we were growing up, our parents worried about us when we were
outside our homes," Gov. Blagojevich said. "They wanted to know what
we were doing and who we were hanging around with. But, when we were
at home, we were safe. Today, it's much different. Inside the home,
our children have access to a lot of new things -- including video
games. And, some of these games assault each one of the values we
teach our kids. When children play these games, they hold the
joysticks and sit at the keyboards. They are the ones that hold the
knives, axes and guns. It's the children that practice cutting heads
off and rehearse shooting police officers. These games make our kids
actual participants -- not just spectators. What we're doing is
about protecting our children -- those in our society who grown-ups
are supposed to protect."
Last week, the governor announced his plans to introduce two
bills during the upcoming legislative session: one to ban the
distribution, sale, rental and availability of violent video games
to children younger than 18, and another to ban the distribution,
sale, rental and availability of sexually explicit video games to
children younger than 18. The likely penalty for violating the bans
would be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in
prison or a $5,000 fine.
Illinois would become the first state to ban the sale and
distribution of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.
Unlike attempts by the state of Washington, the city of Indianapolis
and St. Louis County, the governor's legislation will narrowly
define "violent" and "sexually explicit" video games, to address
concerns raised by federal courts, and the legislation is
specifically intended to protect children.
The two bills will also require retailers to label violent and
sexually explicit video games, similar to the "Parental Advisory"
label found on music CDs, and to post signs explaining the video
game rating system. A retailer's failure to place proper signs would
likely be punishable by a $1,000 fine for the first three violations
and a $5,000 fine for every subsequent violation.
Various studies demonstrate the negative effect playing violent
and sexually explicit video games has on minors. One such study,
conducted in 2001 by Stanford University, found that when the amount
of time third- and fourth-graders spent watching television and
playing video games is reduced to less than seven hours a week,
their verbal aggression decreased by 50 percent and physical
aggression decreased by 40 percent. Another study, completed in 2003
by four experts, including Douglas Gentile from the National
Institute on Media and the Family, concluded that adolescents who
expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were
more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more
frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights and
performed more poorly in school.
In 2003, video games recorded $7 billion in sales in the United
States. The National Institute of Media and the Family recently
found that 92 percent of all children ages 2 to 17 play video games,
and the average child spends nine hours each week playing them. The
institute also found that 87 percent of pre-teen and teenage boys
play games rated "M" for "mature" by the Entertainment Software
Ratings Board. M-rated games often contain realistic depictions of
human injury and death, mutilation of body parts, rape, sex,
profanity, and drug, alcohol and tobacco consumption.
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Even though mature games are labeled with the Entertainment
Software Ratings Board's M rating, there are no legal mechanisms in
place preventing children from buying them. Unlike the motion
picture industry, the video game industry has not developed an
effective self-regulation system that keeps adult material out of
the hands of minors. A study by the Federal Trade Commission found
that 69 percent of underage boys were able to purchase M-rated video
games, giving them easy access to images many adults would consider
But, the FTC found that not only are minors easily purchasing
violent and sexually explicit games, 10 of the 11 companies it
studied produced at least one marketing document specifically
targeting boys under 17 for a violent, M-rated game.
In fact, one 1997 marketing plan
obtained by the FTC demonstrated that the advertisers knew
they were not supposed to market to younger audiences, but because
of children's higher susceptibility to advertising, the marketing
was targeted to boys between 12 and 17, despite the game being rated
The M-rated "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," listed as one of the
most violent and sexually explicit games on the market, instantly
became one of this year's best sellers, outselling every other game
on the market after its October debut. It is part of the "Grand
Theft Auto" series that has sold more than $32 million since 2001.
"San Andreas" players avenge the hero's mother's murder and restore
glory to his gang by shooting police officers, burglarizing homes,
committing carjackings, and soliciting, fornicating with and beating
"Today's parents are playing defense against a
multibillion-dollar industry that makes more money by marketing this
kind of stuff to children," the governor said. "It's not that this
is out there and they are running into it -- it's being thrown at
them. Just like the tobacco industry did with Joe Camel, marketing
cigarettes to kids, the video game industry is marketing sex and
violence and morally bankrupt behavior to children. The more they
market it, the more money they make."
During his stop in Peoria, Gov. Blagojevich encouraged parents to
to learn more about the effect playing violent and sexually explicit
games has on children's behavior. The website offers parents the
opportunity to report video games they feel are inappropriate for
their kids and to report Illinois retailers that are selling violent
and sexually explicit video games to minors. Website visitors can
also register their own comments and sign an online petition in
support of the governor's legislation to ban the sale of violent and
sexually explicit video games to minors.
"Let me be clear about what it is we are trying to do," the
governor said. "It's all about protecting our children. We're not
telling adults what they can or can't do. We're not calling for an
outright ban on video games. They will still be legal for purchase
for adults. But, we have certain standards in our society on what's
appropriate for children and what's not. Things that will hurt kids,
we don't allow. Kids can't choose to smoke until they reach a
certain age. They can't choose to drink alcohol until they reach a
certain age. Kids can't drive cars until they reach a certain age.
We protect our children until they are old enough to protect
themselves and make their own decisions."
[News release from the