ASSEMBLY, No. 2849
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
INTRODUCED OCTOBER 12, 2000
Assemblyman LEROY J. JONES, JR.
District 27 (Essex)
Restricts certain coin-operated video games to persons age 17 or older.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act restricting the use of certain video games and supplementing chapter 33 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. As used in this act:
a. "Harmful graphics" means either: (1) a visual artistic representation containing violence, nudity, or strong sexual content that predominantly appeals to a morbid interest in violence or prurient interest in sex, and is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for persons under the age of 17 years or (2) content labeled with the "Strong" Parental Advisory Disclosure Message of the coin-operated video game Parental Advisory System developed by the amusement machine industry.
b. "Incidental view" means a view for fewer than 30 seconds of the playing surface or screen of a coin-operated video game.
c. "Knowingly" means having general knowledge of, or reason to know, or a belief or ground for belief that warrants further inspection or inquiry of both: (1) the character and content or rating of the visual representations of the coin-operated video game, and (2) the age of the prospective arcade video game observer or player; except that an honest mistake shall constitute an excuse from liability hereunder if the defendant made a reasonable bona fide attempt, including, but not limited to, asking for valid photo identification, to ascertain the true age of the person.
d. "Nudity" means the visual depiction or representation of human male or female genitals, pubic area or buttocks with less than a fully opaque covering, or of a female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any part of the nipple, or the showing of covered male genitals in a discernable turgid state.
e. "Operator" means a person who owns or operates an arcade or other business where one or more coin-operated video games are available for public use.
f. "Prospective video game observer or player" means a person who could observe or operate a video game at a place of business where coin-operated video games are shown, displayed, or exhibited.
g. "Strong sexual content" means the visual depiction or representation of nudity or explicit human sexual behavior by any human or human-like being in a life-like setting in one or more of the following forms: masturbation, deviate sexual conduct, sexual intercourse, or fondling of genitals.
h. "Violence" means a coin-operated game's visual depiction or realistic representation of death or severe injury to a human or human-like being, including, but not limited to: decapitation, dismemberment, repeated instance of bloodshedding, grotesque cruelty, mutilation, maiming, or disfiguration in a way such that the depiction or representation is capable of shocking the conscience of the community and exceeding the boundaries of what should be tolerated in a civilized society.
2. a. It is unlawful for an operator to knowingly show, display, exhibit or permit the showing, display or other exhibition of a coin-operated video game which contains harmful graphics in a public place as defined in section 2 of P.L.1992, c.132 (C.40:48-2.52), on or near the premises of the operator's business, to a person under the age of 17 years.
b. It is unlawful for any operator to knowingly allow a person under the age of 17 years who is not accompanied by his or her parent, guardian, or custodian to be exposed to more than an incidental view of an arcade video game that displays harmful graphics or to allow such person in the partitioned area required under subsection d. of this section.
c. It shall be unlawful for an operator to make available to patrons any coin-operated video game displaying harmful graphics unless each such game displays a conspicuous sign indicating that the game may not be operated by a person under 17 years of age. If such video games are displayed together in an area separate from games that do not contain harmful graphics, a single conspicuous sign in that area or at the entrance to that area may be used to mark the group of games for purposes of this subsection.
d. It shall be unlawful for any operator to make available to patrons any coin-operated video game that displays harmful graphics within 10 feet of a coin-operated video game that is not displaying harmful graphics. Games containing harmful graphics shall be separated from other games by some form of partition, divider, drape, barrier, panel, screen, or wall that completely obstructs the view of persons outside the partitioned area of the playing surface or display screen of the games that display harmful graphics.
3. If there is a dispute as to whether a particular coin-operated video game shall be restricted, the operator may apply to the Superior Court for a declaratory judgment.
4. A person who violates this act shall be fined no less than $200 or more than $1,000 for the first violation. A person who has been cited for a second or subsequent violation shall be fined no less than $1,000 or more than $3,000 for each violation.
5. The provisions of this act shall not be applicable to any coin-operated video game that is on premises licensed for the sale of alcoholic beverages pursuant to Title 33 of the Revised Statutes and on premises where entry is limited to persons who are 17 years of age or older.
6. This act shall take effect on the first day of the fifth month after enactment.
This bill addresses the concerns of parents who feel that children should not have access to the strong violence and sexual content of some arcade-type video games.
It would require operators of coin-operated video games to label and partition those containing "harmful graphics" and prohibit persons under age 17 from viewing or playing them without parental supervision. Off-limits games would have to be conspicuously identified and placed at least 10 feet from games that are not prohibited for persons younger than 17.
"Harmful graphics" is defined in the bill in two ways: (1) as visual artistic representations containing violence, nudity or strong sexual content that predominantly appeals to a morbid interest in violence or prurient interest in sex, and is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community as a whole with respect to what is suitable material for persons under 17; or (2) content labeled with a "Strong" parental advisory by the amusement machine industry. This advisory label identifies games with strong four-letter expletives, graphic depictions of sexual behavior or the human body, as well as those with bloodshed, serious injury or death to human-like or cartoon-like characters. The label, part of a program sponsored by the industry, represented by the American Amusement Machine Association, the Amusement and Music Operators Association, and the International Association for the Leisure and Entertainment Industry, would simplify enforcement by limiting the need for independent judgment calls by operators and local authorities as to what games show, display, or exhibit material containing harmful graphics. These labels are content-based, rather than age-based. The bill contains definitions of violence, nudity and strong sexual content.
Operators who knowingly permit youngsters to play prohibited coin-operated videos, allow them to obtain more than incidental views thereof or violate other aspects of the bill would be fined $200 to $1,000 for each offense. Operators violating the law a second or subsequent time could be fined $1,000 to $3,000 for each offense. Operators who are uncertain as to whether a specific game should be restricted may apply for a declaratory judgment by the Superior Court.
This bill is patterned on an Indianapolis ordinance that became effective in September 2000 and Florida House Bill 3341 of 1999.
An article in the April 2000 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology described two university studies that examined violent video game effects on aggression-related variables. Study 1 found that real-life violent video game play was positively related to aggressive behavior and delinquency. The relation was stronger for individuals who are characteristically aggressive and for men. Academic achievement was negatively related to overall amount of time spent playing video games. In Study 2, laboratory exposure to a graphically violent video game increased aggressive thoughts and behavior.
The video game industry became the focal point of discussion after violent video and computer games were implicated in a number of school shootings. The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into the marketing practices of game producers and distributors, hearings were held in Congress, in state legislatures, and in town halls. Legislation to control the access of juveniles to these games has been introduced in at least eight states and in many communities around the nation.