Two new possible pieces of state legislation in the United States are attempting to restrict access to violent titles by legal means, as opposed to the voluntary methods currently advocated by many.
A new pair of bills have been introduced in the Georgia State Senate, aiming to make it a crime to sell or rent violent games to children – while also requiring stores to post explicit signs explaining video game rating systems to parents. The bills are being sponsored by Senator Doug Stoner, who was apparently inspired to push the bills after 'seeing' games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Oddly, especially considering the second bill’s specific reference to the ESRB ratings, the first bill does not limit the accessibility of games according to their age rating. It simply restricts titles according to whether they contain content that is “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel”. Such descriptions seem dangerously open to interpretation, especially comments restricting games which 'have sound or other effects meant to enhance the violence' – which would be applicable to many arbitrary titles.
Stoner claims that he has spoken with representatives from business groups who did not object to the plan and is optimistic about his bill's chances in the Republican-dominated Senate.
At the same time, political, religious and community leaders gathered at a church in the District of Columbia last week to support a similar proposed ban on the sale of video games. While in Maryland, Justin Ross introduced a bill that would subject stores who sell or rent violent video games to minors to a fine of as much as $1,000 or six months in jail for each offense.
Last year, Virginia legislators considered a bill that would have made the sale, rental, loan or commercial display of a video or computer game to a juvenile a misdemeanor if the game depicted violence against a law enforcement officer. Legislation is also pending in Georgia, and in his State of the State speech, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, proposed making it illegal for anyone younger than 18 to buy violent or sexually explicit games.
Previous bans in the U.S. have failed primarily because of freedom of speech concerns, but there seems to be a growing call across the country for some sort of legal restraint on game sales. This is occurring despite the fact that the vast majority of stores already refuse to sell Mature rated titles to children.