Ah, New Jersey. The Garden State. The butt of numerous jokes in the TV, film, and entertainment industry. My home state, and the source of some of the most impatient drivers and terrible reality-TV programming available anywhere in the world. Apparently, it’s also home to ridiculous law makers who have no real understanding of the very things they are proposing laws about. Take, for instance, Assemblywoman Linda Stender, who’s gone ahead and made plans for proposing a law that would prohibit video games containing mature and adult content in public places. I imagine you’ll enjoy reading through the details of the proposal.
The very first line of this press release contains the “shockingly” inaccurate claim that there is a proven correlation between violent video games and violent behavior, just in case you were wondering the quality of high-level thinking on display here. Breaking down the proposal into specifics, “Stender’s bill would prohibit operators of a place of public accommodation from making video games with an Entertainment Software Rating Board rating of ‘mature’ or ‘adults only’ available for use by the public.”
Given the description of places Stender lists at the bottom of the news release, I imagine she is primarily focusing on arcades and restaurants or such places that install arcade machines in their place of business to give kids a way to pass the time while parents are shopping or whatever. There’s just one small problem with that though: The Entertainment Software Rating Board doesn’t rate arcade games or coin-operated machines; they specifically rate console, PC, and many mobile games.
So, uh, what exactly is she proposing a ban on then? Allowing mature-rated games to be displayed or played in retail shops such as GameStop? She must enjoy being real thorough, because it’s already company policy, and has been for years now, that retail outlets not allow mature-rated games to be played on display kiosks and require that children under the age of 17 be accompanied by a parent or consenting guardian in order to purchase a mature-rated game. Bad news for the dozen or so of you who still throw LAN parties at your favorite pizza place though; looks like you won’t be allowed to host those Call of Duty tournaments anymore. In the proposal is enacted, those daring enough to laugh in the face of state law face potential fines of up to $10,000 on a first offense, and up to $20,000 on subsequent violations.
Being an optimistic guy, I’m willing to give this woman the benefit of the doubt and assume that she’s just trying to do the right thing. I don’t think kids should be exposed to ultra-violent content either, but this ban is both absurd and woefully ineffective at doing the things she expects it will accomplish. It also doesn’t help that she’s spewing out lines like, “Violent video games can desensitize children to violence and give them a warped version of reality where violence and death have no consequences outside their TV screens,” which I don’t have to explain to you folks is an absolutely false claim. First of all, we have a ratings system in place for a reason, so parents are responsible for what children play inside their own homes. That’s absolutely something within their control. It’s also fair to say that arcades and retailers who display content in their outlets have an obligation to control the type of content they are displaying. If children are allowed inside their place of business, the content should be child appropriate. Currently, that’s not an issue, for reasons I’ve already explained concerning company policies.
Whether or not anything will come of this proposed law remains to be seen, but I thought it newsworthy nonetheless. It’s frustrating how the folks in a position of power are so out of touch with the very things they are trying to regulate. Hopefully, once the generation that has grown up with games succeeds the older generation that doesn’t have a clue, we won’t have to worry about these types of proposals and can start making genuine progress. Until then, be ever vigilant gamers, you never know what types of mature or adults-only rated content will sneak up on an unsuspecting child at his local Chuck E. Cheese.
How do you guys and gals feel about Stender’s proposal? Is she totally out of touch with reality on this one, or is she making a fair point? After you’ve taken the time to “think of the children!”, be sure to let us know how you feel in the comments below.