Illinois Video Game Plan Seen As Illegally Vague


Debate is raging over who should control access to video games featuring violence or sex, says the Christian Science Monitor. A proposal by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich that would make selling violent or sexual games to anyone under 18 a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison or a $5,000 fine is one of the latest maneuvers in a battle among kids, parents, the game industry, civil libertarians, and politicians eager for parents’ support. “Parents get a double message from the industry,” says Blois Olson of the National Institute on Media and the Family. “It gives ratings, but sometimes in the same sentence it says these games have no effect on children.”

Attempts similar to Blagojevich’s to regulate video-game sales – including laws in Indianapolis, St. Louis County, and Washington State, have been struck down by courts. One problem is in defining the forbidden material, says Clay Calvert of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment at Pennsylvania State University. Blagojevich would define violent games as, in part, “those realistically depicting human-on-human violence.” “But what does the term ‘realistic’ mean, and how realistic does it have to be?” asks Calvert. “When a term is vague, it can have a chilling effect on freedom of speech,” and courts won’t allow it to stand.


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