Video Game Legislation OK in Oklahoma?

March 7, 2007 -
Is there a taste for video game law in Oklahoma?

Even while one Sooner State video game law is under review by a federal court, there's another working its way through the legislative process.

Veteran GamePolitics readers may recall that, in 2006, Oklahoma was one of three states which saw video game legislation passed and signed into law (Louisiana and Minnesota were the others).

The 2006 Oklahama statute, written by lame duck State Rep. Fred Morgan, a Republican, was of the variety that seeks to declare video game violence “harmful to minors” in the same way that pornography is considered by the law.

After Gov. Brad Henry (D) signed the bill into law, the video game industry appealed. A preliminary injunction, issued by Federal District Court Judge Robin Cauthron, blocked the Oklahoma law from taking effect. Judge Cauthron has yet to issue a final ruling.

In the midst of that ongoing legal battle comes word that a new video game bill is under consideration by the Oklahoma legislature. HB2031, introduced by Rep. Mike Shelton (D, left), requires game retailers to provide game buyers written notice that the product they are buying may contain violence which may be harmful to minors. From the proposed law:
Every retailer engaged in the business of selling or renting video games to the general public shall distribute to any customer who is purchasing or renting a video game, a written notification that the video game may contain violent content and that said content may be harmful to minors.

Rep. Shelton's proposal would direct Oklahoma's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to prepare the written warning. In its current form, the bill does not discriminate between an M-rated blood fest like Gears of War or a game suitable for a toddler, say Kirby’s Air Ride. Retailers would be required to ensure that every purchaser of every game received the written notice.

The bill has been referred to committee.

Comments

I am a resident of Oklahoma and have sent an email to both my Representative and Senator explaining the worthlessness of this bill and hope to hear from them soon.

@NoFish

except there is the fact that there's the ESRB in place saying that certain games don't have violence, and the fact that you cna prove a video doesn't have violence by sending them a copy of it to play (simialr to what rockstar did with Bully). Sure you can say that a certain copy might have violence put in by a disgruntled employee or something but under that logic we would have to have a warning on big macs saying "may contain cockroaches". I still say that if they try to pass the bill with that part in tact it will face so much legal challenge that it won't be funny. Think about it the industry barely has to get involved if oklahoma is erious about this. Let's take for example those licensed educational Ec games (early childhood) for toddlers that sometimes feature licensed characters. Now let's say that everytime a parent bought elmo's letter adventure (or something similar) they got a message saying that the game might be violent and that it might be harmful to children. Do you think the creators of Elmo are going to let this slide by? OF COURSE NOT. This can also be said for Disney, Pixar, universal, almost every major studio for kiddie entertainment that also makes video games (and let's not forget mattel that makes barbie horse adventures). They might send their lawyers to get this bill struck down and that combined with the lawyers the video game industry will invetibaly use, means this bill stands very little chance if it keeps the part saying every game has that warning.

This would be the equivalent of having every single food item contain the label "may contain meat", even foods advertised as being vegetarian and expecting it to succeed

@Father Time
"If this part of the bill does not change expect it to crash . . . HARD. At best it is false advertising at worst it is slander. It won’t take little legal manuervering for someone like nintendo to say the bill would unfairly harm their business. Also “said content may be harmful to minors.” has not been proved in a single case (remeber this is refering to violent content not sexual content)."

Except that the wording is such that we're back to the 'may contain nuts' arguement. We can't empirically prove that video games do not contain nuts (or violence, in this case. But nuts applies too, I suppose) so they aren't actually saying anything untrue.

I think this is a WTF?! bill.

because obviously this idiot doesn't know that these games have ratings and that the ratings are on the f--king case.

(correcting above)

"...TV campaign ads..."

To Brer, Fred Morgan was busted out of the U.S. House race that Mary Fallin won. He authored the first bill that is currently under a federal court injunction. Although he came out with TV campaign adds touting the passage of such a law, it did almost nothing to impact the base of former Lt. Gov. Fallin and current Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

Shelton's district is a different story. Without disrespecting the entirety of his district, there are certain parts of it that are known to produce questionable elected officials. Mike Shelton is relatively new, and I think, so far, he just made a poor judgement call trying to pick up what Fred was fighting for. Time will tell on what the rest of his second 2-year term will bring.

@IanC

Better yet, have a crazy man standing by the cashier, who screams "loooookie! ratings!" :D
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Do these politicians even know what the ESRB is?
They're out to "educate the public."
how about "Educate the politician"?

