Violent Games Bill One Step Away

The bill introduced by Speaker pro Tempore Leland Yee, seeking to restrict sales of violent video games to minors, has been approved 65-7 in the California State Assembly. Yesterday this was one of many bills either passed or rejected by the assembly. California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger must either sign or veto the bill within 30 days. Specifically, Assembly Bill 1179 would explicitly forbid retailers from supplying minors with games depicting "serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel". Retailers violating the policy would be fined up to $1,000. Additionally, such games must be labeled with a sticker indicating the games are for purchase only by adults. However, this seems distinct from the ESRB rating of "AO" (Adults Only), as Mr. Yee claims in his press release that "parents cannot trust the ESRB to rate games appropriately or the industry to look out for our children's best interests."
"Unlike movies where you passively watch violence, in a video game, you are the active participant and making decisions on who to stab, maim, burn or kill," said Yee, a child psychologist. "As a result, these games serve as learning tools that have a dramatic impact on our children. ... Governor Schwarzenegger is no longer an action star but an elected representative of all Californians; I am hopeful that he will consider our children's best interests by signing this commonsense legislation into law and giving parents a necessary tool to raise healthy kids."

The intent of the bill seems good, and retailers are already expected not to sell M-rated games to minors (though, unsurprisingly, according to the FTC, 70% of 13- to 16-year-olds can). However, the method by which the bill attempts to reach its goal is not so encouraging. Many would consider government regulation the wrong route to take, and personally I think sidestepping the ESRB is absolutely misguided. The industry needs to be held accountable to itself, and if reform of the ESRB needs to occur, so be it, but Leland Yee's sticker requirement is redundant and adds an extra layer of government red tape to a situation that doesn't need it.