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Will Schwarzenegger Run With or Pass the Video Game Political Football?

18 Sep, 2005 By: Kurt Indvik

The constant political pressure on the video game business regarding violence in games has reached a “perfect storm” situation, says Sean Bersell VP of public affairs for the Video Software Dealers Association.

Just late last week Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law a bill that makes it illegal to rent or sell so-called violent video games to anyone under 17. She was all over that issue politically, and the day the bill arrived in her office she signed it, even though she had 14 days to do so.

Now California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has a bill on his desk that also will make it a criminal offense to rent or sell a video game to anyone under the age of 18 if that game has been labeled by the supplier or distributor as too violent, according to parameters set out in the law. A check with the governator's office staff finds that Arnold has taken no position on the bill and has until Oct. 9 to sign it.

But consider that Governor Schwarzenegger has been under public attack for months now from teachers and law enforcement, among other groups, for “breaking his promise” to adequately support them, and you can figure that anything he can do that would appear to protect children and families he'll do. He's getting ready to announce a run for a second term, but right now only about a third of California's voters would vote to bring him back, according to recent polls. He's going to need any positive news he can get.

Of course it's unfortunate that violence in video games has become the political football it has. Legal precedent shows that such laws fail to pass First Amendment muster in court and have been thrown out. The language in the California and Michigan bills isn't any improvement, according to the VSDA, leaving huge subjective holes in how one is to fairly judge what is or is not too violent to be seen by minors. But these elected officials don't care about that. They know these laws are headed for court, but by then they've scored as many political points off the legislation and are on to the next game.

Meanwhile, these bills suck up resources from groups like the VSDA and the Entertainment Software Association who plan to team up and sue the state of Michigan. I am assuming they'll likely join forces against California as well, should that bill be signed. It would be nice to use those funds for more productive efforts instead of having to defend their retailer constituencies against politically popular legislation that has no legal merit.

But don't hold your breath that this is going to stop any time soon. There are plenty of other political races where this football will be kicked around. Hillary Clinton may be next.



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