The video game business has become a multibillion dollar industry in a relatively short span of time. Video games are now by far the most popular gift requested by children this holiday season. This fact is exemplified by the hundreds of people who camp in line at the door of their favorite video game and electronics store just to be one of the first to own a new console gaming system. As the popularity of these games has grown, so has the average age of the typical player. However the “heavy gamers” still tend to be younger, typically under the age of 17.
Unfortunately, some of the more popular games contain explicit sex and graphic violence content not acceptable for younger audiences. It is appalling that a multitude of games presently on the market promote virtual acts of violence and criminal mischief as game objectives. Studies have shown that violent video games are likely to make a person desensitized to real-life violence for the short-term after intense game play. Adolescents who constantly play violent games are also found to be more likely to engage in real-life violent and aggressive behavior in school and at home.
By following the guidelines labeled on games by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), it is easy to disseminate what is suitable for the age level of the gamer. However, the system is strictly voluntary for game manufacturers, so the effectiveness in warning against violent and sexually explicit content is not consistent. The best way to determine what games are appropriate is for a parent to sit down and play them with their children. Most retailers have policies that prohibit sale of certain games to minors. While I am encouraged by this, much more needs to be done to keep inappropriate games away from our most vulnerable citizens.
Illinois passed a law banning the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors, similar to regulations placed on music and movies. In the spirit of this law, I have proposed Assembly Bill No. 5968/06 which would prohibit the sale of explicit and violent video games to minors and make mandatory the rating and labeling of video games. I believe it is imperative the state Legislature take up the matter in the upcoming legislative session; therefore, I will be reintroducing this legislation in the New Year.
I encourage all residents to contact their legislators, both in the Senate and the Assembly, to force action on this issue. Our children are already exposed to too much violence and while not all of it is from video games, they certainly contribute to the problem.