NY Lawmakers Almost Come to Blows Over Violent Video Game Bill, Says News Report

June 5, 2007 -

A pair of New York State Senators, debating legislation aimed at violent video games, nearly came to blows themselves, reports the Statewide News Service.

According to the story, bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Lanza (R, left) and Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson (D) got into a dust-up about the wording of A8696, Go. Eliot Spitzer's bill which would make selling games featuring "depraved violence" to a minor a felony offense.

From the transcript:

Lanza: The cases that have been struck down have been struck down on the principle that states have attempted to prohibit the sale of video games based upon the speech content, that being violence.

Hassell-Thompson: You’re misreading the case. You’re misreading them. I don’t know whether you’re doing it deliberately or what. It’s frustrating me.

Lanza: I’m not misreading the cases. Those are the cases.

Hassell-Thompson: You’re misreading the cases.

Lanza: Absolutely not Senator. We can agree to disagree on that point.

Hassell-Thompson: You got a battery of attorneys sitting behind you. I’m telling you I wrangled with them 3 out of 5 meetings.

Lanza: Maybe you’re missing something.

Hassell-Thompson: Well, we’re paying them. We should fire them.

Lanza: Let’s just be clear. It makes it a felony to sell video games based upon the speech contained therein. That’s what it does. Now it may pass constitutional muster because the speech that is being regulated therein is pornography, which I might add is already regulated and is already prohibited with its distribution to minors. So you might say the governor’s version accomplishes nothing. I’m not saying that but you might say it.

UPDATE: GP has heard from a source who was present and says that while it was clear that no love was lost between Lanza and Hassell-Thompson, the idea that blows were imminent is overstated.

The source adds:

Senator Hassell-Thompson and other Democrats on the conference committee argued that the Governor's proposal contained is A8696 is constitutional because it requires that the material to be restricted be both violent and obscene. Lanza pointed out that, if that is true, then the bill doesn't regulate anything that is not already regulated under the obscenity law (hence his reference to "pornography") and is meaningless.



Kudos to Ruth Hassell-Thompson for being brave enough to speak out against the bill. She deserves re-election.

That idiot Lanza should be informed that the "violence as porn" approach has alread been tried-and has failed-in previous game bills.

With the logic he's using, this bill is doomed to fail just like all the previous bills.

"Now it may pass constitutional muster because the speech that is being regulated therein is pornography, which I might add is already regulated and is already prohibited with its distribution to minors."

Has this idiot even READ the bill? It regulates violent speech, not pornographic...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

So Lanza was the one who was smart enough to realize what this bill was saying and how it was deemed unconstitutional the other... 5? times it was passed in the US?

Nevermind, I misread it.

Can someone explain to me what the hell just happened in that conversation?

Let's give it up for Ruth!


I, uh, don't get it. Sorry.

It still bothers me that its a FELONY to sell games to underage kids while kids can buy as many rated "R" movies (which will typically have far more violence and WAY more nudity than ANY game.)

The fact that they are still passing the bill (in record time no less) is simply appalling when every other bill has been challened in higher courts and many of them already have been struck down.

These elected officials need to focus on REAL issues like inflation, minimum wage, curruption, poverty, the rising cost of health care, social security, income tax, etc. The list of REAL issues goes on and on but because everyone is too afraid of loosing their office because they "buck" the existing system nothing every happens for anyone and we end up on this kind of redikkulous legislation which only serves to get the states sued and cost even more taxpayer dollers than passing the bill in the first place.

I'm almost ready to move to Canada. I'm only about 90 miles from the border anyway...

Wow...Just wow...

At least someone in Albany has some sense.

just amazing


so i can beg but i cant play a game


Yeah, I don't get it either. Lanza is worried about it not passing constitutional muster, which is good, but also seems to think this is about pornography, which means he's clueless about the bill itself. Methinks he was just arguing based on a point his aid brought up, namely that the other bills have failed in court.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

@Nekojin, Otaku-Man, Pixelantes Anonymous

Actually, Ruth Hassell-Thompson is a supporter of the bill, according to this link: http://www.r8ny.com/node/12302

Lanza sounds like an absolute moron. Pornography has already been defined by the courts, and it's sure not violence.

