Last week, the Governor announced his plans to introduce two bills during the upcoming legislative session: one to ban the distribution, sale, rental and availability of violent video games to children younger than 18, and another to ban the distribution, sale, rental and availability of sexually explicit video games to children younger than 18. The likely penalty for violating the bans would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Even though mature games are labeled with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board’s “M” rating, there are no legal mechanisms in place preventing children from buying them. Unlike the motion picture industry, the video game industry has not developed an effective self-regulation system that keeps adult material out of the hands of minors. A study by the Federal Trade Commission found that 69 percent of underage boys were able to purchase M-rated video games – giving them easy access to images many adults would consider offensive.
But, the FTC found that not only are minors easily purchasing violent and sexually explicit games, 10 of the 11 companies it studied produced at least one marketing document specifically targeting boys under 17 for a violent, M-rated game. In fact, one 1997 marketing plan obtained by the FTC demonstrated that the advertisers knew they were not supposed to market to younger audiences, but because of children's higher susceptibility to advertising, the marketing was targeted to boys between 12 and 17, despite the game being rated M.
“Today’s parents are playing defense against a multi-billion dollar industry that makes more money by marketing this kind of stuff to children. It’s not that this is out there and they are running into it – it’s being thrown at them. Just like the tobacco industry did with Joe Camel, marketing cigarettes to kids, the video game industry is marketing sex and violence and morally bankrupt behavior to children. The more they market it – the more money they make,” said the Governor.
During his stop in Peoria, Governor Blagojevich encouraged parents to visit www.safegamesIllinois.org, to learn more about the impact playing violent and sexually explicit games has on children’s behavior. The website offers parents the opportunity to report video games they feel are inappropriate for their kids and to report Illinois retailers that are selling violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. Website visitors can also register their own comments and sign an online petition in support of the Governor's legislation to ban the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.