NY Legislation Permits Seizure of Unrated Games

New York State is leading the nation in video game legislation this year.

By our count, the Empire State has at least three video game bills in the works. GamePolitics has previously broken the news about retail-oriented legislative proposals introduced by a pair of Democrats, Rep. Keith Wright and Rep. Aurelia Greene.

A third bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Brian Kolb, offers the standard language prohibiting the sale of violent or sexually explicit games to minors, but brings an unusual twist.

In addition to blocking retailers from selling such games to minors, the bill, A02787, provides “the Courts” the power to confiscate any games which do not clearly display a rating label. The bill also requires retailers to make games available for review by parents prior to purchase.

Kolb’s bill calls for fines of up to $1,000 as well as unspecified criminal penalties. If passed, the measure will take effect on November 1st.

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  1. 0
    timada says:

    Of all the bills politicians have tried to initiate against video games in recent years I think this one is actually very sensible and controlled. Although there is more then just video games purchased in retails stores, there are plenty of online games youngsters can have easy access to which should be controlled better.

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  4. 0

    […] New York has a few game laws attempting to pass which are retail-oriented at the moment. However, the latest bill by Rep. Brian Kolb goes a little above and beyond the others. Bill A02787 seeks to provide the courts with the power to confiscate any games that do not have a rating label. When does any game going through standard retail channels not have an ESRB rating? […]

  5. 0
    Chris says:

    The trans fat bill passed did it not? First they tell you what to eat/drink now they are trying to tell you what to play and not play. This bill will pass. Anyone notice ever since the Clintons made it into office in NewYork all these crazy bills have pased?

  6. 0
    aniki21 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “The bill also requires retailers to make games available for review by parents prior to purchase.”

    If most parents can’t be bothered to even check the ratings, why would they take the time to review the game itself?

  7. 0
    ElectroDruid says:

    Um, so how long has the ESRB system been in place? Are they talking about seizing vintage games just because they came out before the ratings system arrived? What about games distributed online, which don’t come with a physical box to attach a physical label to? How many games sold in shops don’t have a rating?

    What an amazing piece of nonsense Mr. Kolb has managed to come up with.

  8. 0
    Wolf ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “The bill also requires retailers to make games available for review by parents prior to purchase.”

    It’s called “renting.” What you do is get into your car, go to the video store, and “rent” a game for a set time, and when the time is up, you go back and drop it off at the video store again, so another person can “rent” it.

  9. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    So how many unrated games does he think they will confiscate? They only unrated games sold in stores are console games that predate the rating system. So, say good bye to find SNES, NES, Sega, Turbo Graphix, etc.

    All currently developed games have a rating on them. The only games made these days with out ratings are downloadable games. But it seems that we are free to download all the violent and pornagraphic games we want because they cannot regulate games that way.

    This bill will not pass.

  10. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Didn’t you read they baned the games from renting thus they will find someone to fine because they screwed up the law..I guess they will fine them selfs for making a foolish law…opps this effects us we cant pass it!………

  11. 0
    squigs says:

    I quite like the review clause.

    In the old days, it was possible to get a demo of any game at the local game shops. All the small indies had a couple of computers in the shop for this dedicated purpose.

    But even if they don’t do this, I’m sure it would benefit the industry to offer free demo discs with playable demos of all games released that month.

  12. 0
    Terminator44 says:


    Cetain magizines (OXM, U.S. Playstation, etc.) do include demo discs in their newstand versions. Also, the 360 offers demos of most of its library of Xbox Live.

    Still, if a parent can’t be bothered to check out the full game, I doubt they will try the demo.

  13. 0
    VioletSon says:

    I can’t think of the last game I bought where the rating wasn’t an image on the box art. I suspect this is targeted at used games that lack the original box.

    Then again, maybe I am overestimating the uninformed politician. Otherwise, they’d stop talking about retail measures and start talking about safeguarding downloads.

  14. 0
    AgonThalia ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    While I have no problem, as a parent, protecting my child from violent/ sexual/ mature media, like others have said, it’s my job, it’s my responsibility. My wife and I are solely responsible for creating a person who can decide for himself.