@AgonThalia
Why limit it to the US? I think it should be carved on to the surface of the planet in letters large enough to be seen from space.

Can't we use some form of electro shock therapy and for every time a politician proposes an unconstitutional law they get shocked? I mean seriously it seems like this is the only profession where you don't need to know anything about what you're doing to get elected. I mean a janitor that can't clean should be fired. A senator or representative that doesn't know anything about constitutional rights and government should be fired as well. I mean if a janitor screws up you're out maybe 10 bucks worst case scenario and if a politician screws up you lose around 500k bucks. But its the janitor who gets fired, amirite?

This reminds me of a passage in a Diskword novel by famous comedy writer Terry Pratchett, I believe it was "Darwins watch".

Simply put the ruler of the city was asked to add the warning "may contain nuts" to some products and then asked in return if anyone could prove to him without a doubt that any product did not in fact contain nuts before it was opened, on pain of pain.

The people could'nt and so the legend "May contain nuts" had to be added to EVERY product, including wallnuts, peanuts, peanut butter, fish and bottles of beer.

If you follow the logic of "may contain violence" there should be warnings on every form of media that has ever been, regardles of the actual content.
---- I'm not crazy, just ask the pink elephant...

Wow. What a ridiculous piece of legistration. Might aswell just give out a sheet saying "look at the box!" with every game

@ Gaming Dutch

I remember that, I think it would just be better if the US put signs on our borders that say "may contain nuts" ;)

I don't think Dennis has much of a say in the matter of what news is happening in the world, so until a video game player explodes the heads of a dozen police officers with his overly-desensitized mind, and drives his car running on pure awesome into an explosion factory, you're going to have to deal with our Super Fun Legislation Hour.

It has been mentioned in other comments on other similar stories, but why do politicians hate ESRB warnings? They are very easy to see and read on the game box. They state clearly why they game has the rating (although sometimes I am confused. Dragonball Z 2 is rated T for violence and Kingdom hearts is rated E for violence) and they are always in the same spot on the game box reaguardless of the game. While movie ratings are tiny, blend in with the box art and more often than not very vaige on why they have the rating. Plus they are not always in the same spot on the box.

Then there are the problems with movies being one rating in the theatre and then when it is released on video it is the unrated version with all the pornographic and violent content put right back in.(Dukes of Hazard) Why do people not complain about this and get politicians to create stupid bills to regulate the content and distribution of movies?

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y85/Tarnsyn/ratingspot.jpg

Need I say more? (If I could find a picture of the back of the box, I would have added that as well)

How many times are we going to go through with this? Recently all the stories have been a variation of one of three things:

1. State Legislation Proposed
(a dozen comments on why politicians are stupid and shortsighted, and why the bill is unconstitutional)

2. State Legislation Failed
(a dozen comments on why this was foreseeable, and that politicians should stop wasting money)

3. Something about Second Life
(a dozen comments stating that Second Life is not really a game, and we should stop bothering with it)

Come on, I want something INTERESTING...

Imagine if every movie was required to have a similar warning prior to being shown...

The generation gap is in full effect.

@Dan

"So Kirby and Gears of War will be both seen as the same amount as violence?"

No, it's just that they're trying to avoid the constitutional issues by sending out the pamphlet, whether or not the game actually has violence. It allows them to claim they're not making a judgement call on how much violence is actually in the game.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Gamerdad ftw.

I'm only inclined to say that the reasoning behind this is that it seems to try to fly under the unconstitutional radar with a unique approach while, as Gamerdad so eloquently put it, the stupid politicians appeal to special-interest antivideogame JT-lawyers-club groups and the like.

So Kirby and Gears of War will be both seen as the same amount as violence?

why the fuck would you make a retailer produce written notes warning of the content when there is one on virutually every videogame already?

BTW:
As a dad myself... I totally agree with GamerDad, I've always appreciated your comments and wanted to thank you for them.

"the bill does not discriminate between an M-rated blood fest like Gears of War or a game suitable for a toddler, say Kirby’s Air Ride."

I hope the government is going to pay for this handout. But since it doesn't actually target any particular range or type of games, the industry isn't going to have much legal argument against this.

Compelled speech maybe? They could also argue that games are being unfairly targetted while movies have no similar warnings...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Maybe a more effective law would be to require retailers to hold the box up in people's faces, point at the rating and say "Read this and tell me if you want your child to play this game".

If I were a retailers and the state provided me with these written notices I wouldn't mind as much, but if shops have to buy them or print them out themselves, that's a bit stupid.

