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Wash. bans 'violent' game sales
State becomes first in nation to regulate the sale of video games.
May 21, 2003: 10:40 AM EDT
By Chris Morris, staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) – The state of Washington has become the first in the nation to regulate the sale of video games. Gov. Gary Locke on Monday signed into law a bill banning the sale of certain 'violent' games to anyone under 17.

Specifically, the law forbids selling minors any video or computer game depicting violence against law enforcement officials. Among the titles affected are industry best sellers "Grand Theft Auto 3" and "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City", both published by Take Two Interactive (TTWO: Research, Estimates). Presumably, Atari's (ATAR: Research, Estimates) $30 million "Enter the Matrix", which hit store shelves last Thursday, would also be off limits to its core audience. That title earned only a "Teen" rating, since it is not graphically violent, though police officers are in-game enemies.

Retail employees who sell these games to minors are subject to fines of up to $500.

The Interactive Digital Software Association (the gaming industry trade group) denounced the bill, calling it unconstitutional and announced plans to file a lawsuit, which it hopes will prevent the law from being enforced.

"We're confident that our position will be affirmed in court," said Doug Lowenstein, president of the IDSA. "At a time when the state faces a massive budget deficit, it is unfortunate that taxpayers and parents will see critical funds diverted to defend a bill which is patently unconstitutional. In January 2002 in a similar case, the City of Indianapolis spent $700,000 covering its own and the arcade industry's attorneys' fees on a bill which was unanimously ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit."

The IDSA said it expected others to join the lawsuit shortly.

Others in the gaming industry voiced opposition to the bill.

"Games are art," said Jason Della Rocca, Program Director of The International Game Developer Association. "Games should be afforded the same sort of protection and respect as other forms of speech."

While cities and counties have signed laws regulating the $10.3 billion video game before, Washington is the first to do so on a statewide level. (Similar bills in other states have always died in committee.) Though the IDSA was successful in defeating the Indianapolis law regulating arcades, it has thus far failed in its attempt to overthrow a ruling in St. Louis (county), Mo which said violent or sexually explicit video games are not constitutionally protected forms of speech. That case is currently under appeal.

Meanwhile, other regulation bills are in the works. The largest of these is in Washington, D.C., where Sen. Joe Baca, D.-Calif., has reintroduced his "Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act". The bill would make it a federal crime to sell or rent "adult video games" to minors – with proposed fines of $5,000 or more. Re-introduced to the House on Feb. 11, the bill is currently in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. The 2002 bill of the same name died in that committee.  Top of page




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Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.