California passes violent game restriction legislation

A bit like the stuff we have.

The state of California looks set to become the second US state to pass laws restricting the sale of violent videogames to minors, after the California state senate and assembly both overwhelmingly voted in favour of AB1179.

The bill, which began life as AB450 and has suffered multiple defeats and redraftings on the road to acceptance, has been proposed by assemblyman Leland Yee, an outspoken critic of the videogames industry's adult products.

It includes provisions for a $1000 fine for any retailer who sells a violent game to a minor, and for a large "18" sticker to be applied to the box of any violent title, which would be significantly more visible than the current ESRB ratings.

One final step exists before the bill enters law - it must be signed by Californian governor Arnold Schwarznegger, himself the star of several violent movies and games. Schwarznegger has 30 days in which to either sign or veto the bill.

Earlier this summer, a similar piece of legislation was passed in the state of Illinois and has been signed into law there; it will come into effect on January 1st, 2006, which is also the proposed start date of the Californian laws.

The ESA, which represents game publishers in North America, says that it is "disappointed" by the vote in favour of the bill, and is encouraging Schwarznegger to strike down the legislation.

"We believe that AB1179 is unnessecary and will restrict the first amendment rights of California's citizens," commented the ESA's general counsel, Gail Markels.

"Instead of signing this clearly unconstitutional bill into law, we're asking the governor to focus his resources on a more effective resolution, working with the industry in our efforts to help parents make the right game choices for their unique families."

Markels went on to point out that at present, the government does not regulate sales of books, films, music or TV, and accused the proponents of the bill of attempting to "substitute the government's judgement for parental supervision."

Here in the UK, as in many other European countries, videogames ratings are already enshrined in law and strict penalties exist for retailers who sell 18-rated games to children - although there has been some debate about whether these laws are enforced vigorously enough, and whether the ratings are understood and respected by parents.

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