Addendum to my previous post:

"The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services shall design, prepare and distribute the written notification . . . "

Why? Just . . . why?

I am so tired of politicians either trying to legislate their morality, or trying to make everything sanitized, safe and inoffensive.

On one hand, i prefer the French method of subsidizing video games as art (http://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/08/207244) video games should not be seen on the same level as pornography (although i still think that should be protected as free speech)... video games should challenge, offend, stimulate, educate, entertain... they should redefine what we view as entertainment.

Short sighted, reactionary politicians who care more about sounding and looking good ignore actual evidence and constitutional principles should really take a good look at the oaths they take. They serve the constitution first, they serve the principles of freedom and not fickle groups of action committees, think tanks or "concerned citizens'.

(sorry about the rant)

While I dont buy into the "slippery slope logical fallacy', using the logic that this bill promotes, then the following should have warning pamphlets handed out as well:
Rated R and Above movies
Religious Texts
Trans fats (damn you NY)

This is the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

Oklahoma already struck out last year, and this bill will get thrown out as well.

The "evidence" that the state used to defend the first bill was rejected and this bill would presumably go to the same judge, so this bill is just another waste of taxpayer money.

Hi there. I've been meeting with a lot of local parents (local to Chicago and Milwaukee area) and guess what? All of them know about the Ratings. This is a measure that has nothing to do with helping parents and everything to do with pleasing anti-videogame groups with an agenda and other parents/grandparents who have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about videogames. They've already made their judgements and common sense cannot breach that rampart.

These groups are loud, angry, and unreasonable and the only people who listen to them are: Politicians, concerned citizens who already hate anything violent.

So, don't say this is about "parents who can't be bothered to read the ESRB rating" - because, much like the Surgeon General's warning on cigarettes, all this is really about is hassling retailers by adding to their workload.

Self-promotion in the service of explanation follows:
This is why GamerDad is committed ONLY to "Going beyond the ESRB" by explaining what's potentially offensive in each game we review for content and then telling parents what's in there. They can make the decision from there on their own.

That said, I'm aware that a lot of parents really don't fear games and they find the ESRB ratings sufficient.

Just chiming in here because I want it clear that LEGISLATORS ARE STUPID. Not parents.

;-)

Isn't this a 'deck of cards' bill? If the initial bill's preliminary injunction becomes permanent, this one can't be enforced either, right? They sort of depend on each other, at first glance.

Doesn't the ESRB warning do just what this law says. Its states that the game has violence in it. Why should we have to give out another notice that says the same thing as ESRB warning?

I would like to hear the reasoning behind this measure. My initial thought is that if parents can't be bothered to read the ESRB rating on the box, they certainly aren't going to read a photocopied government report.

But as we all know by now, the point isn't to do something, but to appear as if you are.

...??? That's an interesting take on it.

Even so, I'm pretty sure it doesn't fly. One of the less talked about unconstitutionalities is that the government cannot compel an entity to give some message unless that message is somehow deemed to be in the public interest. I'm fuzzy on the particulars but I'm pretty sure it's the reason that stores cannot be required by law to carry certain information about the ESRB ratings - they'd be forced to effectively endorse the system, which not all retailers do.

[...] Gamepolitics [...]

Well, I suppose you have to give them credit for...persistance...I -almost- hope this passes, if only to see how the electorate reacts to a legislative body that manages to approve one unconstitutional law a year, regular as clockwork. Ahh, if only there was some sort of punitive measures available to punish frivolous legislation in the way some jurisdictions punish frivolous litigation...

Since when is Kirby violent? Did they give him a gun in Squak Squad? If so, I'd play it. :)

What idiocy but this doesn't surprise me one bit. This is why I can barely stand the current generation. They are so out of touch and they don't even know it.

Isn't the M-rating on the box a warning enough to what the game might contain. Good God, some people are just so clueless.

In its current form, the bill does not discriminate between an M-rated blood fest like Gears of War or a game suitable for a toddler, say Kirby’s Air Ride. Retailers would be required to ensure that every purchaser of every game received the written notice.

If this part of the bill does not change expect it to crash . . . HARD. At best it is false advertising at worst it is slander. It won't take little legal manuervering for someone like nintendo to say the bill would unfairly harm their business. Also "said content may be harmful to minors." has not been proved in a single case (remeber this is refering to violent content not sexual content).

Actually, I'm just throwing in my two cents for the sake of it. I'm at work and bored stiff. ^^;;

As to the Law, I'm almost certain this'll be yet another flop that we can chalk up on our side for soundly stomping into the mud.

