Illinois Loses Video Game Law Appeal – Read the Ruling Here

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has affirmed a 2005 ruling that a video game law passed by the state of Illinois is unconstitutional.

As originally reported by GamePolitics, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly threw out the entire “Safe Games Illinois Act” late last year.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich (left) ordered an appeal on portions of the legislation regarding sexually explicit games as well as a requirment that retailers label such games with a four-inch square sticker displaying the number “18”. The court found the labeling requirment objectionable:

Indeed, at four square inches, the “18” sticker literally fails to be narrowly tailored — the sticker covers a substantial portion of the box.The State has failed to even explain why a smaller sticker would not suffice. Certainly we would not condone a health department’s requirement that half of the space on a restaurant menu be consumed by the raw shellfish warning. Nor will we condone the State’s unjustified requirement of the four square-inch “18” sticker.

The Illinois law’s concept of what makes for a sexually explicit game was also dismissed by the court, which gave much consideration to Sony’s PS2 epic God of War:

The game God of War… is illustrative of this point. Because the (Illinois law) potentially criminalizes the sale of any game that features exposed breasts, without concern for the game considered in its entirety or for the game’s social value for minors, distribution of God of War is potentially illegal, in spite of the fact that the game tracks the Homeric epics in content and theme. As we have suggested in the past, there is serious reason to believe that a statute sweeps too broadly when it prohibits a game that is essentially an interactive, digital version of the Odyssey.

Similarly, it seems unlikely that a statute is narrowly tailored to achieving the stated compelling interest when it potentially criminalizes distribution of works featuring only brief flashes of nudity.

Illinois did not appeal a portion of the 2005 decision which held restrictions on violent video games unconstitutional. Read the 7th Circuit’s ruling here.

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  1. 0
    BigJonno says:

    This is where I think the exact terminology of the law gets interesting and very important. There is nothing preventing a child of any age playing GTA (to use the classic example.) They’re just not allowed to walk into the store and buy the game. My mother never refused to buy me an age restricted game and I always made sure she knew exactly what was in them (though the only ones I actually remember having were Mortal Kombat and Doom, not exactly sensationalist stuff by today’s standards.) I’ll certainly let my son see stuff when I think he’s ready and not slavishly follow any ratings system. However I am glad that when he’s of an age where he can take the bus into town and spend his money himself, he’s not going to be able to buy anything that I might deem unsuitable, remote as that chance might be.

    I don’t believe that violent media makes people violent or anything that extreme, but our experiences do have an effect on us. A scary movie or game can give a kid nightmares. Exposure to sexually explicit content can severely warp a child’s mind. I work in education and I can tell you that seeing a 10 year old with advance sexual knowledge is extremely disturbing.

    I’m just a firm believer in parental responsibility. Anything that puts the decision in the hands of parents while at the same time not allowing excuses for bad parenting is a good thing in my book.

    Incidentally, I’d like to thank the people I’ve had dialogue with here. It’s refreshing to have a mature conversation on this subject.

  2. 0
    Bigman-K ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Just because a law only effects minors doesn’t mean it’s not censorship. It still is censorship, as the government through law is deciding which Free Speech materials are appropriate or not for dissemination to minors.
    Minors, especially older minors and teenagers Do and Should have the right to form there own viewpoints based on unrestrcited and uncensored access to information, ideas, messages and opinions brought forth within Free Speech materials.
    The only speech materials which can be constitutionally barred to minors are materials that fall under the legal definition of “obscene to minors” as obscenity isn’t protected by the First Amendment or; if there is a legitimate proscription such as an absolute proven harm caused by the material. Of course there is no proof of this when it comes to violent video games beyond some extremely weak, inconsistant, incredibly flawed and biased studies that at most show only a weak correlation or use rediculous or dubious proxies to determine aggression behaviour.

  3. 0
    Gabriel Celesta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Come to think of it, about restricting the sale of video games to children… that really should be in the hands of the stores themselves and NOT the government. That may sound a bit oversimplified, but that’s just my thought about what you just said.

  4. 0
    BigJonno says:

    I really don’t see how restricting videogame sales to children is censorship. The games themselves aren’t touched and I’ve heard a lot less about games being altered to fit certain ratings than I have movies in the US being altered to fit in with the ratings there.

    There just seems to be a complete lack of middle ground. Either you want videogames banned, or you think they should be freely available to everyone.

  5. 0
    thefremen says:

    About ps3: yeah, it’s backwards compatible except for the games that look for rumble packs during boot, or look for the ps2 hdd. It’s better than the emulators out there, but it isn’t perfect.