    The real issue for me is that even if (highly unlikely) violent media (TV/ Games/ Books) has a negative impact on my child, it’s still my responsibility to teach him right and wrong. Grandstanding politicians essentially want to take away that responsibility and make someone else culpable so i can feel better about not doing my job.

    Maybe we can outsource parenting to another country, that way I wont have to daily teach, encourage or correct my child just so he can be led astray by a game that “made” him violent..

  15. 0
    Robb ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The last game I bought without a rating on the box was Burning Monkey Solitaire. It’s relatively clean, with some innuendo. When I first played Hexxic, it was unrated. Are there ratings for the Super Granny games yet?

    If you count downloadable games, and you have to, there are tons of games not rated and not Rating-Pending. And yet, almost all of them are clean, all ages game. Here are the problems I forsee beyond the unconstitutionality:

    1) ESRB is voluntary and self-sustaining. It costs money to have a game rated. These seems like unfair business practices. Given the ESRB is in NYC, it sounds like they’re holding the ratings for ransom for more taxes.

    2) This clearly intends to squash innovention in independent software, as well as virtually eliminate freeware and open source games.

    3) It will suddenly become legal to raid private residences on suspiscion that they have unrated games on their hard-drive. Thought-crime, anyone?

    4) In the Bill:

    Provision 1 uses “advocating or glamorizing: [list of bad things].” “Advocation” cannot be outlawed because of the First Amendment, as advocation is literally “speech.” “Glamorizing” has no real legal definition, and determining that is an opinion.

    Provisions 3 and 4 are self-contradictory as part 3 allows the retailer to set their own policies (already in place, people) and part three allows prosecution of violation of those policies.

    Provision 7, “Provides the Courts the power to confiscate any materials that do not bear a rating and/or label clearly displayed.” Prevents the display or sale of unrated games completely.

    Provision 8, the one that requires a copy of the software to be reviewed at the retailer, is financially detrimental to small businesses forcing them to buy one copy of every game. Plus it says “owner, retailer, etc.” of the business to provide the copy. What exactly is the “etc?”

  16. 0
    Nigh_Towl says:

    “A02787, provides “the Courts” the power to confiscate any games which do not clearly display a rating label” Ummm… The only games that I have seen that do not have the ratings are the games that were made before the ESRB was made. This is completely pointless.

  17. 0
    MaskedPixelante ( User Karma: -1 ) says:

    I guess he could mean downloads on the Virtual Console, but then again, the ESRB went and rated all those old games, so no help there. Most downloadable games are ok, except for the H games that are out there. The only unrated game I can think of that would even cause a stir is… ohhhh… I get it… he wants to seize any and all “copies” of the columbine game.

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

    Another politician proving he has no grasp of reality. The only un-rated games I’ve ever seen were free online ones…

    But hey, this will allow him to claim he’s doing “stuff” to “keep that columbine game out of kids hands” because of course it’s unrated…

  19. 0
    Brainswarm ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The retailer has to make games available to parents to review before selling it to them? How is that supposed to work? Am I going to be able to play GTA IV all day at the demo kiosk under that rule? Am I going to be able to take the game home as a free “rental”? What about World of Warcraft? How is any retailer going to be able to let parents preview that? Of course, none of that will matter, since “the courts” will almost certainly throw it out before it gets that far.

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

    Confiscate unrated games, eh? I’ve got a number of them floating around here somewhere (pre-ESRB titles, free/OSS games, etc..) and two words for the bill’s author:

    Molon Labe!

    Never thought those two words would ever be uttered in regards to video games. ‘Tis a sad day for the Republic that we’re even discussing this. :/

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

    Okay, first of all, the whole “confiscating unrated games” part… there’s some feel-good, do-nothing legislation. Most retailers won’t carry a game in the first place unless it’s got an ESRB rating. As others have said before, the only games this would effect are old SNES games and the like.
    @Robb. I’m pretty sure the confiscation only applies to retailers. You wouldn’t be able to raid a home for it. It won’t affect downloadable games, either, since online transactions are not technnically carried out in NYC.

