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Mature games challenged again

  A bill was introduced in Congress last week that would make it a federal crime to sell or rent violent video games to minors. US Representative Joe Baca, D-California, was responsible for the bill and would make The Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act of 2002 apply to all videogames that were dipcted as "violent". This would include games that feature decapitation, amputation, killing of humans with lethal weapons or through hand-to-hand combat, rape, carjackings, aggravated assault, and other violent felonies. This would place numerous games under scrutiny, including the top-selling videogame of 2001, Grand Theft Auto 3, which has already been banned in Australia.

   The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee, as 21 other representatives cosponsored the act. Violators would be subject to fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense and up to $5,000, plus 90 days in jail, for multiple offenses. The US Federal Trade Commission is expected to release a report in June about the sales and advertising of games with mature themes to minors.

   "When kids play video games, they assume the identity of the characters in the game, and some of these characters are murderers, thieves, rapists, drug addicts, and prostitutes," Baca said in a press release. "Do you really want your kids assuming the role of a mass murderer or a carjacker while you are away at work?"

   The Entertainment Software Rating Board assigns ratings for software titles, Web sites, and online games, but participation by both game makers and stores is voluntary. An FTC study released in December found that 78 percent of stores allowed minors to purchase mature rated games.

5/6/2002 Matt Stensrud

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