Okay Im have tried reading that several times and for the life of me I cannot figure out what is going on. I can't really tell if Lanza is saying the bill is bad because of the goals or if it is bad because of how it is written. I also don't think Ruth is being bright either, from what I can see he doesn't understand what the other cases have proven.

I could be completely wrong however, but really that is almost incomprehensible.

[...] More importantly, it seems the legislators themselves are waking up to the realities of the two bills. Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson recently challenged Andrew “Virginia Tech in every sentence” Lanza in the New York State Senate about the constitutional concerns of his bill. Lanza remained clueless, as always. I’m very encouraged by the fact that he’s, in fact, finally getting challenged by someone over this issue. If the bills don’t get struck down before Eliot Spitzer signs them, the legal fees will come down on us New York State tax payers. [...]

Bleh, after reading it 5 or 6 times, and referencing S05888, I get it now.

Lanza is criticizing A08696, which would make it a felony to sell violent games to children. (that explains the stupid remark about porn).

Hassell-Thompson is defending A08696, claiming that Lanza is misreading the court cases that struck down similar bills.

Still, both are clearly clueless. Hassell-Thompson is ignoring similar court rulings, and Lanza thinks the bill regulates porn...

Basically Lanza is favour of trashing the other bill and replacing it with his own.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...


Actually, I would say that Lanza is doubly clueless, since he doesn't see how the previous cases would just as likely shoot down his own bill.

I wish there was more context to this. Does anyone know whether full transcripts ever get put online?

From the discussion that took place after the reported lines in here, I'd say the entire assembly doesn't actually have much of a clue what it is doing or even what the Bill is actually about.


"Actually, I would say that Lanza is doubly clueless, since he doesn’t see how the previous cases would just as likely shoot down his own bill."

Actually, I believe only one other bill has tried the "stay out of the rating business, but make retailers stick to whatever ratings they DO use" approach. Don't know if that one made it to the courts or not... And I think that other one specifically required the ESRB ratings. This one seems to try to sidestep that by allowing retailers to use ANY ratings, as long as it's clearly labeled, and they enforce whatever age restrictions they put on those ratings.

It's pretty unique in terms of these kinds of bills.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

I dont know whats going on either, but to me Thompson is the one who is supporting the bill, and lanzua seems to be the one against it. At least in looking at this converstation.

And just by this i think that Lanzua might actually be smarter then your giving him/her credit for. could be saying that others might be saying that it will pass cause others will view it as porn.


Of course they don't have a clue, and it's because they're not doing any research into what they're trying to regulate, or why bills that were exactly the same as the ones they're trying to pass now were deemed uconstitutional.


"This one seems to try to sidestep that by allowing retailers to use ANY ratings, as long as it’s clearly labeled"

That sounds good on the surface, but then there's this:

"S 614. Sale and rental of video games. No person, partnership, or corporation shall sell or rent or attempt to sell or rent at retail a video game in contravention of the rating affixed thereto."

Judge Brady (LA) agreed that such an action would constitute a chilling of free speech: http://www.gamepolitics.com/images/legal/LA-PI-ruling.pdf (Section II.A.1.b.iii, "Prior Restraint and Chilling Effect," p22).

@Miraba: Then color me as clueless as the others in this thread. =^_^=

So what we have is a battle between competing anti-game-violence bills, both of which are constitutionally unsound on several points (First Amendment, Freedom of speech; 8th Amendment, Cruel & Unusual Punishment; arguably 14th Amendment, Equality under the law), and they're quibbling over whose e-peen - er, excuse me, L-peen* is bigger.

*L = Legislative


I'm guessing... just guessing, mind you... that what's going on is...

