A felony, even, thanks to legislation passed last month in the NY Assembly 131-10. Bill A08696 makes sale of games containing “depraved violence” and “indecent images” a Class E felony. Jail time, permanent record. The bill also requires all consoles sold to be equipped with a parental control device (all of the next generation consoles have this feature already–did they not do their research?).
Another bill, introduced in the Senate, is Bill S05888, which:
- mandates ratings on all games sold/rented in the state of New York (the ratings system, established by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, is currently voluntary)
- criminalizes game sales that are “in contravention” to the rating (Does this mean a 9-year old who purchases an E10+ can also get a store into trouble? What ID will they ask for as proof of age?)
- creates an advisory council to evaluate the New York based Entertainment Software Ratings Board (The ESA is something of an industry watchdog–this is like a vote of no confidence to me)
- establishes a parent-teacher anti-violence awareness program that will intervene with students at risk of developing violent tendencies (reading between the lines, it seems like this was included as part of the bill because of an assumption that violent video games make people more violent). This new program will be funded with monies from the Department of Education (not, apparently, with monies generated from fines that could be collected for violations of age-inappropriate game sales.
Would you be upset if instead of game, these bills said, “book?” What about “film” or “CD?”
The bill mentions retailers, specifically. Do libraries in NY who CIRCULATE games–not sell or rent–have to comply with this law? And how might it change circulation policies of other materials? We have a long history of allowing PARENTS to set the boundaries for what their minor children may borrow, not libraries, and not the government.
Hopefully, like other attempts to mandate game ratings and punish retailers for parental negligence, bills A08696 and S05888 will be ruled unconstitutional and repealed. In the meantime, libraries wishing to educate their communities about game content and ratings will be pleased to know that the ESRB has great resources on their website, and upon request, will send brochures on the rating system to give away in your city or town.
Want to do more? If you live in NY, please contact your legislators to speak out against this First Amendment violation. If you don’t live in NY, be on the watch for a similar bill to appear in your state. Finally, consider joining the Video Game Voters Network.