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Congress bears down on violent video games

Upcoming hearing scheduled to "inform parents of dangers" of video games, as a slew of bills aimed at the industry move through committee.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

Violent and sexually explicit video games are once again coming under political scrutiny as a House committee on consumer protection says it will hold a hearing on the topic, reports News.com.

The focus of the hearing is to inform parents of the purported dangers of these type of games. There are a number of bills still in committee which address the issue of violent and sexual themes in games. Among them: a bill that bars the rental or sale of "mature" games to minors, a bill which orders a federal study on the effects of "electronic media on kids," and another bill that would require a study on the game rating system. A law has already passed that instructs the FTC to investigate Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Lobbyists for the Entertainment Software Association and the Entertainment Safety Ratings Board, which oversees the labeling of games, said they will testify at the hearing and look upon it as an "as an opportunity to talk about the tools available to parents," such as parental control technology.

But attempts to squash commercial products in the interests of "protecting the children" won't go far without a lawsuit.

In April, a federal judge tossed out a Michigan law that criminalized the sale of violent video games to children under 17, deeming it a violation of the First Amendment's guarantees of free expression. During the past few years, federal courts have declared similar laws in California, Illinois and Washington--along with the cities of St. Louis and Indianapolis--to be unconstitutional.

That hasn't stopped other states from continuing to pass new laws. Just last week, the Oklahoma Legislature gave final approval to a bill that would make it a crime to sell violent video games to anyone younger than 18. It heads next to the governor's desk.

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