Governor Blagojavich’s Video Game Censorship Laws

I recently got a letter from the IGDA regarding Illinois Governor Blagojavich’s proposal to censor video games.

I have to say: it’s about damn time the IGDA said something.

I sent a letter to Blagojavich months ago regarding this issue. Weeks later I received a form letter that did not address my concerns or questions, and I suppose that’s expected, but why ask people for their opinions and then not do anything about them? So I went to the Safe Games Illinois website and submitted a comment where they explicitly ask for comments. The form didn’t appear to work since I got database errors when I tried to submit it. Apparently it did work, as I received an email from them, but they could not read my letter since the URL was malformed by their stupid form. I responded, so I hope to hear a response that actually addresses my concerns.

Anyway, the IGDA letter points out that the Illinois House passed the bill last week, and the Illinois Senate will receive it in early April. I decided to write to my Illinois State Senator Don Harmon:

Dear Senator Don Harmon,

Recently the Illinois House passed HB 4023 by an overwhelming majority.

Governor Blagojavich claims that these laws are necessary to protect the children. I sent him a letter asking for clarification on just how children can be protected, but I received a generic form letter that did not address my concerns. You can read my letter to the Governor on my website: https://www.gbgames.com/gov_letter.html

I urge you to oppose this bill when it arrives in the Senate in early April.

I do not believe these laws will be effective at protecting children from violent or sexually explicit games. Children get access to games because a parent or other adult already buys the games for them. Just because a child can buy a violent game, as demonstrated by a crime task force in recent months, it does not mean that they ARE buying games. My letter has a link at the bottom that cites a study that finds a majority of children get access to games through their parents.

I do believe that the games industry is being unfairly targeted. Even Governor Blagojavich cites claims that it is not just video games but any media that can have an effect on children. Why make a law that targets James Bond-themed video games while ignoring the James Bond-themed books and movies?

The laws will also require labels to be placed on games, yet the games industry already has a rating system in place. The MPAA has a motion picture rating system in place that has been used for years, and no one has needed a government enforced rating system for that industry. I believe that a second video game rating system will only serve to confuse the people it was meant to serve. Imagine going to a movie that is both rated PG-13 and rated I.G.E.T. or something similar. You would not know whether or not it was appropriate anymore.

Video games are being treated differently than other forms of media. Is there a reason for such treatment? No studies cited by Blagojavich claim that video games are alone in their impact on children, and yet no other media is being targeted by these proposals.

I urge you to oppose Governor Blagojavich’s laws on the basis that they are unfair and would actually hurt the public more than they would help.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.

Gianfranco Berardi

Now, I personally think that violent video games aren’t the scourge that Blagojavich and others claim. If they’re so horrible, why is it that people don’t kill others more often? Statistically, with millions of video games having been played over the past two decades, why aren’t there more incedents of people killing others if video games affect them so?

It’s because they don’t. I am not sure what to think about these laws. Is Blagojavich just trying to get a quick approval jump from families who are afraid of something they don’t understand? Is this a strategic move, where he knows he doesn’t have to actually DO anything to make said families think he is? Does he actually believe in what he is doing and is just misinformed?

I don’t know. What I do know is that video games have always had a bad rap. The following may be a bit off-topic, but I want to get it out there. Even before they were considered an evil that promotes killing, video games were unfairly associated with the antisocial. How many of you gamers have ever been told, “Why don’t you just put down the stupid games, go out, and get a life?” Last I heard, even the earliest video game consoles had two controllers at least. Why is a board game or a card game (or for that matter going to a bar to drink and smoke) considered healthy and social, but playing Super Mario Bros or Quake 3 Arena considered antisocial behavior?

Movies. Books. Those are ok. Being a bookworm used to be insulting, but it really isn’t. Neither of those mediums promote interaction with others much, and that’s fine. But play a video game, and besides being considered antisocial, you’re now promoting murder simulators. It’s absurd, and yet people have no problem making this leap in logic.

If you live in Illinois, please urge your Illinois State Senator (in your Senate District, not the Federal Senate) to oppose Governor Blagojavich’s video game censorship laws. I also plan on contacting my State Representative and ask her why she voted yes.

3 comments to Governor Blagojavich’s Video Game Censorship Laws

  • Rock Music, Comic Books, Dungeons & Dragons, Video Games… we’re in great company. As these ‘newfangled’ forms of entertainment push their way into mainstream, there’s ALWAYS a lash-back. With videogames, the lashback came a little late – they were pretty much mainstream (at least for youth and 20-something males) before they started getting blamed for Columbine and so forth.

    We look back now and laugh a little at “The Seduction of the Innocent” – but arguably the Comics Code almost killed the medium, so we need to be vigilant at opposing unreasonable legislation against interactive entertainment. I mean, I’m the first one who thinks game developers should be responsible – as should parents. Games can be a POWERFUL educational medium – and computer games perhaps the most powerful of all. I don’t think they necessarily teach the obvious — I don’t think that playing Grand Theft Auto teaches kids to beat up prostitutes and steal cars any more than playing Pac Man teaches kids to eat bullies, or Final Fantasy teaches them to cast fireball spells and summon mythical beings to destroy their opponents.

    But this bill also makes the false assumption that games are for young boys. That assumption is about two decades out of date. Last I heard, the average age of console gamers was around 21, and pushing 30 for computer games. And adult women are the fastest growing audience right now.

  • Tammy

    Hey hun… I agree with you… Keep fighting.
    And by the way: What is with the creepy looking orange juice picture? 😉 I think you can do much better.

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