In Delaware, Another Try at Video Game Legislation

March 16, 2007 -
Delaware Rep. Helene Keeley (D, left) made news last year when she introduced what is believed to be the first video game bill authored by controversial, anti-game attorney Jack Thompson.

That piece of legislation failed to pass the Delaware Assembly, but on Wednesday Keeley introduced a new bill designed to prevent minors from accessing mature game content.

It is not clear whether Thompson is involved this time around, but the new proposal, HB77, bears little resemblance to recent bills authored by Thompson in Louisiana and Utah. Both of those ultimately failed. Louisiana's video game law was struck down by a federal judge in November, while the Utah legislation died in committee earlier this year.

Keeley's new bill would require ESRB ratings to be displayed at the point of sale. In addition, retailers would be barred from selling M and AO-rated games to underage buyers. An I.D. check would be required as well.

GP: Thanks to long time GamePolitics reader James Donaldson for the scoop!

Comments

@xzero

It would be the same as with alchohol and tobacco, If you are obviously odler than 17, then all is good, but sometimes the cashier may not be sure so they will card.

But I understand that it would be a pain to do so, but who buys games regularly enough to really get annoyed? You would have to buy a M game every day, at least I would.

whats wrong with her eyes she looks like a psycho

As a resident of Delaware, this really depresses me (even though I'm not a minor). I have yet to see a game, new or used, without its rating label visible; and the ID check thing is just a pain. When I was asked for ID once at an EBgames, I was impressed at the time.. but looking back on it, I don't see how the cashier could've concieved that I'm under 18. Having to do that every time I buy an M-rated game would just be annoying, and wouldn't solve the problem.

I have always wanted to test these politicans and people alike on how much they know about technology. I was thinking about sending them all an email with such questions as

Have you played video games?


If yes, which ones?


What is user created content?


What is a mod in regards to video games?


What does MMORPG stand for?


What is an easter egg in regards to programming?


Please define the each of the ESRB ratings.


Please define censorship.


What is the Miller Test?


Is violence and porn the same thing?


Do you watch late night television?


Do you watch rated R movies?


Can the Miller test be applied to the internet?


And so on. and put some statement saying that the representive personally filled it out. And they will either answer it incorrectly or correctly. And I wouldnt care if they looked it up, at least they will know a bit more (provided they dont have a 5 second memory).

Oh and I forgot....

DECLARE WAR ON INCOMPENTENCE

In terms of video game legislation, this bill is in the minority in at least one important way. Most of these bills provide only for civil penalties. Representative Keeley's bill provides for criminal penalties, a class A misdemeanor.

Under Delaware law, "The sentence for a class A misdemeanor may include up to 1 year incarceration . . . and such fine up to $ 2,300, restitution or other conditions as the court deems appropriate." 11 Del. C. § 4206(a) (2007) (available at http://www.delcode.state.de.us/title11/c042/index.htm#P243_22884).

So, for example, a retailer who forgets to mark "clearly and prominently" some used, pre-ESRB game as "not rated" faces arrest and (maybe) jail time. It would also seem that forgetting to card an 80-year old purchaser of Gears of War warrants arrest and (maybe) jail time, at least in Representative Keeley's view.

So let me get this straight. After her "treat games as porn so we can try to weasel past the constitution" attempt failed, it's back to the good old "openly violate the constitution" attempt, because that's worked SO well in other states...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

From the few I've gone over in detail, none of these bills seem to address download purchases, which is where many - if not most - people will get their games in the near future.

Thats fine by me, as I'm not in favor of these laws, but it goes to show just how behind the curve these people are.

"These politics remind me of the energizer bunny. They keep going and going and going."

It's funny. You would think that after 6 years, 9 court battles and millions of taxpayer's dollars wasted on these feel good but useless bills they'd just finally give up. But so long as it is only taxpayer's money being wasted on unconstitutional legislation and the politicans don't have to pay for it themselves out of their own pockets, they'll just keep doing it. It too bad politicans can't be financially responsible for their own idiotic legislation.

I have to say, of all the recent laws that have come up trying to regulate video games in some shape or form, at least this one sounds a bit more practical overall. Displaying the ESRB at the cashier area isn't really that big a deal, and getting carded for M rated stuff already happens in quite a few places. I know Best Buy carded me when I bought Crackdown. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens with this law.

I love how the photos of the politicians we don't like on this site almost always seem to have that "I'M @#!$ING CRAZY AND I WILL KILL YOU AND EAT YOUR SPICY BRAINS" look on them.

I'm not unconvinced that isn't exactly what they are thinking, judging by the company some of these Anti-game politicans keep. ;)

@Robb

What makes it more difficult is if the retailer in question sells games from the pre-ESRB era, when such games HAD no ratings. D'ya think the game industry would spend who-the-hell-knows-how-many-dollars trying to reprint such titles? In the unlikely situation that this legislation passes (which we know it won't), someone is going to start bitching the moment a kid pops in Super Smash T.V., I swear.

These politics remind me of the energizer bunny. They keep going and going and going. :P

Seriously, what is it with New England and games? Looking at the Legislation Tracker, most of these bills are clustered on the East Coast.

"Keeley’s new bill would require ESRB ratings to be displayed at the point of sale."

Already done, and without stupid legislation. I wish politicians would visit a games store and look at the game boxes before they write these things.

And I agree with the other posts. Video games are not just for kids. They have never been just for kids. Just as not all board games, movies, books, comics music, TV, etc are for kids.

