ventures would go to waste.


Actually heres an even better thought. Drinking game for alcoholics.:
1 shot for every new law containing the words "patently offensive"
1 shot for every mention of games lacking serious artistic or intellectual value
Another shot if this value is aimed at minors
3 shots if it is aimed at miners
1 shot for depiction of violence on humans
2 shots if the depiction of violence is virtual OR actual (how exactly can a computer game be actual violence?)
1 shot if it defines games specifically as pornographic
5 shots if Jack Thompson created the law
1 shot for each person involved in passing the bill Jack starts an argument with
1 shot for each comtempt of court charge
and 10 alkasetsa when the law is struck down in court

The sad truth is, they don't care that the law is unconstitutional and will be struck down.

The politicians get to make their stand, and pass a law, and they can tout that in their next campaign: "Senator Smith worked to limit children's access to violent games"

It doesn't cost them anything when the law is later struck down. If anything, it gives them more fodder to rage about "activist judges".

There ought to be a law making politicians personally responsible for the court costs whenever they pass a blatantly unconstitutional law after they have been warned by counsel that the law will never stand.

"So... yeah, our game takes place on a planet that's really similar to Earth, but it's not Earth. It's called... Htrea, yeah. And the Htreans, they may look like humans, but they're not. See? They've got slightly pointy ears. And since there's no law dealing with violence to Htreans, we're good!"

Wait, wait, wait. Did I just see the Miller Test in this law? Last I checked, wasn't the Miller Test also deemed unsuitable for such legislation? Some people never learn, I guess. This bill is going to crash and burn. Here's hoping it crashes low to the ground so the taxpayers don't end up having to shell out more cash for their government's ignorance.

"The proposed law also requires such games to be displayed in an area not accessible by minors..."

So the next time you go into EBGames or Best Buy, you'll want to move towards the door in the back, with all the beads hanging down over it.

I just imagined Gandalf the Grey representing the ESA in a court room.

Oh god... that would hilarious.

"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"

Then a the balrog shouting "OBJECTION!"

Once again, what about R-rated movies? They are given the exact age rating as M-rated games, meaning that as long as 17-year olds are considered minors, then like the balrog, this bill will not pass.

@Megaduck

Morbid interest is usually defined as an unhealthy state of mind in which you are obsessed with death and disease. Equivalent to a purient interest in sex, where you are in an unhealthy state of mind in which you are constantly lusting...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

"the realistic visual depiction of serious injury to human beings, actual or virtual"

So I guess slaughtering Golgafrinchan is ok... because even though they LOOK like humans, they aren't... ;)
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Which is kinda odd if you ask how many children have died at the orders of adults and how many adults have died at the orders of children, you'd probably find out exactly the opposite.

I've always disagreed with the idea that children have a 'morbid fascination' with death, if that's the case, why do teenagers so consistently take their lives into their own hands. If someone had said that children have 'A limited concept of mortality', I would have agreed with that, everyone is going to live forever when they are 15 years old, but fascination is completely the wrong word, I was never fascinated with it, just thought it would never happen to me.

Children are assumed to have a unnatural/unhealthy interest in violence and death.

"appeal to a minor’s morbid interest in violence;"

This is the part of these bills that I don't get. Can anyone explain to me what appealing to a minors morbid interest in violence is? It's the term Morbid that gets me.

Take that out and it just becomes interest in violence which could include anything from Martial arts to Football as well.

At this point, I have to assume elected officials don't read the news at all, ever. It's really the only explanation for this.

@Shoehorn

More like "I'll probably get burned, but at least I'll get some 'family values' votes afterwards."

This copy&paste flurry of legislation convinces me now, more than ever, that these politicians don't care if these bills survive judical scrutiny or not. As long as they get in the papers, they've accomplished what they set out to do. The only way they'll stop is if we convince the voters that these bills are stupid and wasteful. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening this year.

Why do they keep trying to introduce legislation that has been repeatedly shot down in the courts over and over again? It's like whack a mole, it seems.

Video Game Bill Introduced in North Carolina Senate...

...

Another "Copy and paste" proposal.

What is it with these guys ? Are they just aiming to waste US taxpayers money ?

Retailers informing customers about the ratings cannot help in the case of spoilt children who's parents will just cave in to their demands. How many shops are going to change their floor plans to include a section not accessible by kids?

How can these legislators turn a blind eye to the rulings and decisions made in other states? Every single bill along these lines has been ruled unconstitutional (I believe the score is something like 9-0?), and the state ends up footing the bill for the industry's legal fees. I'm not sure any state's citizens would like their elected officials to squander their tax dollars like happened in Illinois. Utah even decided not to go ahead with their law in the end and were praised by local media for that decision.

I have a horrible feeling that this problem will only go away when every single state has gone through this silly cycle. It's like a kid sticking his hand in a fire and being burned, then another kid who has just watched it happen saying "I'm going to do exactly the same thing, but I'm pretty sure I won't be burned!".

The Utah bill hasn't even been dead for a week yet, and there's already another one coming that not only has the exact same objective, but is also worded extremely similarly ("morbid interest", "patently offensive to prevailing community standards", etc.)? You'd think they'd wait at least a few months...

Considering the whole brouhaha over the Utah bill, and the fact that it happened so recently, I think the question with this one isn't "Will it fail?", but "When will it fail?" - I have no doubt it will.