  6. 0
    Daniel says:

    I was just curious. Is the PS3 completly backwards compatible? By this, I mean does it play all the PS2 games? Please let me know. Thanks

    P. S. Please read my comment up there about Jack Thompson, or Wacko Jacko, and David Grossman.

  7. 0
    Boffo97 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You know, this appeal has helped establish Jack as a horrible lawyer yet again.

    You might recall him repeatedly saying that children simply didn’t have First Amendment rights, even to the point of deriding those who believed differently.

    Well, in 2001, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled to the exact contrary in American Amusement Machine Association vs. Kendrick, as referenced in this ruling.

  8. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    In the US we tend to call goverment restrictions of media censorship,wes been there before..and boy it was not pretty…we can however annoy the ratings broads to become more efficient and get retailers to monitor sales better and fine employees that do not follow the age rules somewhere in this theres a better balance.

  9. 0
    Terminator44 says:

    Just finished reading the complete ruling. I like how the court brought up the St. Louis game-legislation ruling as an example that minors have 1st Amendment rights. It’s good to know that at least the officials in our judical system are capable of learining from histroy.

  10. 0
    Daniel says:

    When are these anti-game fanatics going to quit? They keep losing miserably. That can’t look good on a resume. They are embarassing themselves and they’re too supid and retarded to know that.

    They need to stop tistening to the garbage, and utterly untrue, lies of Jack Thompson, a. k. a. Wacko Jacko, and his submoronic friend, David Grossman, who preaches a lying full of crap science called killology for his own greedy gain. Can’t people see that Wacko Jacko and his stupid friend, David Grossman, are just out to make money? They’re not scientists; they’re golddiggers. Nothing they say contains any truth at all.

    I’m very glad to see that the video game industry is fighting back against the lies of Wacko Jacko, David Grossman and the other retarded people who listen to them. They’re just trying to get stupid people to listen to their bogus theories and lies. I bet that Jack Thompson, or Wacko Jacko, would tell people that he’s the Jack from “Jack in the Bean Stalk” for money if he thought people were stupid enough to believe him.

    Anyone who is stupid enough to file a case against the video game industry behind that primate golddigger, Jack Thompson, needs to have his or her head examined for being an idiot. I also read ,on a website, that David Grossman charges people five thousand dollars a day to stand up in front of a bunch of retards and spew forth his lies. You see what I mean? These two primates, Jack Thompson and David Grossman, charge money to tell their lies. They have the I.Q.s of cavemen and the state of Illinois is stupid for listening to them. How could they be so stupid? Jack Thompson, go climb a bean stalk, you idiot, and, David Grossman, go fight a giant with a slingshot, you golddigging moron. Anyway anyone who listens to lies of these two are, as Carlos Mencia would say it, DEE DEE DEE.

  11. 0
    Matthew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    When you check your GP feed, the only thing more predictable than finding a “state proposes anti-videogame law” story is finding an “anti-videogame law found unconstitutional” one.

  12. 0
    Gray17 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @Father Time

    Eh, I think the comparison still stands. Though I haven’t played it, from the basic description, God of War doesn’t have anything in the way of violence, or anything else that wouldn’t be comparable to what you could read about in one of Homer’s epics. As such the law would essentially be ruling Homer’s epics as obscene, with the included lack of artistic or literary merit, just because it happened to be put in the form of a game. And since an ancient epic losing all merit just because it happens to be put in game form doesn’t make sense, a story of similar content that also happens to be in game form losing merit doesn’t make sense either.

  13. 0
    Father Time ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As we have suggested in the past, there is serious reason to believe that a statute sweeps too broadly when it prohibits a game that is essentially an interactive, digital version of the Odyssey.

    My god ignorance has actually helped our side of the issue who would’ve thought. God of War is not a video game version of the Odyssey, in god of war you kill Ares as the main goal, I don’t think it evens mentions Ares in the odyssey, plus homer’s epic didn’t have the hydra or pandora’s temple. God of war on the other hand did not have the man with the bag of winds, or the woman who turned men into pigs (I forget both their names I’m sorry). However both heavily involve greek mythology (in fact one was made when poseidon zeus and ares were not considred myth but religion) so it’s understandable somewhat.

  14. 0
    BigJonno says:

    Konstruct, I find the cultural gap between the UK and US on this issue absolutely astounding and very interesting. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I started reading stuff about game politics in the States that I found out that there aren’t any legally enforcable age ratings over there.

    Concerns about what basically amounts to direct censorship by the government and indirect censorship from large retailers is completely alien to us in the UK. There aren’t any stores refusing products with a certain rating. There is no data to suggest that picking up a certain certificate will harm a game’s sales. In fact GTA does a pretty good job of showing the opposite.

