Games as Porn Bill Returns

This February, Utah representative David Hogue put a bill equating games with pornography through a committee vote, but the bill was blocked when the state senate did not vote on it. More recently, Oklahoma represntative Fred Morgan (R) introduced his own legislation modeled on Hogue's, and now governor Brad Henry (R) has signed it into law. The law, which is set to take effect November 1, 2006, includes particularly violent or explicit video games as "obscenity." Like "any obscene material or child pornography," such games must be isolated from other titles inside stores, and prohibited to be sold or rented to minors.

Games defined as obscene include those that "[depict] lead characters who resort to violence freely," "[trivialize] the serious nature of realistic violence," features violence that "is glamorized or gratuitous," and that "lacks serious literary, scientific, medical, artistic, or political value for minors."

"The violence in videogames has grown to epic proportions," said Governor Henry regarding the new law. "Some video games glorify violence to a degree seldom seen in even the bloodiest movies. While parents have the ultimate responsibility for what their children do and see, this legislation is another tool to ensure that our young people are not saturated in violence. This gives parents the power to more closely regulate which games their children play."

As expected, the Entertainment Software Industry has announced its intention to sue the state of Oklahoma over the new legislation. "The ESA is deeply disappointed by the actions of the Oklahoma Legislature," said the ESA's Doug Lowenstein. "We believe HB 3400 [sic] will restrict the First Amendment rights of Oklahoma's citizens, and intend to file suit in Oklahoma federal district court shortly, asking that the state's new video game law be overturned." The ESA has been largely successful with its lawsuits contesting game regulation, winning six such actions in five years. Currently, the ESA is also in the process of suing the state of Minnesota over a law that would fine minors for buying M-rated games.

For a more sympathetic view on gaming from the mainstream press, take a look at Brian C. Anderson's editorial in praise of video games published in the Wall Street Journal.