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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.

11 Comments »

  1. I can’t believe someone in their 30’s hasn’t played many games. I’m 27, and I’ve been playing computer games since I was 12.

    It’s amazing how he tried to brush off the Elvis comment. I guess he had no idea that Elvis was blamed for the “loosening of America’s morals” due to his hips. His hips. Wow. I mean it sounds stupid now, but at the time it must have been like finding out your neighbor was a communist or an ex-nazi.

    Kudos for trying to enlighten him. Too bad he seemed to be to dense to clue in.

    Comment by Jabrwock — February 8, 2006 @ 2:44 pm

  2. Mr. Buscaglia,
    I want to thank you. You’ve shown me that in this unnecessary witch hunt against video games there a those who still maintain a rational state of mind. Thank you so much for your efforts in Florida and doing your part to show the nation that the chic of going after games is wasteful and illogical. You’re an awesome guy to have in our corner!

    Comment by CowboyBeboper — February 8, 2006 @ 3:27 pm

  3. At least you gave it a try. As you know, the vast majority of gamers are unaware of the threats to the industry. I’m glad that there are individuals like you who understand this and are doing something about it.

    Comment by jon_raleigh — February 8, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

  4. My name is Stephen Broida and I am a student at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). I am currently studying to be a game designer (and trying to scrounge up the $35 to be a student IGDA member despite “poor college student” living standards) and am looking to move to Florida when I graduate, particularly the Orlando area.

    The current wave of irrational and unconstitutional game laws have me concerned about my future in the game industry. While the laws aim at retailers in specific, I’m sure that any laws that pass (even if they are immediately challenged like in CA and MI) would have a chilling effect that travels all the way to developers.

    What I want to know is what I can do as a single person to try and ensure that these laws don’t pass the committee floor. I’ve participated in Game Politics discussions, and also posted in the Anti-Censorship section on the IGDA(thank you free IGDA online account!)

    I’ve noticed that the people who post in these two places are not the most, how shall I say, mature or serious of people. I think they have too much of a big head about them and are too sure of themselves that the laws will fail on their own accord. I personally doubt that, and don’t think constant, pointless arguing and insulting of Jack Thompson will affect ANY of that (and this is something I see on both GamePolitics AND the IGDA Anti-Censorship page).

    As the game lawyer, what are your recommendations? Should I not be so concerned, or do you think I may need to take some kind of initiative to get people to be more serious about this?

    Sincerely,

    Steve Broida

    Comment by OtakuMan — February 8, 2006 @ 4:01 pm

  5. You should check out my recent article on Gamasutra. It’s all about mobilizing gamers as voters. If only 5% of hard core gamers wrote a simple polite letter to Hillary C. and Joe L. saying that they oppose their efforts to single out Games for a higher level of restraint that other entertainment media. I suspect they would drop the whole thing. But we are silent. There is an old adage that people get the government that they deserve. Well that’s sure true for gamers!

    Violence Crazed Gamers of the World Unite!!!

    Comment by Tom B — February 8, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

  6. I did read that article. It was actually what made me want to comment here in the first place. The question is how to take the message from that article and make it spread to people ready to take action. That’s what I want to know.

    Any suggestions on how to get those 5% to raise their voices (as opposed to constantly complaining on message boards and forums where their voices are mixed together in a mush that does nothing)?

    I myself am not sure I have the resources and capabilities to put every thing into action (other than writing the occasional letter when time allows), but since I’m looking to try and add content to Gamasutra myself, I want to try and see what I can do to try and spread the word.

    ~Steve B.

    Comment by OtakuMan — February 8, 2006 @ 7:43 pm

  7. I would use the MoveOn.org model. Start with a web page and then use it to disseminate information and organize a grass roots effort. I suppose I could ask the folks at ESA if they would kick in enough to cover th hosting and basic web development costs. I also think that the major publishers could be approached for support…so long at they are kept at arms length!

    The real problem is not getting it started. It’s keeping it going long enough to gain momentum. Once the organization reaches critical mass it will generate all of the resources it needs. I know there are tons of gamers who would kick in $5-10 to get this going…let’s see…60,000,000 gamers times $5 is…ummm…hmmm…yep, that’s a $300,000,000 budget. Bet we could do some serious lobbying with that sort of loot.

    Comment by Tom B — February 9, 2006 @ 12:43 am

  8. Jack Thompson had a chance to push an anti-violent games law IN HIS OWN HOME STATE and he didn’t take it? He can write little press releases all day telling other senators, District Attorneys and musicians what do do (or else!). But when the time comes to put up or shut up in HIS BACKYARD, he didn’t take it! Never mind the fact it certainly fits his agenda, or that having helped push this bill would given more credibility than just gloating about having been on CBS for 2 minutes. He just didn’t take the opportunity? Even if it was to turn the hearing into a circus and draw more of the attention he craves… He just didn’t show up!!! I find this extremely odd!!

    I wonder what’s the state of the Florida Bar investigation and if there’s any relation. Has anyone followed up on this story? Was he already dis-barred and now all that he has left is writing little press releases all day?

    Comment by duncan_922 — February 9, 2006 @ 12:05 pm

  9. From what I understand the bill’s sponsor decided to go it alone and not have JT or anyone else speak in favor of he Bill. Also as far as I know he is still a member in good standing of the Florida Bar.

    Let’s get this straight…this is not about Wacky Jackie. It’s about YOU…the Gamers. If you don’t get your shit together and start letting your elected officials know your feeling about these bills, in a calm respectful and measured fashion, eventually the proponents of these bills will get them passed. Right now you should be much more concerned about Hillary Clinton and Joe Leibermans’s bill in the US Senate than you are abut JT or any other similar windbag. Focusing on him just wastes bandwidth and gets him more attention.

    Comment by Tom B — February 9, 2006 @ 12:24 pm

  10. I did try to reach people in power with my own statement. I spent 4 hours emailing the President, the VP, all the US senators and US governors with active email or web forms. I sent them a short note referring them to my website where I placed a statement. http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-TWTNBT
    I even sent it to the AP. I never expected a statement from an average citizen to be given any consideration. And other than auto replies from a variety of individuals and 1 snail mail letter from Richard Burr of NC thanking me for telling him about video games, it pretty much felt like I had had no effect. But I still had my say. And hopefully more people will as well.

    I know my statement wasn’t perfect, no where near the eloquence that you and many others, even average citizens, could and have made. But I still tried anyway.

    nightwng2000

    Comment by nightwng2000 — February 9, 2006 @ 4:07 pm

  11. Here Here! I agree 100%! I think your MoveOn.org model idea is great! I think I know of a few people over at the anti-censorship section of the IGDA who have the web design and development energy and resources to pull something like that off. Problem is, they’ve been focusing ALL of their energy on Jack Thompson. http://www.jackthompson.org/ This is the website they have put together so far.

    They spent about a month putting that together, and it’s been up since Hot Coffee in July/August/September. Any recommendations on how they can improve their energy?

    ~Steve B.

    Comment by OtakuMan — February 10, 2006 @ 5:43 am

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