"Alright... cases like these have been struck down because they did it on the basis of the violence within the game."
"You're misreading our case!"
"No, I'm stating what happened in other cases."
"I've convinced other people!"
"... -.- Alright, that's besides the point as it is. Back to the topic, PLEASE. This law could probably pass, on the basis that the speech is based upon pornography, not violence, but what difference would that make? The industry does regulation on porn, and porn in and of itself is already well-regulated, so there isn't much that this bill does than specifically state the same damned thing for a specific entertainment medium. How is this going to help?"

... That's what I'm picking up, at least. >.>


"Judge Brady (LA) agreed that such an action would constitute a chilling of free speech"

Oh agreed, I was just trying to clarify why Lanza feels his bill is "safer" than the other one...


You mean like he's arguing that had it all been about porn, the bill would have been worthless? I read it to mean he thinks it IS worthless, because it's redundant. But the House bill doesn't address porn at all, just violence...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Too little is presented here from a conversation that probably used largely generalized legal references in the whole, anyway. I don't think one can glean anything from this fragment of an argument. I would guess, though, that most republicans would be against regulating private businesses.

instead of making it illegal to sell games to minors why not have parent responsible for their kids. that's how it worked when i was young and it's much cheaper than wasting my tax dollars on this crap.

Is this the same dumb a** bill that also for some reason makes it so computer games and handhelds like the ds and psp not count on this bill or is that a different one???

Too bad, watching Senators resort to fisticuffs over how to punish sellers of violent games would be too ironic for words.

Now, I'm definitely not a lawyer, but I do consider my an expert on video games... and porn! Maybe my criteria are just too discriminating, but barring a few exceptions, the two are NOT the same thing.

Look, stating for comedy aside, where does the idea that violence is pornography come from? A movie is rated R if it's gory and violent, it's rated NC-17 or higher if it shows sex. One is violence, one is pornography. Now, as I said, I'm not a lawyer, but surely if I can tell there's a difference, your lawyers can too, right? So what the hell? Why do people continue to attack violent games as porn? This is a dead end for them, and it's just wasting time and money while having a chilling effect on game creators. Where's the First Ammendment, when you need it?


The puzzling thing is why they're competing over whose bill gets shot down first. Or do any of them seriously believe it will survive?


Agreed, but it's still completely pointless since neither of them are safe.

If fake-violence is really porn... I've been watching it all wrong.


Me too, and I must be missing out.

Why they're trying to stigmatize video game violence in the first place is beyond me. Stories of any sort are driven on conflict - there are [i]very[/i] few good (ie, worth reading) stories that don't have some sort of conflict as the central driving point. Violence is the simplest and most easily-understood form of conflict. Why is this such a big deal? Do they somehow have this concept in their heads that eliminating fake violence will somehow eliminate real violence, as well?

Tell that to people who get injured in sports-related riots (especially soccer).

I love all the idiotic 'debating' going on. "You don't know what you're talking about" "Yes I do" "No you don't" "Yes I do" "My dad could beat up your dad"

@ SnipeHunter

You do not understand movie ratings. Therefore you do not 'see' the difference.

A movie can get an R rating for excess violence, language, drug use and sex and nudity.

A movie can get an NC-17 rating for an extreme amount of the same. NC-17 is not only for porn.

Read the other comments.

As Bongo says, the root cause of the problem is a lot more obvious. Even anti-violence supporters Gentile & Walsh have referenced surveys and studies that lead those reading the material in an unbiased manner to see that parents are dropping the ball. I presented a paper on this at a conference last year in Wilmington and was astounded how many professors, peers, and parents agreed. They didn't blame the industry for games being to blame (although some didn't agree with violence), but for bad parenting and scapegoating. Common sense outweighed blaming someone else for the problems they could most directly curtail with a little bit of knowledge.

Comstock & Paik is routinely taken out of context to "prove" media is violent when the researchers concede that their findings point to only one true finding. The same material does not affect every child the same way and the factors determining what effects are directly results of media are difficult to isolate. Lurking variables stink up the bulk of the research on the effects of media, although studies on the grade performance drop due to media consumption is a bit more reliable although also questionable.

