Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill Into Law

February 27, 2009 -

Former Washington Gov. Gary Locke (D), President Barack Obama's latest choice for Commerce Secretary, carries a bit of video game baggage into his new position.

In 2003, while serving as Governor, Locke signed into law the nation's first statewide violent video game legislation. The measure, which was proposed by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D), barred minors from purchasing games in which the player kills or injures "a human form who is depicted, by dress or other recognizable symbols, as a public law enforcement officer."

The video game industry filed suit, of course (VDSA vs. Maleng). In July, 2004, a federal court struck down the Washington law. In ruling the statute unconstitutional, U.S. District Court Judge Lasnik wrote:

The games at issue...[have] story lines, detailed artwork, original scores, and a complex narrative which evolves as the player makes choices and gains experiences. All of the games provided to the Court for review are expressive and qualify as speech for purposes of the First Amendment...

 

[The law] failed to give a person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly... Would a game built around The Simpsons or Looney Tunes characters be 'realistic' enough to trigger the Act?... Do the Roman centurions of Age of Empires, the enemy officers depicted in Splinter Cell, or the conquering forces of Freedom Fighters qualify as ‘public law enforcement officers'?

GP: Although it's unlikely that Locke, if confirmed, will have much to do with video game issues as Secretary of Commerce, it is an interesting historical footnote, nonetheless.


Comments

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill Into

I wonder if the Combine from HL2 would count? They're definitely the local law-enforcing governmental agency.

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill Into

Im glad the judge knew what he was talking about.

 

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely"

"I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely"

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill ...

But this guy paid his taxes right?

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill Into

I like how the judge pointed out the vagueness of the law. Obviously it would restrict minors from buying games such as GTA, but there are many other situations where this would come into effect. In World In Conflict (a T-rated RTS), the player can kill a cop by looking around on the map for one, and then ordering an artillery strike in the area. It's not productive for your side, there are no "kill the cop" objectives, it's just a thing you could do in the game. But under this law, selling World In Conflict to a minor would be illegal. Technically, under this bill, minors couldn't even buy games where the player shoots police officers enforcing a police state, whether they're Nazis or fiftitious oppressors.

 

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Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill Into

Well, he may have little if anything to do with legislating games, but it seems the DoC could have an impact on the games industry from an economic or laborforce issue:

From Wikipedia:

The mission of the department is to "promote job creation and improved living standards for all Americans by creating an infrastructure that promotes economic growth, technological competitiveness, and sustainable development." Among its tasks are gathering economic and demographic data for business and government decision-making, issuing patents and trademarks, and helping to set industrial standards.

So I guess if the issue of developers' union were to come up, the DoC could be in on all the hubub.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill ...

I love that excerpt from the opinion. The Judge was very smart not to wade into the whole Grand Theft Auto scene and instead created this ridiculous image of some kid on trial for playing a game where he beats up Chief Wiggum.

That judge needs to be on the Supreme Court.

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill ...

AS far as I remember he was a character in Simpsons Road Rage.

E. Zachary Knight
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
http://www.theeca.com/chapters_oklahoma

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill Into

I'm impressed by the judge's write up about the knowledge of such games.

Re: Obama's Commerce Nominee Signed 2003 Video Game Bill Into

Yeah.  It seems the case got a judge who is a gamer.

 
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Andrew EisenAnd again, you keep saying "accountable." What exactly does that mean? How is Gamasutra not accounting for the editorial it published?07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - I disagree with your 9:12 and 9:16 comment. There are myriad ways to address content you don't like. And they're far easier to execute in the online space.07/28/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenMatt - Banning in the legal sense? Not that I'm aware but there have certainly been groups of gamers who have worked towards getting content they don't like removed.07/28/2015 - 11:45pm
DanJAlexander's editorial was and continues to be grossly misrepresented by her opponents. And if you don't like a site, you stop reading it - same as not watching a tv show. They get your first click, but not your second.07/28/2015 - 11:40pm
TechnogeekYes, because actively trying to convince advertisers to influence the editorial content of media is a perfectly acceptable thing to do, especially for a movement that's ostensibly about journalistic ethics.07/28/2015 - 11:02pm
Mattsworknameanother07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
Mattsworknameyou HAVE TO click on it. So they get the click revenue weather you like what it says or not. as such, the targeting of advertisers most likely seemed like a good course of action to those who wanted to hold those media groups accountable for one reason07/28/2015 - 9:16pm
MattsworknameBut, when you look at online media, it's completely different, with far more options, but far few ways to address issues that the consumers may have. In tv, you don't like what they show, you don't watch. But in order to see if you like something online07/28/2015 - 9:12pm
MattsworknameIn tv, and radio, ratings are how it works. your ratings determine how well you do and how much money you an charge.07/28/2015 - 9:02pm
Mattsworknameexpect to do so without someone wanting to hold you to task for it07/28/2015 - 9:00pm
MattsworknameMecha: I don't think anyone was asking for Editoral changes, what they wanted was to show those media groups that if they were gonna bash there own audiance, the audiance was not gonna take it sitting down. you can write what you want, but you can't07/28/2015 - 8:56pm
MattsworknameAndrew, Im asking as a practical question, Have gamers, as a group, ever asked for a game, or other item, to be banned. Im trying to see if theres any cases anyone else remembers cause I cant find or remember any.07/28/2015 - 8:55pm
Andrew EisenAs mentioned, Gamasutra isn't a gaming site, it's a game industry site. I don't feel it's changed its focus at all. Also, I don't get the sense that the majority of the people who took issue with that one opinion piece were regular readers anyway.07/28/2015 - 8:43pm
MattsworknameDitto kotaku, Gawker, VOX, Polygon, ETC07/28/2015 - 8:41pm
MechaTama31So, between pulling a game from one chain of stores, and forcing editorial changes to a media source, only one of them strikes you as being on the edge of censorship, and it's the game one?07/28/2015 - 8:41pm
Andrew EisenHave gamers ever tried to ban a product? Can you be more specific? I'm not clear what you're getting at.07/28/2015 - 8:41pm
Mattsworknamethey should have expected some kind of blow back. But I didn't participate in that specific action07/28/2015 - 8:41pm
MattsworknameAndrew Youd have to ask others about that, I actualyl didn't have much beef with them till last year, so I can't speak to there history. I simply feel that gamesutra chose politics over gaming and chose to make enimies of it's prime audiance. For that,07/28/2015 - 8:40pm
Andrew EisenI'm still not clear on how Gamasutra was lacking in accountability or what it was lacking in accountability for.07/28/2015 - 8:38pm
MattsworknameAndrew: You and I agree on most of that. I don't diagree that there should ahve been other actions taken. Now, I do want to point something out, casue Im not sure if it's happened. Have gamers ever tried to have a product banned?07/28/2015 - 8:37pm
 

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