Violent games all the rage this holiday season

Parents beware

Posted: Thursday, October 02, 2003

SEATTLE The Campaign for a Game Smart Community, formed to rein in sales of ultra-violent video games to children, has announced a holiday season initiative to educate parents and press retailers to honor the industry rating system.

''You can't understand totally unless you actually see some clips from the video games,'' state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, said Tuesday.

Clips from two games, ''Grand Theft Auto-Vice City'' and ''Postal Two,'' were shown at the campaign's downtown news conference. In the former, players get points for having sex with prostitutes and then beating them to death to get money back. In the latter, points are awarded for burning and urinating on black police officers and decapitating women with shovels. Both award points for killing just about anybody else who gets in the player's way, Dickerson said.

''Isn't it ironic that the holiday season, known as a time of peace and love, is the very time that retailers will be selling ultra-violent and sick video games to children?'' she said.

''As parents and community leaders, we are saying this has to stop.''

Campaign co-chairwoman Pamela Eakes, founder and head of Mothers Against Violence in America, said it is ''imperative that retailers erect a fire wall'' to prevent sales to kids 16 and younger.

''What we need to tell parents is, they need to play video games so the child gets used to playing with the parent and the parent sees what the games are.'' Eakes said.

Word also needs to get out to grandparents and other relatives who may do some video-game shopping possibly with more indulgent standards than parents over the holidays.

''They just don't know'' what the games involve, Eakes said. ''The purpose of this campaign is to let everybody know.''

The campaign has sent letters to more than 360 game retailers in the three counties, inviting them to become ''Game Smart Retail Partners'' and commit to asking for proof a child is over 17 before selling games rated M for mature.

Retail partners would post ''WE I.D.'' stickers, underscoring the age requirement for kids and parents.

''No ID. No Game. No kidding,'' they say.

Eakes and Dickerson were introduced at the news conference by Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowksi. Police agencies and county executives in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties are listed as campaign partners.

''They all have signed on to participate in the campaign to help parents take control, and to strongly encourage retailers to follow the industry's own rating system just as theater owners follow the rating system of the motion picture industry,'' Dickerson said.

''A lot of parents just think they're games what harm could a game do?'' DIckerson said, ''Research is telling us a lot of harm, if children play these games repeatedly.''

The campaign released a list of recent crimes linked to violent games. For example, several young men, consistent players of ''Grand Theft Auto 3,'' were arrested earlier this year in Oakland, Calif., after a crime spree that included seven murders.

One of the group members was quoted by police as saying, ''We played the game by day and lived the game by night.''

Legislation from Dickerson, the chairwoman of the House Justice and Family Law Committee, barring sales of M-rated games to children was placed on temporary hold by a federal judge in July after industry attorneys raised free-speech issues.

The law would impose a $500 fine on retailers who sell or rent games depicting violence against police to those under 17.

The court challenge will go to trial next June, she said.

But ''this is a grass roots campaign. It doesn't have anything to do with the legislation,'' Dickerson said Tuesday.

The legislation is ''just part of making a difference,'' she said. The only free-speech issue in the campaign will arise ''when parents use their First Amendment rights to publicly encourage retailers to follow the rating system.''

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