The 1988 study from Schutte, Malouff, Post-Gorden, & Rodasta using Jungle Hunt vs. Karateka to try and prove violence in children was nonsense but continues to be highly regarded and cited in today's war. The violent game they claimed caused the children to act violent was Karateka, while Jungle Hunt was the non-violent title. Anyone familiar with these games knows how much more violent Jungle Hunt is than Karateka once you stop falling to your death from vines. Their results came down to the fact that their safe group played on a jungle swing rope more than acted out with their peers. Those who work with kids also know how little it takes for youth to begin to roughhouse, supplied toy stimulus or not. I imagine more than one kid was shortchanged on a toy they desired and it went downhill from there. Anything could have caused the acts, and the Jungle Hunt "violence" in some cases might have even pacified them. I know I always found stabbing a shark with a knife or getting crushed by a boulder in the game awe-inspiring when I was young.

The lack of parental involvement is glazed over in the bulk of academic research in the matter. It gets less than a paragraph at the end of studies and the words "parents need to use more caution" or "better material needs to be chosen for youth" usually is the slap on the hand slack parents get. Instead "researchers" read results and perform experiments in a biased manner to support their fight against free speech. They fight systems of ratings that yes need retooling sometimes for accuracy but as far better than what came before them or even what other organizations produce quarter after quarter. Parents deserve a friendlier, more user-friendly interface for information on games and ratings, but research needs to be done in order to maximize their retention and continual use and support of said systems.

Congrats to anyone out there who manages their child's media intake, and also to anyone with an open mind to the this issue. Games can be a destructive habit if a child is prone to such things but it also can be a useful educational and recreational too. It is no different than any of object of a children's affection. Classrooms need to discuss games more not less, and lawmakers, parents, and any publishers who do plan to market violence to children needs to do their homework. This is the age of information is it not?

Do you think they have they ever considered fining or suing parents for letting adult game material into the hands of youth? I can imagine that going over REAL well. AO and MA titles don't belong in a 5 year old's hands based on their ESRB ratings so how should it and porn be handled any differently. There would be a few thousand fewer games sold but there would be a consequence finally for parents choosing to allow their kids adult-deemed material. Would that help put some of the blame where it belongs? I never see Rockstar games right next to Dora dolls when I walk into the game section and I know real quick if the game is acceptable for a child. The same thing with a movie or television show.


Wow! That's a nice comment. I loved reading that Karateka was considered violent and Jungle Hunt was not. Like you said, swinging on vines isn't too violent, except for falling off. The second level had you stabbing Crocs with your knife (now that's a knife!), being bitten by the devils, and drowning. The third level was crushing by boulders, but they looked more like chocolate chip cookies crushing you to a pulp. That's wholesome, right? Just add milk? And finally, if you fail to save the girl that is about to be eaten by the cannibals (that's not violent), you get neutered by a spear. Nice!

There's yet another aspect of games that is overlooked in all this. Some parents will let their kids play some parts of M games because they're not violent. A coworkers child loves to drive, climb, and jump around in crackdown. Who knew? Those ratings are just a summary of the game, but parents ultimately make the decision.

I think it largely depends on conxtext. As has been pointed out, things affect different kids differently and M covers a rather broad range. There aren't many ten-year-olds who can handle a game like Manhunt, but plenty would be fine with Halo. Just because some parents make bad decisions doesn't mean the goverment shoudl start second-guessing parents.

Ah yes, Crocs. Why I thought they were Sharks I'll never know. I played the game enough after buying it off a friend who bought an NES for $2. Thanks for setting me straight on that detail, I'll adjust my mental image properly. :)

I am not against parents deciding to let their kids play M games per say, but some discretion would be lovely. Right now, they are totally ignorant to ratings. That is why the recent push by the ESRB is so long overdue. I get tired of walking around a store and seeing kids extort these games out of their parents who look like deer in headlights or hooked fish. If I had a new game when I was a kid fine but most of ours were used. The only game I ever needed to have when it came out was SFC/SNES Super Mario Kart and we saved up for it for weeks.