    As for the reviewing period. Not good. Either A) this would require the retailers to maintain multiple kioscs with every game available on them, B) every company would need to make a releasable demo of any game they make, or C) stores would have to lend out games. Either way this results in a major increase in costs for either the game developers or the retailers. That’s not good for anybody.

  22. 0
    nightwng2000 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I think the motivation behind the “unrated games” isn’t merely an issue of games that preceeded the ESRB rating system. The bill can really only control brick and mortar retailers. So even free games or online independants may be excluded for the most part.

    It’s more likely an attempt to do something about “pre-orders”. However, if that is the case, then it’s further evidence of lack of intelligence on the part of the creators of this bill.

    A game that is “RP” can still be pre-ordered from a variety of sources. No actual product is delivered into the hands of the person doing the pre-order. In most, or at least many cases, a retailer that has an age limit policy will require ID to actually receive the item. It’s also true that in most, if not all cases, by the time of publish and delivery of the title to the retailer, the ESRB has officially rated the product.

    Therefore, that section of the bill is nothing more than a political stunt to misinform the general public about the issue of ESRB ratings as well as a sign of the lack of knowledge and comprehension on the parts of the politicians on the subject of video games and their nature (industry, content, effect, etc).

    NW2K Software

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


    OPM is no longer produced as it was discontinued a couple months ago, no more demos.

    Anyway, just another pointless, destined to fail bill if it passes! Yay New York!

  24. 0
    Sara ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    It could possibly be targeted at the used game market, gamestop often displays generic boxes without any ratings on them, they just have white covers with the name written on them. This is kind of misinforming, and usually they do not let you see the game disc unless you ask to do so.

    Another problem is the little rating box in the corner of each game is often covered up by store displays (especially walmart and target whom keep their games locked up in a case with price tags placed strategically to cover up the rating) so its very easy to miss it. It would be better if they moved the rating box to the top right hand corner of the packaging, this way it would be more noticeable and maybe we would have less complaints.

  25. 0
    kurisu7885 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Tell me, what constitutes a “game”? Does Windows Vista have a rating label? If not, would it be subject to this law?:

    Since I have seen copies of Vista in those glass cases at some retailers, I won’t be surprised if they try to confiscate it.

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


    About your second paragraph, I really have never actually seen this…Considering the prices are not actually on the game itself, but rather, as a slip of paper that they slide into the, er, slider. I’m just saying…

    Either way, though. By today’s standards, a lot of those older games are pretty tame. I think. Take the original Mortal Kombat, and then compare it to some more modern games. Or Doom, there was a big one. But nowadays, it’s not so violent (or, perhaps. rather, grotesque?) by comparison.

    Taking a quote from Bart Simpson; “Yeah, kind of like the first Friday the 13th. It’s pretty tame by today’s standards.” – or something along those lines.

  27. 0
    Andrew Eisen ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Okay, yeah the bill is absurd but the justification is even worse.

    “video games include much repetition and with repetition comes a behavioral rehearsal for violent activity as violent games are played over and over again”

    “As children play these games on a daily basis, it may cause some of them to lose touch with reality.”

    “Specifically, in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City women are brutally murdered and are portrayed as prostitutes. Videos such as these promote the raping of a woman as entertainment and give players points as rewards for evading police after committing these heinous crimes.”

    “in a study of 600 parents and teachers tested, less than three percent had any knowledge of the extent of violence depicted and the level of violence against women contained in the games.”

    Interesting statistic in light of the fact that the bill’s authors themselves have no idea what is actually in the games they’re demonizing.

    “Further, a mandatory warning label will function as a crucial reminder to those parents or guardians who would otherwise be unaware of the violent content contained in the video games.”

    Really? If parents don’t see the label on the front and back of the box, in the store, and in the TV and magazine ads, what makes you think they’ll pay any attention to this one?

    Andrew Eisen

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

    Yeah, you know, CNN only stopped showing DOOM when talking about the evil violent videogames that steal potential viewers from them a couple years ago when they got all modern and started showing GTAIII and Vice City.

  29. 0
    Konstruct says:

    Vice City? I mean come on if you’re going to demonize something make it a little more recent. And all Vice City did was take stereotypes from the 80s: Miami Vice, Scarface, etc..

    I mean lets start new legislation protecting ourselves from the Red Coats while we’re in the process.