Grow up politicians, and learn about the world around you.

All of these laws seem to be based on stopping the children buying the games. If they can't buy the games themselves, they will get a naive parent, or an older kid, or an older sibling to buy the game, or they will play the game at a friend's house, etc.

I don't believe that video games have any negative effect on children, but at the same time I would not want (if I had children) my child seeing scenes from RE4 or listening to the language in San Andreas, no more than I would want them watching Hostel, or reading a Stephen King novel. The real problem regarding video games, which has led to all of these silly laws being drawn up, is that they are perceived as for children.

There are books for children, and books for adults that children should not read. The same for movies. The same for comic books. The same for cartoons. While most people recognise this in comics and cartoons, video games to the majority of people are kid's playthings. Thus, when GTA or RE4 is released, the alarmists and Jack Thompsons of the world immediately scream that these games shouldn't be made for children, when of course they aren't.

Until the majority of people wise up to the fact that just like movies/books, video games are not just for kids. Making things awkward for retailers and trying to enforce unconstitutional laws will do nothing to aid this situation. A law requiring people to not be lazy and read and understand the ratings systems might help...

Unless they are prepared to try and censor all media, rather than sneak in the back door, they will get nowhere. And even if they did try to cenor all media. They'd get nowhere.

@Robb
I was thinking the same thing. If a bill of this nature and wording were to pass federally, the ESRB could easily desolve and a new rating board could take its place and a new rating sytem be put in place. Thus forcing this law to be null and void.

I guess politicians don't understand what it means to be a private organization.

This is hilarious... It almost strikes me as if these political figures are just being lazy, they gotta do something noteable when they're in office, and these days the video games laws are the easiest to write...hell I'm sure by now JT is writing them for free on napkins for anyone that will listen.

So the bill states that the M and the almost mythical AO games are obscene.

I think they are confusing the term "Mature" because it is often used as a eufemism to describe "Mature" movies and magazines, the ones on the top shelf or in theitr own special section if you get my drift.

By this logic almost all movies for 18+ would be considered obscene, regardless.
---- I'm not crazy, just ask the pink elephant...

I have two problems with the bill. The biggest is that it designates games of Mature or Adult Only as obscene. The second is the following quote which uses C-64 era technology:

The official rating of the video game is clearly displayed on the outside of its cassette, case jacket or other covering

It actually shows the ignorance of the author. If they couldn't research something so simple as current game media, the rest of the bill seems less authentic.

Hi! I'm the 14th Amendment! Nice to meet you, Rep. Helene Keeley. Guess what - I'm suing you! Consider yourself served, *Hands her papers*

You've violated me, and I don't have to stand for it. The ESRB clearly is a third, non-governmental body, and as such, cannot carry the burden of law. I'll see you in court.

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

@Salen

I don't think anyone was saying displaying the ratings near the checkout was impractical, so much as pointless. It won't help willfully ignorant parents/guardians, and in most if not all cases of what this bill seems to want to prevent, it is willful ignorance.

That's one scary looking lady in the pic above. Anyways as i have said before in many past posts this is an unconstitutional restriction on minor's First Amendment rights as well as a violation of the 14th Amendment's Due Process clause and thus it is an unconstitutional taxpayer's money wasting piece of s**t bill that will fail if passed. Lady try legislating something important rather then something that is bound to fail and won't solve any sort of problems (as there isn't any problems to being with).

@Kajex
What if the ESRB is reformed into a different ratings board? That's just rhetorical, but naming a private company in a bill is pretty non-sensical.

Also, do you realize the bill doesn't require the rating be on the media itself, hence your comment applies. I can't imagine slapping NR stickers on those older media.

One thing I've learned about people in general, there's always someone bitching.

Not that I have a problem with keeping the kiddies from buying games made for adults, but the bill will still be considered unconstitutional because the ESRB is not a government agency.

I wish these legislators would stop it with the "feel good" bills, which although probably garner them some votes, ultimately just end up wasting tax dollars.

Bill's unconstitutional, won't pass, and if so, won't last, etc. Honestly, though, I've got no particular problem with posting ratings in public view, except that it really is a bad precedent to begin, and of course for the fact that it's already obvious when a game isn't suitable for an 8-year-old. If a parent is already reading or ignoring the clear labels on the box, the game description on the back, and the fact that these games often have pulpy titles like "Grand Theft Auto", "Bully", and "Manhunt"[to pick on Rockstar], they clearly DO NOT CARE about the content. Without getting into the bad parenting thing, if you can't figure out that "Grand Theft Auto" isn't a children's title, you're not trying hard enough.

[...] Upton hopes that the bill will succeed where so many other video game bills have failed. The bill would make it illegal hide game content from the ESRB that may give the game a more restrictive rating. One of the positive aspects of the bill is that it doesn’t attempt to interfere with the ESRB’s authority, but rather it tries to give the Federal Trade Commission the power to fine people who are not fully open with the ESRB. If a company was found hiding content, under the new bill it would have this deemed an “unfair and deceptive practice”, which the FTC is set up to prevent. Violence is the new porn when it comes to censorship by the US government. Given time, you can be sure that overly concerned parents will find some other scapegoat to focus their attention on. [...]

With all of this legislation, I think they should spend more time and money on the aspects of entertainment and the hearing impaired.

@mike:

It can also be said:

"im in ur goverment, legisterating ur games"

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