    Like I said before, there are two systems in play. The Europe-wide PEGI, which gives games age ratings and content descriptors (fear, violence, sex, discrimination, drugs and bad language.) A lot of stores restrict sales based on PEGI ratings, even though they’re not legally enforceable. The BBFC only ever puts 15 or 18 ratings on games, everything else they leave to PEGI.

    I don’t have any stats I’m afraid. I’m sure I could find some with a little digging, but no easier than you could.

  15. 0
    Josh says:

    I love how these video game laws get brought up, only to get shot down everytime by the higher courts. Freedom of Speech/Expression applies to video games. Which, I hope the politicians finally grasp. Just like movies, television, artwork, music, novels, etc. Although, this won’t be the last time the lawmakers try to push anti-video game legislation at us. They won’t give up until the things they feel like don’t deserve first amendment protection are completely destroyed from said protection.

  16. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    Any stats on enforcement rates for BBFC rated titles? Because here in Canada, some provinces enforce ratings (most ratings boards here adopt ESRB ratings as a base to avoid confusion), and some don’t.

    No data, though, on how well that stacks up against provinces that voluntarily enforce ESRB ratings. But seeing as how no-one’s trumpeting crackdowns, I’m willing to bet legal enforcement is about as good as retailer enforcement. Which means that in the US, it’s not good enough to justify a law.

  17. 0
    Konstruct says:


    Here in the US we have no legally regulated music or movies. They are both rated voluntarily by their respective industries. We’re hoping that video games stay in that same group so they are constitutionally protected works. The concern is that if government involvement comes into play studios will no longer be able to produce the projects they want. Large chains may decide to not sell mature games at all if they are legally liable for the sale of said titles. If walmart or best buy decides to halt sales on mature games publishers will refuse mature titles from studios due to lack of income.

    This isn’t about protecting children as it is protecting the industry’s freedom to produce titles. This is why theres no government involvement in movies or music.

    As for keeping mature titles away from children most chains have their own strict policies about selling to minors. As you said most kids get their titles from mom and dad that don’t listen to warnings given by retailers or the ESRB. They just want to shut to the rug rat up.

  18. 0
    Jer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @mistergone article link
    “…has made it his mission to battle the entertainment industry about adult-rated products for children,…”
    don’t that say it all.

  19. 0
    BigJonno says:

    Here in the UK we have legally-enforceable movie ratings (the BBFC) and non legally-enforceable ratings (PEGI.) If a game is particularly violent or has heavy sexual content, the BBFC may rate it. Games are often voluntarily submitted to the BBFC by publishers.

    If a BBFC rated product is supplied to someone underage, then action can be taken against the store and/or the individual involved (it depends on whether or not the company can show the member of staff was adequetly trained.) I worked in games retail for years and I know that most people were pretty paranoid about supplying rated games to kids.

    With that system in place, the decision is down to parents, who can rest safe in the knowledge that their kids can’t go and buy GTA without their knowledge. Of course, none of this helps when confronted by parents who, even after having the exact nature of the game described in explicit detail, still buy Vice City for little Jimmy.

    It does help that stores over here seem to be much more laid back about stocking 18 rated products. When one of the electrical chains (whose game sales are pretty insignificant next to specialist game stores and entertainment chains) refused to stock Bully they were pretty widely heckled.

  20. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For politicians of any stripe, it’s easier to posture and pretend you’re accomplishing something, than it is to actually accomplish something…

  21. 0
    Theory ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m amazed! I’m floored! I’m very impressed by that ruling. It used common sense and facts to refute a very weak argument. That was so awesome. Thank you for that.

  22. 0
    Fojar says:

    Yeah, this isn’t an issue of Democrats vs. Republicans. This is an issue of an ignorant, hypocritical government concentrating on a nonexistent issue when there are so many legitimate issues that require attention.

  23. 0
    DoggySpew ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What’s the score ? Constitution 12-something – Videogame legislation 0 ?


    The dems are also plotting for videogame legislation, so they got owned as well. And if there is a liberal doing the same, he/she’s/they’re owned as well.

  24. 0
    Tyetheczar says:

    Haw Haw! You conservatives got owned again oy. I totally detest those guys! It shows on my backpack at school oy. What’s the big deal on nudity anyway?
    In the Adult Swim show Moral Orel, a church satire,it makes up a commandment “Thou shalt be ashamed of one’s body” in an episode oy.

  25. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Of special note is that the 7th Circuit reaffirmed that minors do indeed have 1st Amendment rights, and so therefore cannot have their media consumption (outside of obscenity, which is a clear exception) restricted willy nilly. Indencency can still be regulated, but only under the “narrowly tailored” sections, of which the Illinois version doesn’t, because it completely ignores the 3rd prong of the Miller test (taken as a whole, do not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value”). They go on to talk about how important the 3rd prong is, since it is the only one that doesn’t rely on vague community standards that change from region to region.