  30. 0
    Gatz says:

    you know the whole parent testing the game before they purchase idea is actually really good. But the whole siezure of games that don’t clearly show the rating is bad. What is defined as clearly? Could they sieze games if they say the rating is to small or some technicallity like that? Seems like a violation of free speech just because no where in the first amendmant does it say that your speech must be rated, but hey I could be wrong infact lets rate all speech on a rating scale. If a news paper article is not rated then the courts should be able to sieze them and force them to keep from running that article, and why stop there lets just fine people who don’t submit sentences that they are about to say in every day speech to be rated.

  31. 0
    Konstruct says:

    @ Gatz

    Not every game is appropriate to be played in an all ages store. The moment you start up San Andreas you’re assaulted by F bombs. Now what about if theres a child in the store? Would that be appropriate? What about if theres extreme violence, is that ok to play in front of a group of kids in the store?

    If a parent wants to test a game they can always rent it for 3-4 dollars and test it there. They can do research online or in articles or they can just read the damn warning label for the inappropriate content. Not every store is equipped or allowed to let people test out a title. And what is the proper delegation of testing? 30 minutes, 2 hours, the entire title?

    Too many things are unclear with this bill and the stores catering the titles to us need to be protected as well.

  32. 0
    Benji says:

    Aside from the ambiguity, it’s also pretty clear that such a policy would be an outrageous hardship on all those concerned. If it was determined that the State has reason to curtail sale of video games (which they don’t, yet) this would still fail because there are less onerous/restrictive means of doing so.

  33. 0
    LA says:

    How would the review work? Do the retailers have to be forced to open up the game cases for free for “reviewing”? It’d hurt the sales since the games would then be pre-opened. The games are already reviewed by the ESRB but the parents don’t actually pay attention to the ESRB rating.

    I don’t see the same thing for movies. If you compare movies with games, games actually did better. It is mandatory for all games to be reviewed by ESRB before selling unlike movies, and they have big detailed information on their rating unlike tiny ones for movies.

  34. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    Also, if this bill allows for confiscation of unrated pre-ESRB games, it’s unconstitutional for violating Article I, Section 9, which says Congress cannot pass an ex post facto law. The Supreme Court defines an ex post facto law as:

    1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender(Justice Chase, Calder v. Bull, 1798).

  35. 0
    Gameboy says:

    @ Sara
    While Gamestop doesn’t really display the rating on the used games, there are bound to be other copies around for you to look at. And if not that, then I’m certain the salesperson could inform you of the rating. As far as Walmart and Target are concerned, I’ve never noticed a major problem with the ratings being obscured. Besides, you don’t actually have to buy the game to take it out of the case. You are allowed to have it removed so you may examine it more clearly. They don’t have a “You touch it, you buy it” policy yet. At least not to my knowledge. Kinda sounds like you’re trying to support this idocy.

    Like BearDogg-X stated, there shouldn’t be a problem with all the old beloved games being seized. Still I’d love to see some idiot politician site Super Mario Brothers 3 as the reason ‘lil Bobby chopped people up with a chainsaw, because it was un-rated (scary!!). Also, Thanks for reminding me of that part of the good ‘Ole Constitution, I totally forgot about it.

    It’s been said before, but it seems foolish to force retailers to allow parents to try the game before they buy them. If the name of “Super Sexual Bikini-clad Bloody Zombie Slayers 5” isn’t obvious, and the Big “M” is too difficult to see and examine, then why would parents take any time to review the game! They are just tax write-offs anyway! Who cares what happens to them, long as they stay alive and shut-up!

    On the economic side, even large big name retailers would have trouble setting aside a copy of every game that they carry so that someone may try it to be sure it is suitable for their child. And if the games are actually violent then they can’t be played in plain site, so now you have to have a private little room to play in privacy (what is this stuff now? Porn?). Think an established Gamestop can have a private play room? This seems more like an attempt to bankrupt the video game industry and the specialty retailers than an attempt to “Protect” anyone.

