"...But I know it when I see it."

Utah's Daily Herald reported yesterday on a proposed state law equating violent video games with pornography (via Game Politics). Republican representative David Hogue has made several attempts to pass the ball, and this week it passed in a committee vote of 7-2. The bill's initial intent was to put explicit violence in any media under the classification of obscenity, but it seemed to have trouble passing until the scope was limited to video games. Under existing Utah state law, exposing minors to obscene materials (such as pornography) is a third degree felony, and repeat offenses are tried as second degree felonies. If signed into law, this bill would assign those same legal repurcussions to furnishing minors with video games containing what is defined as "inappropriate violence." In the context of video games, the bill's definition of inappropriate violence casts a very wide net. The bill states that such violence:
is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for minors; taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors; is glamorized or gratuitous; is graphic violence used to shock or stimulate; is graphic violence that is not contextually relevant to the material; is so pervasive that it serves as the thread holding the plot of the material together; trivializes the serious nature of realistic violence; does not demonstrate the consequences or effects of realistic violence; uses brutal weapons designed to inflict the maximum amount of pain and damage; endorses or glorifies torture or excessive weaponry; or depicts lead characters who resort to violence freely.

The last descriptor seems to be something of a catch-all that could very well describe a majority of character-driven games. The full text of bill H.B. 257 is available here.

As usual with these pieces of attempted legislation, the Entertainment Software Association is taking an active role in challenging the bill. Margaret Plane of the American Civil Liberty Union also voiced her organization's disagreement with Hogue's proposal, declaring the equation of violence and obscenity as unconstitutional. Hogue expressed his confidence that the bill will see no significant roadblocks, pledging to "take it to the Supreme Court" in defense if need be.