    Amusingly, the court used the Nazi Germany example, where the state rigidly controlled the speech that youth were exposed to, in order to condition them, as an example of why government control of minor’s media exposure is bad.

    The court was critical of the state for failing to show evidence that 83% parental involvement in purchases was somehow inadequate, or that their law would somehow improve those stats.

    They were also critical of the labelling/brochure section, calling it “compelled speech”, which isn’t allowed, unless you use hard facts (such as nutritional information, ingredients lists, etc) And unlike cigarette warnings, this “not suitable for minors” is an opinion, so it has no backing to be enforced.

  26. 0
    Grahamr ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “BigJonno Says:
    November 28th, 2006 at 1:23 pm
    Actually, there are plenty of ways to restrict the sale of videogames without becoming “a fundie driven fascist state…” Unfortunately the issue is dominated by clueless politicians attempting to grab a few votes with sensationalist grandstanding and kneejerk loudmouths who start yelling about the Constitution every time someone suggests that selling violent and/or sexually explicit games to five year olds probably isn’t a good idea.”

    “Thefremen Says:
    November 28th, 2006 at 1:37 pm

    O RLY?”

    The correct way to keep mature games out underage kids hands is too spread awareness. and there should be a disclaimer on the game box which would state that the game industry is not responsible if a parent buys a M game for a minor and then is shocked by it

  27. 0
    ianC says:

    In reply to Mister Gone – “This is not a fanciful ‘Gee I wonder if,’ ” Thompson said. He said dozens of studies prove a causal connection between violent videos and increased aggressive behavior.

    “This is not conjecture, this is fact … Transfer of that physical act from virtual reality to real reality has a desensitizing effect,” Thompson said.


  28. 0
    Kajex ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    @ Mister Gone

    Interesting to note, they call Jack Thompson a Massechusettes attorney, who has been battling adult-related entertainment for the last 20 years. =P

  29. 0
    Benji says:

    Yeah, I was somewhat surprised with some of the wording. The judge gives God of War a good bit of credit, comparing it to the Odyssey. He also sounds extremely unimpressed by some of the state’s arguments, such as when the ruling mentions how the state fails to even justify how the larger labels will do anything, and how they somewhat inexplicably try to ignore the third prong of the Miller test.

  30. 0
    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Mmmm…victory tastes good with my morning eggs and bacon. That picture above needs a good caption. How about, “No…my law…my precious…”

  31. 0
    BigJonno says:

    Actually, there are plenty of ways to restrict the sale of videogames without becoming “a fundie driven fascist state…” Unfortunately the issue is dominated by clueless politicians attempting to grab a few votes with sensationalist grandstanding and kneejerk loudmouths who start yelling about the Constitution every time someone suggests that selling violent and/or sexually explicit games to five year olds probably isn’t a good idea.

  32. 0
    DeusPayne ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This reminds me of Dennis Leary. “Doesn’t matter how big the warnings are. You could have cigarettes that were called the warnings. You could have cigarettes that come in a black pack, with a skull and a cross bone on the front, called tumors and smokers would be lined up around the block” Warnings are only for those that want to be warned. An ignorant parent, or sneaky minor will still buy the games regardless.

  33. 0
    Vladimir ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m glad to hear the members of the court giving such credibility to the game industry. When a bunch of stodgy judges compare a recent blockbuster video game to a thousands-of-years old heroic epic, that is some mainstream validation right there. =D

  34. 0
    Jabrwock ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Certainly we would not condone a health department’s requirement that half of the space on a restaurant menu be consumed by the raw shellfish warning.

    In Canada we have half the cigarette package covered in a big warning. And has it stopped smokers? Nope. In fact, it became a collectors item, because there were 10 different warnings. Gotta smoke ’em all!

  35. 0
    Samantha ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    People who are going to ignore ratings labels will continue to do so even if the game has four FOOT mature label on it. Yet again, laws and legislations and political bollocks that dances around the actual problem by pretending it’s something else. In this case, the American public’s reading comprehension?

  36. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Illinois Loses Video Game Law Appeal
    Ya think?

    you simply cant mandate to law the baning or restriction of sale of video games,not without becoming a fundie driven fascist state…

  37. 0
    BlitzFitness ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I can’t find it, but while I was with a client last night, one of our t.v.’s had the news on and they were discussing the issue of repaying hte legal fees. I hate to give little information, but a part of the discussion was about how the fees that they were ordered to pay had not yet been payed, and something about a 1 month time limit and the Illinois government accepting any further order. I apologize for the weakness in that description, but I wasn’t able to give it my full attention.

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