Recently a bill was considered during the 2006 Utah Legislative Session which would have made it a felony to give, sell, or rent to a minor any video game containing broadly-defined "inappropriate violence". The International Game Developers' Association (IGDA) stepped up to combat this bill; one way of doing so was to initiate a letter-writing campaign to the Utah Senate.
What follows is my letter in opposition to HB257. Although the 2006 Legislative Session has since ended - and HB257 was NOT signed into law - the letter's points remain valid and I believe it's important for us as game developers to keep issues like this in mind at all times. And who knows, HB257 may very well reappear next year under some other guise.
February 26, 2006
Dear Senator Walker,
I am writing you today in opposition to HB 257, which would make it a felony for anyone to give, sell or rent any video game containing certain broadly defined "inappropriate violence" to minors.
HB 257 treats video games differently from other forms of entertainment media such as movies, books, and music, for which there exists no such legislation. Additionally, HB 257 ignores the efforts of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), which provides parents with detailed guidelines as to the age-appropriateness of content in a rated video game.
HB 257 poses significant social and economic problems. Game players are predominantly adults: 62% of gamers are over the age of eighteen and the average game player is 30 years old*. If these adults are threatened with a felony should their children get into their parents' game collections - which can happen even given the most vigilant parenting - they'll be forced to lock up or hide their video games as though they were porn DVDs. How many adults will then decide that the threat of legal trouble simply isn't worth playing games in the first place? This situation would lead to significant damage to the $7 billion high-tech industry that produces video games, crippling its ability to compete with other media formats in the mass marketplace and jeopardizing the employment of game developers like myself.
Finally, as of December 2005, six other bills like HB 257 have been ruled unconstitutional across the United States, and if this bill passes, it too will be challenged and likely overturned.
I urge you to oppose HB 257. The bill's definitions are too general, the bill itself is redundant given the presence of the ESRB rating system, and six similar bills have now been overturned in federal courts. Thank you for considering my views and concerns.
- Source: The Entertainment Software Association - http://www.theesa.com