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February 8, 2006

Protect my granddaughter from evil GAMERS!!!

Filed under: Thoughts and Rants — Tom B @ 9:38 am

They say there are two thing you never want to watch being made…sausage and laws! I got a little taste of that yesterday (laws, not sausage!) when I traveled to Tallahassee Florida to speak in opposition to House Bill 647, a bill related to violent video games being presented for consideration to the Business Regulation Committee. The ESA contacted me a few days ago when they learned that my ole buddy Wacky Jacky might be in attendance to speak in support of the bill. So, I could not miss the opportunity to take the trip.

The bill is being offer by representative Baxley who I do not doubt is well meaning. Mr. Baxley had never seen a video game until this issue was brought to his attention by State Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla. Apparently someone (hmmm…he did refer to Thompson as “Our Dear Friend”) convinced him that his granddaughter was going to be attacked on the playground by someone “desensitized” and “corrupted” by playing evil games like GTA. He also had many other fears associated with games that were either imagined, based purely on supposition or just plain wrong.

This Bill is a carbon copy of the California bill, based on the Illinois Statute already overturned by a Federal Court as being unconstitutional. A fact that Representative Baxley admitted when he presented his bill to the Committee. Yes, that’s right. He admitted the bill he wanted them to pass was constitutionally flawed, but wanted them to pass it anyway. Go figure… Of course, the simple fact it that this sort of singling out of games for treatment substantially move restrictive that other entertainment media is never going to meet constitutional muster was completely ignored.

After spending the last 5+ years working with Games-Florida to “Bring Florida to Game Developers and to Bring Game Developers to Florida” you can imagine my position on a bill that singles out our industry to more severe regulation. Aside from being useless, this bill is awefully mean spirited. For example, under this bill if a clerk at retail store inadvertently sells an “18 Only” game to someone under 18 the clerk himself is guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a $250.00 fine. Heck that’s almost a week’s pay for those folks.

Unfortunately Wacky Jacky was a “no show.” No surprise there. However, it was interesting hanging with a bunch of industry representatives and lobbyists and learning a little more about the process. But the whole thing of listening to this Baxley guy rant on about his warped perceptions about games, and then getting only 5 minutes to respond by addressing the committe comprised of a bunch of folks who were rally not that interested in what was going on anyway, was a bit much for me. The representative from ESA went first, followed by a lobbyist from the Retailers. I batted last.

First, I mentioned that I am a Floridian, not a paid lobbyist and a hard core gamer. I explained my ties to the industry and my efforts in behalf of Games Florida. I then characterized the bill as a slap in the face to an industry that Florida should be courting, not offending. I mentioned the $42M in incentives that were used to secure EA’s expansion of it’s Tiburon Studio in Orlando, including $4.2M from the State. I talked about jobs and the importance of this high tech, low impact industry to the State’s future. The only problem I had was when I compared this uproar about video games to the uproar in the 50’s about rock and roll. One of the representatives (a 30 something guy who very obviously was not there at the time) objected to my invoking the name of “Elvis” to make my point. He could not see how anyone could compare Elvis to these evil violent games, which he referred to as an “abomination” (cool word I’ll have to try to use it more…). Of course, that is exactly how Elvis was being referred to in the 50’s.

So, the bill got tabled in the Business Regulation committee. (There should be a video of the February 7, 2006, session up on the committee site in a few days, our bill was second on the agenda, about 1/2 way through the video.) No vote for now. The bill will have to pass through three more committees before it can be considered for passage. and the legislative session in Florida is only a few months long. So, while we did not get is killed, it certainly is slowed down which, in this long process, is almost as good.

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