  36. 0
    Feldspaar says:

    According to the bill actual “copies” of the games themselves, not demos, have to be made available for review. How many parents, parents who can’t comprehend the ESRB ratings system, do they think are going to be able to navigate a game menu and figure out how to play a game in order to see what kind of “violent crime, suicide, sodomy, rape, incest, bestiality, or sado-masochism” is available to the player. Now I don’t know of any particular games that have sado-masochism or how it’s usually “glamorized” in said games, but I would assume these are story driven, turn-based, square-enix style role playing games, and that the sado-masachism heavy parts only occur after 20 plus hours of character development and strategy heavy battles. So, do the stores need to provide free memory cards, strategy guides, and professional game teachers to get these parents through the entire game, obviously they need to, think of the children. I implore you fellow gamers. think of the children

  37. 0

    […] A friend of mine linked me to this post about New York taking a lead and heading up the game-incompetence legislation sector by providing ridiculous new laws related to disregarding individual privacy and basic rights, along with damaging basic capitalism. Apparently, New York politicians have decided they are capable of parenting the entire populace of NY and are willing to charge a pretty penny to (as I interpret it) smaller game studios that can’t afford to be rated or are unable to get a rating for their game. […]

  38. 0
    Davian says:

    It is possible that this is just a clueless politician trying to ban the sale of non commercial games such as SCMRPG, which by their definition are already not being sold. But the paranoid part of me says that this is just the first step of a two part end run around the First Amendment. That the bill’s author looked at the Australian system for game banning and said ‘How can we do that here?’

    This measure would be the first step, making it illegal to sell any unrated game. Not a big deal since every commercial game is already rated. But then step is to exert pressure on the ESRB to stop rating certain games which the politicians find objectionable. Either through unofficial means (‘Refuse to rate this game or else’) or official means (‘We have replaced the ESRB in the state of New York with our state run games rating system.).

    Any game refused a rating would be effectively banned. Then bye bye to any game content more interesting than Hello Kitty Online Adventures.

  39. 0
    E. Zachary Knight ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “I implore you fellow gamers. think of the children”

    I thought that is what we already do 😉

    But yes this bill is a violation of many constitutional rights, not just first amendment. And it has very little basis in reality. Many of its justifications are stated in the bill as ‘assumptions’ and we all know what happens when we ass-u-me. So this bill if it makes it through to become law will be shot down in courts and the NY government will have to fork over legal damages and court costs to the ESA and the NY public education system will continue to go down hill as NY politicians waste valuable tax payer money in legal battles to try and defend their unconstitutional laws.

    If only they would look at the other states that have passed other laws that have the same wording, they would shut it down now.

    If any of you are from NY, you need to write your Rep and Senator.

  40. 0
    BearDogg-X says:

    @ Davian

    That endrun around the First Amendment runs into a brickwall called the Fourteenth Amendment, as the bill also violates the video game industry’s due process, since unrated movies such as Jackass Number Two, Dukes of Hazzard: The Beginning, and Pulse would still be sold.

  41. 0
    AY200 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You have to make the game avaliable to parents for review prior to purchase? Uh, for free, I assume? Wow, this is awesome! That makes it so much easier to generate warez without any actual investment in the game at all! Thanks for facilitating the pirate industry, ya dumbshit!

    If you extend this legislation to all visual media, maybe you should just start handing out unlimited rental cards for Blockbuster? I mean, it would be easier with movies, which have a set length. I will probably need months and months to make sure World of Warcraft is suitable for my adorable little tax-break. You’ll be willing to underwrite all that, right?

  42. 0
    GoodRobotUs ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Surely if they are demonstrating something like GTA to an older shopper then they are exposing the younger shoppers to violent images, because you just know they are going to gather round and watch? Or are they going to have to build something like Porn booths out the back of every computer game shop?

  43. 0

    […] The political song and dance over the past few months has played out like a broken record. Legislators continually try to inhibit retailer’s abilities to sell certain types of games, and their bills are overturned every time. The new bill from NY Rep. Brian Kolb comes with a twist. His version of the soon to fail legislation would give the state the right to confiscate any unrated games. Additionally, it mandates that retailers make copies of games available to parents free of charge for review purposes before they are purchased. All I gotta say is someone lend me a kid, cause I’m about to get my free rental on! […]

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