California AB 1179 covers video game content that features “serious injury to human beings.” Studies have consistently found that minors who play such games are likely to become desensitized to violence, less empathetic toward others and more aggressive.
Under the terms of the new law, which mirrors similar legislation in several other states including Illinois and Michigan, retailers could be fined as much as $1,000 for each violation. Video game manufacturers would be required to label their games “adults only,” although stores would not be fined for the manufacturers failure to label videos as being inappropriate for children.
"I signed legislation to ensure parent involvement in determining which video games are appropriate for their children," Schwarzenegger said. "The bill I signed will require that violent video games be clearly labeled and not be sold to children under 18 years old. Many of these games are made for adults and choosing games that are appropriate for kids should be a decision made by their parents."
The author of the bill, Assemblyman Leland Yee, praised the governor’s decision to move ahead with the statewide effort to protect children from violence.
"Unlike movies where you passively watch violence, in a video game, you are the active participant and making decisions on who to stab, maim, burn or kill," Yee said. "As a result, these games serve as learning tools that have a dramatic impact on our children."
Unhappy with governor’s endorsement of a bill that could potentially put a serious crimp in video game sales, the gaming industry has vowed to throw its weight behind a court challenge.
The president of the Entertainment Software Association, Douglas Lowenstein, said he is confident a lawsuit will prevail.
"We are disappointed that politicians of both parties chose to toss overboard the First Amendment and free artistic and creative expression in favor of political expediency,” Lowenstein said. “AB 1179 is punitive against retailers, will waste limited taxpayer dollars, and when it is struck down by the courts, as has been the fate of similar statutes, parents will be no better off for this effort to damage one of the state's fastest growing and most exciting industries that is providing some of the most compelling entertainment in the world today.”