Anti-violent video game laws brewing in state legislatures – what effect on coin-op?

Shaggy March 4, 2008 0

In the world of video games, we’ve always had to battle negative and usually erroneous opinions regarding our hobby, especially when it comes to violent video games. There was a time when arcades were central to the “controversy” as games such as Mortal Kombat  came along and gained popularity.  There have been a few other violent games in arcades, including what was probably the first violent game ever, Death Race which was released way back in 1976. But as time has passed the number of violent arcade games has decreased and governments put their attention on home and PC games – which they have already regulated with a detailed rating system and at least in the US, fines can be imposed on stores that sell these games towards minors. It doesn’t seem to matter that in the end it’s in the hands of the parents as for many governments it’s never enough as they seek to satisfy their appetite for regulation and power. This is of course a sensitive subject but it comes to mind as I read a post by the AAMA on They state:

With many state legislatures returning to session in January, there are again a series of bills that have been introduced that seek to restrict access by minors to games that contain violent content.  To date, all of these legislative efforts have been focused on the home- and PC-based side of the industry, with most attempting to restrict access to
games on the basis of ESRB ratings of “M” or “AO” which are not relevant for the coin-op industry.

The coin-op industry uses a different rating system (click on the thumbnail to enlarge)gamerate.jpg than home games where a series of color-coded stickers with a brief description of the game content are printed on them. Green stickers are the equivalent of “E”, Red stickers are the equivalent of “M”. The AAMA also writes about pending legislation for coin-op gaming in a few states which I’m putting this after the post break as I have some more to say on the subject.

The AAMA further wrote:

State legislatures are also exploring news laws related to coin-op, in most instances providing additional protections for coin-op tournaments under existing gambling statutes.  In
Georgia, however, legislation has been introduced that would tax coin-op games used for gambling under state law, and use the tax proceeds to support public trauma centers.  In Hawaii, legislation has been introduced that would criminalize tampering with coin-op games.

Fortunately it appears that legislation towards coin-op games is fairly mild although it’s important to remain vigilant.  The problem is that as arcades increase in popularity, it generally leads governments to seek to tax them more to satiate their greed (don’t tell me that governments are incapable of greed; it doesn’t change the meaning simply because it’s wrapped in the name of “the public good”). This happened in many cities back in the 80’s, which did not help arcades stay open and unfortunately many of those cities still have laws on the books that either put a high tax on every machine an operator owns or simply bans arcades outright. At least right now states are only targeting games that are more gambling machines than outright games.

I don’t believe that violent video games are the cause of societies ills. It’s not an issue that will be resolved anytime soon as every time there is a public shooting then the media is quick to either connect the dots to violent video games or if those dots don’t exist(as was the case in several shootings that occurred last year including the Trolley Square Shootings in my city of Salt Lake or the VA Tech shootings), make them up. Public shootings have existed long before Death Race appeared on the scene as has murder, war, crime, etc. Banning violent video games won’t make those problems go away, only changing ourselves for the better will.

Talk-show radio host Rush Limbaugh articulated further on the whole point shortly after the VA Tech shootings:

Not every video gamer goes out and murders 33 people on the college campus though. There’s more to this than that. We can find all kinds of societal problems and ills, but the fact of the matter is that whatever you would look at as a bad influence — video games as you mentioned — it may desensitize people, but it doesn’t turn everybody into mass murderers…But how many people are playing video games out there? How many millions of people play video games, and how many millions of people have guns?

I’ve played violent games since Doom but I understand that it’s not real and if there are problems in my life then they are either of my own making or outside of my control. If that’s the case then it’s up to me to overcome them and make myself a better person, which every human being is capable of, if they want to.

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