NEWS - Monday, October 10, 2005

Schwarzenegger Signs Bill

Schwarzenegger signs violent videogames bill ESA to file suit on grounds that new law is ’unconstitutional’ California state governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed bill AB1179, the controversial new law which will see anyone selling violent videogames to minors facing a USD 1000 fine. Speaking at a press conference which was also attended by assemblyman Leland Yee, the author of the law, Schwarzenegger said: "I am very happy today to sign this bill." "What this bill does is get parents involved in the decision making process... I am a parent myself and I think it’s extremely important that we know what our kids watch or what games they play." "I was a big believer in that also as an actor - that the ratings system we had in movies was very important," Schwarzenegger added, before assuring the state’s videogame industry of his support. "I’m a big believer in these videogames, I mean they’re terrific. A lot of them are manufactured in California and they’re doing a great job." "We just want to make sure that they don’t go into the wrong hands or that children under the age of ten aren’t playing those things, because it does have an impact on our children." The bill will officially become law on January 1, after which date all "violent" videogames must feature a two inch square "18" sticker, and any retailers caught selling the games to minors will risk prosecution and a fine. According to the state’s legal summary, a "violent" videogame "means a videogame in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being." The summary, which can be found on the California legislative information website, also concludes that minors exposed to violent videogames are "More likely to experience feelings of aggression, to experience a reduction of activity in the frontal lobes of the brain, and to exhibit violent antisocial or aggressive behavior." Even minors "Who do not commit acts of violence suffer psychological harm from prolonged exposure to violent videogames," the summary states. But many would disagree - most notably the Entertainment Software Association, which was quick to slam the bill’s approval. "We are disappointed that politicians of both parties chose to toss overboard the First Amendment and free artistic and creative expression in favor of political expediency," said ESA president Dough Lowenstein. "AB 1179 is punitive against retailers, will waste limited taxpayer dollars, and when it is struck down by the courts, as has been the fate of similar statutes, parents will be no better off for this effort to damage one of the state’s fastest growing and most exciting industries that is providing some of the most compelling entertainment in the world today." Lowenstein confirmed that the ESA believes the bill is unconstitutional and is already planning a lawsuit to have it officially declared so. Others within the industry have privately opined that the bill, which was proposed by San Francisco assemblyman Leland Yee and had previously been rejected by the Californian State Assembly and Senate on several occasions, was forwarded to Schwarznegger simply in order to place the former action movie and game star in a difficult political position. Until late last week, it looked like the governor was set to ignore the bill entirely - allowing it to pass into law without his signature - rather than risking either political attack from his enemies in the Senate, or damaging his relationships with the entertainment industry.


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