[...] North Carolina legislators have proposed a new bill that will restrict the way in which video games are sold and classified. I use the word “new” loosely because it’s basically the same bill used by several other states last year. Here’s what I don’t understand, you politicians are paying enough attention to other states to take their ideas almost word for word, but not paying attention to the fact that those bills were overturned and ruled unconstitutional in every case. Stop wasting your tax payer’s money. If you need to run someone’s life, try this. [...]

Juvie delinquents are usually not treated the same as adults. Juvies cant be fined for example... but their parents can be.

@EOTD

Correct me if I'm wrong but think when they mention actual violence they mean a real video (maybe a cutscene) with real violence added to a game to work as a loophole. If they specified virtual violence only perhaps someone would try this.

Or it is possible I don't know what I am talking about.

So what is "patently offensive?"

If the North Carolina legislator is smart they will ditch this bill just like the legislator did in Utah. I can't imagine Utah probably the most socially convervative state in the Union ditching a bill like this and then another state choosing to pass it. Politicans know by now that these bills are an unconstitutional waste of taxpayers money that will never pass the court system and that taxpayers money could be going to something that is actually important, like dealing with real problems other then imaginary ones.

@the Sourceress

I agree 100% with what you said. I'm a strong believer in youth rights, esspecially when it comes to the First Amendment rights of older kids and teenagers.
Young people need the ability to form there own viewpoints based on unrestricted and uncensored access to free speech media that expresses ideas, information, messages and opinions. Otherwise by the time they reach the age of majority their mind will be a blank except for what the government allows them to know, and they will not have entered adulthood with a free mind.

Swami CyberSkull predicts: North Carolina will be paying the ESA money within a year (or will be delinquent like Illinois).

I'm tired of video games being put in the same category as pornography. Video games are not pornography and they're not dangerous like pornography. They're different and video games are not bad like pornography. What is it with east coast states? It seem that all east coast states, except New Jersey, are trying to pass anti-game legislation. Those people on the east coast need to be smarter.

@Daniel

Since when is pornography dangerous Daniel. Just as there is no evidence that violent games are dangerous or harmful to anyone, there is no proof that porn is harmful either. Free Speech is universal. You can't believe in Free Speech for some media and not other forms of it. That's exactly what the government is doing with video games.

P.S - Porn is not restricted by the government because it's harmful or dangerous but because Obscene speech has been ruled by the Supreme Court to be not protected by the First Amendment.

@ Bigman-K

I had a discussion a while back about pornography. I don't think that pornography is good and I'm against it, but I don't think that it should be banned because I'm against it because that would be communistic and I think that pornography is the desecration of the human body and is evil, but I don't believe in banning things because I'm against them.

Coming from you, Daniel, the most die-hard fan of violent video games on the blog, opposition to 'desecration of the human body' is somehow funny. Not that I'm knocking you or anything, I have my own somewhat quirky beliefs, we can all believe what we especially want to, just saying that you gave me a small laugh.
I'd also take exception to your claim that east coasters are not smart, but I'm only here because I haven't found a job elsewhere. I'm not a huge fan, and besides, ever since Boston was crippled by the Mooninite invasion I don't feel safe here, lest they come back and spank us with moon rocks.

Anyhow, I can't add anything meaningful to this debate that Sourceress and F'ed Up didn't already say more capably than I did - when the War on Incompetence comes I shall join you in the trenches, bretheren.

I just joined the ECA-Hal Halpin needs to lay the smackdown on this anti-video game behavior, so I don't mind giving up $20 for that.

It isn't clear from the article, but I read the bill and it's clearly saying that games that fall into the provisions here can't have their packages displayed where kids might see them, not can you advertise them where kids might see the ads. Not even porn is restricted liek this so long as the covers and ads aren't themselves explicit. If it does pass (and legislatures seem to be learing their lesson about these) it will be thrown out post-haste/

@ Benji

I am against pornography because it's real. Although I am a die hard fan of violent video games, I have never defended real violence. If it's real, it's bad. Looking at a pornographic magazine is real because a person can't pretend to get naked. That's a real image in the magazine of a real naked person and that's wrong and immoral. If I saw two people beating the crap out of each other in real life, I would think that was horrible because it wouldn't be fake. Only fake violence is good.

@ Daniel

So, by that logic, animated pornography is A-OK? You know, because no one had to actually get naked or anything like that.

My opinion on pornography: if someone's old enough, they can go ahead and watch it if they want. Who the hell am I (or you, for that matter) to tell them not to?

@ Daniel

Banning something isn't ''communistic'' as you put it. It's more along the line of totalitarian. A country can be communist without being totalitarian.

Just a matter of semantics there.

And really I'd like to here how you justify fake violence as good. Does violence not have the same effect whether it's real or fake? Certainly no one is harmed in a movie or a game but can it not have the same desensitizing effect?

@ EOTD and Jotunheim

I don't believe that pornography should be gotten rid of because I'm against it. I don't like pornography and I believe it's evil, but I don't think that the country should be run on what I believe. I don't believe that naked images of people should be shown anywhere. However, with violence, I think that it doesn't desensitize and no one gets hurt when it's fake and that's why I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If it's real, it's bad.

I don't like, condone, or approve of real violence except in extreme cases. When it's fake, no one feels any pain and no human life is lost and there's nothing wrong with it.
 
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