NY Governor Pursues Violent Game Legislation

Hot on the heels of Louisiana taxpayers shelling out $91K due to an unconstitutional limitation of video game sales, New York governor Eliot Spitzer (D) seeks to ban retailers from renting or selling violent video games to minors. Spitzer first mentioned the policy during his 2006 campaign for office and plans to elaborate upon it in a speech to be delivered today.

"It is now pretty well established that certain types of videos and images have an effect on behavior," said Spitzer, who noted his intention to target violent and degrading games. Under the plan, retailers would face fines if they sold or rented such games to minors.

The most important aspect of the proposal, the criteria for what constitutes a violent video game, remains unknown. Past efforts to ban the sales of violent video games to minors have been deemed unconstitutional due to their overly broad definitions of unsuitable material. For example, any game that "the average person...would find...appeals to the minor's morbid interest in violence" or "lacks serious literacy, artistic, political or scientific value for minors" was considered inappropriate under a repealed Louisiana state law, with bills in Utah and Oklahoma sharing similar language. Should Spitzer's policy rely on a more empirical set of guidelines, such as the Entertainment Software Rating Board labels displayed on the front of every video game, it could fare better than previous legislation.