GLENVIEW - Gov. Rod Blagojevich today denounced the release of the NARC video game and called on the Senate to pass the Safe Games Illinois Act, House Bill 4023. NARC, created by Midway Games, is rated M-Mature and has drawn national attention for its focus on illegal drug use. The Safe Games Illinois Act, which passed in the House by a margin of 91 to 19 last week, would make Illinois the first state in the nation to ban the sale and rental of violent and sexually explicit video games to children. The governor joined PTA members, concerned parents, and Senate sponsor Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville) in Glenview today to urge the Senate to pass the Safe Games Illinois Act.
“I’ve gotten to know quite a few video games over the last few months, but this may be the worst I’ve seen,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “When kids play NARC, they spend their free time pretending to be drug addicts and learning how to hurt people. Right now, children can easily get their hands on NARC, and other games just like it. The Safe Games legislation would give parents the tools they need to protect their children from games like NARC, and I strongly urge the Senate to help turn this commonsense bill into law.”
“Just when we think we have seen the worst from the video game industry, a more violent and more offensive game is released,” said Chicago Alderman Ed Burke (D-14th Ward). “NARC makes a mockery of our law enforcement officials, who serve and protect our citizens with valor and dignity. NARC glamorizes drugs and makes light of the severity of substance addiction. I am proud to stand with Governor Blagojevich in this fight to provide Illinois parents with the necessary tools to make informed decisions about video games.”
In NARC, players become narcotics officers who can arrest drug dealers and use the confiscated drugs to improve their progress in the game. Smoking marijuana slows the game down and gives the player more reaction time, using LSD changes the other characters appearance, making it easier to distinguish “enemies” from non-enemies, and using crack increases the amount of damage a player can inflict on enemies. Using crack also causes the game controller to vibrate, simulating the actual physical effects of taking the drug.
Over the last few years, drug use has become an increasingly popular theme in adult video games. According to the New York Times (“Where a puff of marijuana is the ultimate power-up,” March 17, 2005), more than half of the 40 video games cited for drug content by the Entertainment Software Rating Board were released in the last 3 years. The Entertainment Software Rating Board has also cited close to 3,000 games for violence since 1994.
“The new NARC video game, packed with violence, gore and even drug use by police officers, is a prime example of why we need to pass the Illinois Safe Games legislation,” said Julio Abreu, a Libertyville, Illinois parent and Safe Games Illinois Task Force member. “While we cannot tell the video game industry what types of games to produce, we can certainly protect our children through heightened parental awareness and proactive, family-oriented legislative action.”
"I am pleased to appear with the Governor, teachers, parents and students of Springman Middle School," said State Senator Demuzio. "As a grandparent myself, I am very concerned with the impact that violent video games have on our youngsters."
Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee on Civil Law unanimously approved The Safe Games Illinois Act. Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center on Media and Child Health, provided expert testimony to members of the committee on the ill effects of violent and sexually explicit video games. The bill was overwhelmingly approved in the full House by a margin of 91 to 19.
The Safe Games Illinois Act would ban the rental and sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to children younger than 18. Retailers who violate the ban would be committing a Class A Misdemeanor and could face up to one year in prison or a $5,000 fine. The bill also requires retailers to label violent and sexually explicit video games, similar to the “Parental Advisory” label found on music CDs, and to post signs explaining the video game rating system. A retailer’s failure to properly label games or place proper signs is punishable by a $1,000 fine for the first three violations and a $5,000 fine for every subsequent violation.
"We need to do more than just rely on the current rating system if we are going to stop the video game industry from bombarding our kids with graphic and gratuitous video violence,” said State Senator Jeff Schoenberg (D-Evanston). “The time has come to take a more proactive approach and give parents better tools to effectively monitor the games their children are playing.”
Various studies demonstrate the negative impact playing violent and sexually explicit video games has on minors. One such study, completed in 2003 by four experts, including Douglas Gentile from the National Institute on Media and the Family, concluded that adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school.
“Video games, although currently rated, are not monitored and have a mesmerizing and addicting hold over our children,” said Mary Ann Topping, Springman Middle School PTA President. “Since children are extremely impressionable and their brains are literally developing, violent games can and do have a hugely negative effect on them. I would be extremely grateful to receive support as a parent in trying to uphold values and behaviors that are beneficial to my children and their peers.”
The National Institute of Media and the Family recently found that 92 percent of all children ages 2 to 17 play video games, and the average child spends 9 hours each week playing them. The Institute also found that 87 percent of pre-teen and teenage boys play games rated “M” for Mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. M-rated games often contain realistic depictions of human injury and death, mutilation of body parts, rape, sex, profanity, and drug, alcohol and tobacco consumption.
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 or renting them. In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission found that 69 percent of teenagers were able to purchase M-rated video games – giving them easy access to images many adults would consider offensive. The FTC also 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. An independent investigation by State Rep. Paul Froehlich (R-Schaumburg) and the Illinois State Crime Commission found that a 15-year-old boy could purchase “Mature” rated video games (recommended for children 17 and older) at 11 of the 15 stores he visited.
Under the Safe Games Illinois Act, “violent” games are defined as those that include depictions of human-on-human violence in which the player kills, injures, or otherwise causes serious physical harm to another human, including but not limited to depictions of death, dismemberment, amputation, decapitation, maiming, disfigurement, mutilation of body parts, or rape. “Sexually explicit” games are defined as those that the average person -- applying contemporary community standards with respect to minors -- would find are designed to appeal or pander to the prurient interest, and that depict or represent in a manner patently offensive to minors any of the following: an actual or simulated sexual act or sexual contact, an actual or simulated normal or perverted sexual act or a lewd exhibition of reproductive organs.
State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) was the lead sponsor of this legislation in the House.