And to GamerDad. Woot, and such. Thank heaven for Parents like you, who do actually know the system. :D

"a written notification that the video game may contain violent content and that said content may be harmful to minors."

No, riding a bike may be "harmful to minors." Smoking a cigarette may be "harmful to minors." Heck, by their logic, reading the Bible or Koran may be "harmful to minors" (after all, think of all the violence in it!).

Video games, on the other hand, have never been proven to be harmful. They have never been definitivly established to cause any violent crime (unless you consider to word of a certain laywer "definitive"). And despite the fact that sales of violent games keep going up, crime has been going down, according to Department of Justice: http://www.ojp.gov/bjs/glance/viort.htm

Besides the unfair treatment of games vs movies (If violent games are harmful, why not violent movies)? or constitutional concerns (the "compelled speech" angle Benji mentioned in the first comment), the main reason this bill should not pass is because it doesn't do a freakin' thing. The parents who don't care for looking at a game's rating certainly won't be bothered to read a government slip of paper, and the ones who do won't need it; so who would these warnings be designed for? It's a waste, and it should be opposed just like the last bill OK tried to squeeze through the courts.

I have my doubts this will pass because it's just silly. If it does, I doubt it would hold up in court for the reasons Benji mentioned.

Oh goody. Another "warning" label for parents to either ignore or willfully disregard.

The weird thing is, this is probably the most constitutional proposal we've seen. The only annoying thing is the added burden to retailers.

(correcting above)

"...most of the Eastern section of the Central portion of Oklahoma City Metro Area."

I checked up on this bill. It's been referred to the Rules Committee of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Since the deadline has passed for consideration of legislation in 2007, this bill will not be considered until 2008.

Mike Shelton's House District area includes most of Eastern section of the Central portion of Oklahoma City Metro Area as shown here. I will tell you that the area is not nearly as economically developed as many of the other house districts in the Oklahoma City Metro Area, as partially evidenced on this map of his House District: http://www.okhouse.gov/Districts/New%20Districts/HD97.pdf . Hence, I suspect Mr. Shelton lacks a general set of good retail business advisors from his constituent base to keep him from making such a short-sighted proposal.

You can bet that I'm going to be there listen in on this committee's action for HB2031. I wouldn't mind a shot at testifying if it were to be the ECA's wish.

stupid politicans and thier dumb laws.

@Andrew

"Oh, it’s merely a written notification that your meal may contain chunks of food large enough to choke you to death. Please enjoy your meal and remember to chew thoroughly!"

Rofl, if only... :)

Shirts: It's merely a written notification that the shirt you are buying could potentially be used to strangle someone. Please wear it with care...

Knife: It's merely a written notification that the knife you are buying could potentially be used to stab people. Please don't.

Pen: It's merely a written notification that the pen you are buying could potentially be used to cause great and bloody wars. Please use it responsibly.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

"Here’s a fact: VIRTUAL VIOLENCE DOES NOT HURT ANYONE. It simply can’t, by the nature of being VIRTUAL. You know what’s actually harmful to minors? Real, actual, physical harm. Which video games are incapable of causing."

Well... Slot loading consoles like the PS3 and Wii could concievably fire the disc out at high speed and harm the child...

Waiter: “Here you are sir: roasted tilapia stuffed with crab and a side of vegetables.”

Customer: “Thank you but what’s this slip of paper?”

Waiter: “Oh, it’s merely a written notification that your meal may contain chunks of food large enough to choke you to death. Please enjoy your meal and remember to chew thoroughly!”


Andrew Eisen

I have a dream that one day, gamers and non-gamers can be seen equally, without laws to separate us...or piss of the gamers.

Wouldn't you actually have to demonstrate or prove that the material was actually HARMFUL in order to use the word HARMFUL?

Here's a fact: VIRTUAL VIOLENCE DOES NOT HURT ANYONE. It simply can't, by the nature of being VIRTUAL. You know what's actually harmful to minors? Real, actual, physical harm. Which video games are incapable of causing.

Something that can be proven to be violent, and cause actual physical harm to minors, is school sports programs such as football and wrestling. Why is nobody clamoring for the state to regulate school sports in such a manner? Because everybody thinks their little future all-pro superstar is mature enough to separate the difference between real everyday life and a violent, competitive game?

What's next, a law that requires a background check and a 3-day wait to purchase the "nunchuck" adapter for the Wii?
 
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