Gov. weighing under-18 ban

HOLLYWOOD — Will Arnold Schwarzenegger terminate sales of violent videogames to minors?

That’s the question facing the former action star after the California Legislature on Thursday passed a bill that would ban sales and rentals of games depicting injury to humans in ways “especially heinous, atrocious or cruel” to anyone under18.

A spokesman for Schwarzenegger told Daily Variety he has not taken a position on the bill. He has until Oct. 9 to either sign the bill or cast a veto.

Bill passed the Assembly by a 65-7 vote after passing the state Senate 22-9. Both houses gave the proposed law bipartisan support.

Community standards

Law uses language similar to obscenity statutes in defining “violent” videogames, relying on what a “reasonable person” would decide and on prevailing community standards about what’s suitable for minors.

It would impose a $1,000 fine for each violation and require such violent games to be labeled for adult sale only.

Lelam Yee, a Democrat of San Francisco and child psychologist, authored the bill. He argued the games have a pernicious effect on children.

“Unlike movies where you passively watch violence, in a videogame, you are the active participant and making decisions on who to stab, maim, burn or kill,” Yee said. “As a result, these games serve as learning tools that have a dramatic impact on our children.”

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board already rates vidgames, but Yee insists that the board cannot be impartial because it is funded by game makers. The bill’s supporters say gamemakers have a financial interest in ensuring their products don’t get an AO (adults only) rating.

The AO rating means the title “should only be played by persons 18 and older.” AO-rated games may include prolonged, intense violence, graphic sex or nudity.

M games growing fast

Games rated “M” (for Mature) are the fastest-growing segment of the vidgame industry.

The ESRB says M-rated games may have intense violence, blood and gore, strong language or sexual content and “may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older.”

Yet according to a 2004 Federal Trade Commission study, 69% of 13-16-year-old shoppers could purchase M-rated games at retail.

That was an improvement from a previous study in 2000 and better than DVD retailers. Study said 81% of 13- to 16-year-old shoppers could buy R-rated DVDs if they wanted to.

By contrast, said the FTC, only 30% of underage moviegoers seeking tickets for R-rated films could get them.

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