CHICAGO –Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today appealed to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to sign Assembly Bill 1179, legislation passed by the California legislature that would prohibit minors from buying or renting violent or sexually explicit video games. Gov. Blagojevich lobbied strongly for a similar law in Illinois. Signed in July, the Safe Games Illinois Act made Illinois the first state to limit minors’ access to such graphic games.
“Our society already restricts children’s access to things like tobacco, alcohol and pornography because we know they pose a serious risk to child health and development,” wrote Gov. Blagojevich in a letter to Schwarzenegger. “We should do the same for what is one of the fastest-growing threats to children in this modern age: violent and sexually explicit video games.”
The California legislation, AB 1179, was sent to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk on September 13th, and he has 30 days to sign or veto. The bill requires that games defined as violent be labeled, and forbids retailers from selling or renting those games to children under the age of 18. There would be a $1000 fine for each violation.
“As a parent, I’m sure you recognize the struggle so many other busy parents face in trying to protect their children from harmful influences, and in monitoring every video game their child brings home,” continued Gov. Blagojevich. “By putting limits in place at retail and rental counters, you will give parents a valuable tool in their effort to make sure the games their kids play meet up to the standards and values of their own households.”
The Safe Games Illinois Act, which goes into effect on January 1, 2006, 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.
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 danger in giving minors easy access to mature video games was highlighted recently when the Entertainment Software Rating Board changed the rating of the popular Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from “M” (for mature) to “AO” (Adults Only) when it was discovered that players can acquire software over the Internet that unlocks hidden X-rated material within the game. Under the Safe Games Illinois Act, only adults will be able to purchase Grand Theft Auto and similar mature-themed video games.