SPRINGFIELD- Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today praised the Illinois General Assembly for passing the landmark Safe Games Illinois Act and reaffirmed his commitment to signing the bill, which will make Illinois the only state in the nation to ban the sale and rental of violent and sexually explicit video games to children. HB 4023, sponsored by state Sen. Deanna Demuzio (D-Carlinville) and state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora), won final legislative approval today when the House of Representatives concurred with the Senate’s amendment. The governor proposed the Safe Games initiative in December.
“The passage of the Safe Games Illinois Act is a landmark achievement for Illinois,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “When this legislation becomes law, Illinois will become the only state in the nation to protect children from adult video games. In today’s world, parents face unprecedented challenges in monitoring and protecting their children from harmful influences. This bill will make their job easier. I commend the Illinois General Assembly for recognizing the importance and necessity of this bill, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to sign it into law.”
“I introduced this legislation because these games are graphic, offensive, and intended for adults, not children,” said Rep. Chapa LaVia. “Illinois has an opportunity to be the only state in the nation to legislate on this matter, and I am grateful to the governor and my colleagues in the General Assembly for showing leadership on this issue.”
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.
“As this important legislation, also known as the Safe Games Illinois Act, now moves to the Governor’s desk for his signature, I want to thank legislators from both sides of the aisle who have worked extremely hard to implement legislation that will place safeguards on violent video games,” said Sen. Demuzio. “Our goal has always been to provide a greater measure of protection for our children.”
“This is a clear victory for the parents and children of Illinois. While the gaming industry and their lobbyists tried hard to kill this legislation the Governor and both houses of the legislature stood up and voted on behalf of children and families,” said Dayton Loyd, Central Illinois Chapter Director of the Parents Television Council.
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.
“We are very pleased that both the Illinois House and Senate have supported the Safe Games legislation,” said Julio Abreu, a member of the Safe Games Illinois Task Force. “We accept that the video game industry can still produce whatever product it chooses. However, we as parents and responsible adult citizens should be also able to restrict our children’s access to the graphic violence and sexually explicit content of many games.”
“In many cases, parents don’t realize how violent or sexually explicit these games can be,” said David Gee, another member of the Safe Games Illinois Task Force. “The governor’s legislation, coupled with the work of the Safe Games Task Force, helps parents make educated decisions about their children’s video games, and helps retailers make sure that the right games get into the right hands.”
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 depictions of human-on-human violence in which the player kills, or otherwise causes serious physical harm to another human, including 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.