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June 15, 2006

Violent Video Games Subject of House Hearing

The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection held a hearing yesterday called "Violent and Explicit Video Games: Informing Parents and Protecting Children."  The Subcommittee site has few to no documents available just yet, but there are promises of a transcript and a streaming copy of the hearing (via RealPlayer) to appear.

A story in ZDNet does have some statements from the hearing, however.  Rep.Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said:

"Building a video game around a premise based on very realistic, cold-blooded assassinations of innocent bystanders and police" [is] "more akin to hate speech, not free speech."

The Hearing focused on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in which players could shoot bystanders and police in fairly bloody fashion.  Some scenes from the game were played at the hearing.  The story alludes to a statement by at least one of the Committee members suggesting these types of games be confined to a "red light district" in order to protect children from such violent imagery.  If the process is anything similar to concept of the .xxx domain on the Internet to keep pornography at bay, the chances for this happening are slim.  Grand Theft Auto was the subject of outcry over hidden scenes that depicted explicit sexual activity which resulted in an FTC action over fraudulent game ratings.

The game industry representatives reminded Congress that 85% of the games sold last year were acceptable to children and that parents need to be involved in their children's gaming habits.  In spite of Rep. Stearns statements to the contrary, the federal courts have taken a different view on free speech.  Courts in several states have thrown out laws that restricted the sale of games to minors which were the results of suits by the Entertainment Software Association.  Many of the judges have questioned the link (if any) between the nature of the game and the harm in the real world.  One would assume that any federal law cast in similar language to the failed state laws would meet the same fate.

Only a cynical person would think that a hearing such as this comes as an election year ploy. 

The ZDNet story with more quotes is here.  The Subcommittee hearing page is here.

June 15, 2006 | Permalink

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