It was 'Game Over' for NY legislators attempting to pass a bill that would criminalize the sale of certain computer and video games to minors, as the current session ended Thursday night before the measure could make it through both houses.
But sure enough, they have some extra quarters. With the two sides of the aisle finally agreeing on the bill's content, it is fully expected to pass muster and be signed into law by Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) when the session reconvenes in July.
The new bill is a compromise of two different versions proposed earlier this year, one supported by Assembly Democrats, the other by Republican Senators. Leaders from the two houses worked together to hammer out the details of the final proposition, which outlines four strategies in combating the sale of violent video games to underage consumers:
Selling violent and obscene video games to minors would become punishable as a Class E felony
Console manufacturers would be required to include parental-control devices in their systems
Retailers would have to adhere to product labeling guidelines
A state-established committee would be formed to oversee and study the issue
MANHUNT 2: Should it be illegal to sell to minors...
THE DARKNESS: ...or do games deserve the same treatment as film and TV?
Critics of such video game legislation are quick to point out that two of these objectives are already at work. All three current home consoles feature parental-control technology right out of the box, and the ESRB already rates every single piece of certified gaming software prior to release (including Manhunt 2). No one seems to mind the formation of another committee, so long as gamers don't have to attend the boring meetings.
The "punishable felony" issue, however, is sure to raise the ire of the industry. There is currently no fine for selling a violent film to a minor, and even the sale of cigarettes or alcohol merely warrants a small penalty. According to New York's 3 Strikes Rule, three felony convictions are grounds for life imprisonment; irresponsible Gamestop employees could face a Shawshank future.
But not if the ESA has anything to say about it. Having successfully countered numerous anti-video game laws in the past by filing First Amendment suits, the game industry's governing body will surely fire off another one provided Gov. Spitzer signs the bill as expected. If history serves, that could prove costly to the state; a similar bill in Illinois cost taxpayers a cool million as Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) raided various coffers to fund his ultimately unsuccessful defense.