SPRINGFIELD- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today praised the Illinois Senate for passing the Safe Games Illinois Act, which 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 legislation, sponsored by Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville) and Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), passed the Senate by a margin of 52 – 5, with one voting “present”. Last month, the Illinois House of Representatives passed the bill 91-19. Because the legislation was amended in the Senate, the legislation now returns to the House for concurrence.
“I’m pleased the General Assembly recognizes the importance of this commonsense legislation. What might be entertaining for a 20-year old is not necessarily healthy for a 10-year old. We know from recent research that kids who play violent video games can become more aggressive and less able to control their behavior. The Safe Games Illinois Act will protect our children from violent and sexually explicit video games, making parents’ jobs easier and our children’s lives healthier. I’m optimistic that the House of Representatives will concur with the Senate, and I’ll have an opportunity to sign legislation making Illinois the first state in the nation to keep adult games out of kids’ hands,” said Gov. Blagojevich.
“I am very pleased that HB 4023 passed the Senate today,” said Sen. Demuzio. “We have worked very hard to address the issues of committee members and organizations like the Retail Merchants who have worked with us in coming up with a bill that has received support from both parties. We need to do all we can to protect our children as well as inform concerned parents regarding the potential harm some of these games can have.”
The Safe Games Illinois Act, House Bill 4023, bans the rental and sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to children younger than 18. Retailers who violate the ban commit a petty offense and face a fine of $1,000. 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 $500 fine for the first three violations and a $1,000 fine for every subsequent violation.
In December, Governor Blagojevich launched a website for parents, www.safegamesIllinois.org
, where they can learn about the effects of violent and sexually explicit video games, report inappropriate video games, and report Illinois retailers that are selling such games to minors.
The Governor also created the Safe Games Illinois Task Force to gather information on the impact of violent and sexually explicit video games, develop strategies for parents, and give recommendations to the Governor.
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.
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. 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. 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 realistic 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.