New York signs videogame bill into law

New York, you’ve finally done it. It took you a while, but you’ve finally signed that pointless videogame law into action. If you look back at the coverage Samit and David Houghton gave the bill, you’ll get an excellent idea of what the bill talks about. I’ll try not to just repeat what they’ve already said.

Of course, as soon as this was passed, condemnations of the whole law were shouted by the ESA and the ACLU. The ESA’s release condemned the law as pointless, a waste of money, and ignores legal precedent. An interesting quote from the NYCLU’s Bob Perry:

This bill was adopted in the last minutes of the legislative session, without hearings, without meaningful debate, without an opportunity for members of the public or industry to address the constitutional issues and the media technology issues implicated by the bill.

This law has no teeth in terms of regulating videogames. It simply mandates that two standards that are already in place exist (ESRB ratings and parental controls on consoles). Digging in a bit further, though, what I noticed was the bill talking about an “advisory council on interactive media and youth violence.” I’ll go into a bit more after the jump.

Here are the council’s main responsibilities:

  • Make advisements on interactive media and youth violence related issues
  • Address the potential impact of interactive media on minors, looking for relationships between them and violence
  • Assess the effectiveness of the ESRB rating system
  • Study the possibility of establishing a parent-teacher violence awareness program

And who will be on this council? Sixteen members, appointed by the governer.

The members shall include individuals with expertise in the area of the youth violence, one representative from the video game manufacturing industry and one representative from a trade association representing video game retailers.

My biggest question is, why do you need to rate the effectiveness of the ESRB? I have never seen a case of a game being misappropriately labeled — except when GTA was given an AO rating or forced to change. If you’re worried about kids getting games that they shouldn’t be playing, then focus on the retailers.

And if they found the ESRB rating system inadequate? What would happen then? My guess is that the ESRB would immediately move to strike down the law, as they have industry-wide support and can easily claim that it would cause serious confusion in the market. Of course, I’m no legal expert, but that’s just what I can foresee.

While the bill has no teeth to bite with, I’m somewhat worried about the complications this can create further on down the road. The advisory council could try to upset the ESRB (remember, videogames are only represented by 1/8th of the council at best), and with that, create a new legal precedent that other states will soon follow suit with. My suggestion: take care of it now, ESA, before this becomes a really big problem.