I don't think the government belongs in any of this since the ratings are in effect. Content in media is filterable now by adults a lot easier than before ratings were initiated. Yes, it took pressure to do it but it got done. I just felt like playing devil's advocate and spinning the table around on the parents. I feel that often they don't receive enough of the props for doing a good job given the conditions they may find themselves and their families in, and also not enough blame in the cases where they are at fault. Everyone has a bit of this blame. Publishers can make it easier and are getting better in the content rundowns they get to the ESRB. The ESRB is improving their ratings. Parents slowly are getting more wise to the content's threat and considering finding out the facts. We just need lawmakers to be given better agendas than these attempts at patching a gaping wound in society. The media does a great job in directing our focus from different more important things (they are a business not a public service), and not everyone reading this thinks voting matters a damn.

We are always going to be split on some of this noise. It's deadlocked. We're constantly fighting a war of morality framed around a quick-solution to our array of problems. The topics change but the bickering and line drawing merely continues. Games are easy targets due their popularity and sales. Maybe we should rally to make other things more popular and then politicians and media targetting those things as the downfall of society will weed themselves out come election time. Any suggestions? :)


"Any suggestions?"

Country Music.

I been tinkering with the idea of 2 tears for each age level and about 8 discriptors to lable the most offensive things there in.

(note kids has a extra level)
3-6 learning and non violent puzzle games
6+ everyone
10+ older kids

13+ teens
16+ older teens

18+ adults (equal to a R or lite NC17)
AO19+/by region (for porn)

the ESRB is more "perfect" than most but still has a couple flaws.

"Senator Hassell-Thompson and other Democrats on the conference committee argued that the Governor’s proposal contained is A8696 is constitutional because it requires that the material to be restricted be both violent and obscene. Lanza pointed out that, if that is true, then the bill doesn’t regulate anything that is not already regulated under the obscenity law (hence his reference to “pornography”) and is meaningless."

Ok, now it makes more sense. Still, it's not Lanza's bill. :) He sponsored the other one.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Zippy why 19 for porn???

@ GoodRobotUs:

Hey, why don't we just ban life? We know living itself is a hazard to one's health.

Lanza just reminded me of the same retarded person, Brent Bozell. Keith Olbermann should give Lanza the "Worst Person of the Year" award. We have no choice but to resort to this worst award for a worst person.

@Judith Iscariot


i can just see this...

HEADLINE: "Living causes Cancer"

@ZippyDSMlee: Two problems with that. First, it doesn't really need the added complexity at the low end of the age scale; it's up to the parents to determine what games a child is ready for. The only purpose of the Rating system is to determine what content is not generally considered appropriate for children of a given age... and, frankly, there isn't anything that is considered "appropriate" for a 6-year-old that would be considered "inappropriate" for a 3-year-old. The 3-year-old might not be able to understand the concepts, but that's not the same thing at all.

Second, your "porn" rating is unnecessary and pointless. As Daniel pointed out, why 19? 18-year-olds can walk into any porn shop and walk out with the hardest of the hardcore... why would they have to wait an extra year for an erotic video game? Also, most erotic games aren't submitted to the ESRB in the first place... there really isn't a point to it. No major retailers will carry them either way.

@Chadachada: “Living causes Cancer”

Strictly speaking, that's true...
The body has natural regenerative processes that say, in essence, "Keep growing until X, then stop." As you age, that regenerative process deteriorates, slowing down the regeneration. Cancer is when the "until X" clause is altered.

So, as I said, strictly speaking, that statement is actually true. =^_^=
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Papa MidnightSure thing!03/27/2015 - 9:00pm
Andrew EisenPM - Thanks, I've updated the story.03/27/2015 - 8:59pm
Papa Midnighthttp://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/03/13-year-old-minecraft-player-confesses-to-swatting-police-say/03/27/2015 - 8:38pm
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Andrew EisenAgreed. Considering we've seen nothing of the game (and those who did see it last E3, said it was super duper early) I would be quite surprised to see it this year.03/27/2015 - 5:28pm
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