Inspired largely by the title JFK Reloaded, HB 4023 (The Safe Game Illinois Act) was introduced after strong remarks on the harmful nature of video games from Governor Rod Blagojevich late last year. The governor’s originally stated goal in suggesting the legislation was to help parents who “face unprecedented challenges in monitoring and protecting their children from harmful influences.” The bill bans the rental and sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to children younger than 18. The bill also requires retailers to label violent and sexually explicit video games, similar to the “Parental Advisory” label found on music CDs, and to post signs explaining the video game rating system. Retailers who violate the ban face a fine of $1,000. Fines are also imposed on retailers who fail to properly label games or place proper signs.
While it is certain HB 4023 will be signed into law shortly, attempts to legislate video games across the United States are being met with mixed results. In California, Assembly Bill 450 (Assemblyman Leland Yee) was voted down in May by a committee of the California House of Representatives, which later reconsidered and approved it on a bipartisan, 6-4 vote. Reviving most of Yee’s original bill (AB 1792) from the year before, AB450 proposes fines of up to $1,000 for retailers selling M-rated games to children less than 17 years of age. North Carolina Senate Bill 2, also addressing game sales to minors, is currently in House committee.
The key problem for video game legislation is making the law durable enough to withstand challenge once it is approved. Federal courts have already struck down various regulations previously approved by Washington State, Indianapolis and St. Louis County in Missouri, stating they encroach upon rights protected by the First Amendment.