For the Children

Matthew Hector | 20 Sep 2005 12:02
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The law also does little to prevent a minor from obtaining a violent or sexually explicit game because it provides a loophole for retailers who sell the game to a family member of the minor. The statute includes siblings in its definition of family members, which means that all a minor needs is a permissive older sibling to buy the game for him or her. While parents should be allowed to purchase the regulated games for their children if they see fit, allowing siblings the same latitude is highly counter-intuitive if the statute is to effectively achieve its stated goals.

The Illinois Safe Game Act is an example of legislation that is poorly tailored to its stated purpose. It seems to have clear First Amendment issues and may be an unconstitutional regulation of interstate commerce. Its definition of "violent" is ambiguous and vague, and placing the burden of interpreting the statute on retailers will most likely cause them to over-label their games. If retailers develop a rule of, "if in doubt, restrict the sale," some otherwise acceptable games will be affected. A more efficient method would be to pass legislation that requires retailers to follow the age restrictions indicated in the ESRB rating system for games rated "M" and "AO." While some may argue that the ESRB is ineffective in the wake of the "Hot Coffee" scandal, the fact that it raised the rating on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to "AO" from "M" shows a responsiveness that would be hard to match via legislative and judicial means. Codifying the ESRB system also guarantees uniform standards that are designed by experienced members of the industry. Ultimately, parents should be the ones to regulate what game content their children can access. If we, as a society, wish to pass laws to assist parents in that endeavor, it is our duty to craft effective, efficient and Constitutional statutes. In the rush to legislate "For The Children!" we cannot lose sight of simple, yet effective solutions.

Matthew 'CmdrSlack' Hector is a licensed attorney in the State of Illinois. He is currently writing for Real Name Gamers.

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