The bill proposing a new study into the effects of video game violence on children has died. The bill was introduced by West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller a few days after the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut. A staffer for the senator has told Polygon that the bill will likely be reintroduced at the end of the month.
The recent attention video game violence has received from the media and politicians isn’t new. The gaming industry has been under fire for more than 20 years. Here’s a timeline of video game legislation.
The first “Mortal Kombat” game is released. The violent themes of the game, including the “fatality” finishing move outraged many lawmakers, the media, and parents. Congressional hearings on video game violence started later that year and ended in 1993.
The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is voluntarily created by the industry in response to the hearings. The ESRB rates and regulates video games, and provides descriptions of the content. “Mortal Kombat” becomes the first game to receive a Mature rating. Another controversial game, “Night Stalker,” is pulled from shelves.
“Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” receives an Adults Only rating after modders find a “sex” mini-game. Most gamers did not have access to the files. Rockstar pulled the game from shelves and released it without the files. “San Andreas” was reclassified as a Mature game. This controversy led to the Family Entertainment Protection Act , which tried to prohibit the sale of M and AO rated games to minors. The bill did not pass.
More video game related bills are introduced. The Video Game Decency Act tried to make the ESRB grant a rating based on the entire game, not just a video preview. The bill does not mention user-generated content or people who modify games after purchase. The Truth in Video Game Rating Act tried to stop “deceptive” conduct, implying that publishers and developers regularly hide content from the ESRB. Both bills died.
The Supreme Court rules that video games are a protected media under the First Amendment. In the ruling, the Court pointed out that games “like protected books, plays, and movies communicate ideas through familiar literary devices.” This case stemmed from legislation in California that tried to make it illegal to sell violent games to minors.
Even though video games are protected speech, this hasn’t stopped lawmakers and the media from saying that video games were a reason the Sandy Hook shooting happened. On Dec. 19, Rockefeller proposed his bill to study video game violence. However, there already have been seven other similar studies that show no link, according to the Entertainment Merchants Association .