NJ Assemblyman Sean Kean Doubles Down On Bad Video Game Legislation

from the twice-as-stupid-in-half-the-time! dept

To all you politicians out there willingly riding the coattails of a massacre into the Big Book of Bad Legislation: Just. Stop. There’s too many of you out there right now using your downtime to Pin the Tail on the Scapegoat with poorly conceived bills that aim to clean up a video game market that, quite frankly, is doing a great job regulating itself.

But if you’re someone like Sen. Charles Grassley, Rep. Jim Matheson, CT State Sen. Toni Harp or Rep. Debralee Hovey, something needs to be done about this nonexistent problem, and it needs to be done now. Lots of “something” has already been proposed and, fortunately, most of that “something” will be discarded before it ever becomes law, thanks to the Constitution.

However, if you’re someone like NJ Assemblyman Sean T. Kean, you’re not going to stop at one “something.” No, if you’re an inspired go-getter like Kean, you’re going to introduce two diametrically opposed video game-related bills, hurl them into the legislative chambers and shout: “Now kiss!

Here’s “something” No. 1:

The first proposal prohibits the sale of any video game with an ESRB rating of “mature” or “adults only” to a person under the age of 18. Violating this law would carry a fine of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense. In addition, the Attorney General would be given the legal authority to issue cease and desist orders against the retailer and award punitive damages to the minor.

Kean is obviously unaware that the video game industry’s entirely voluntary ratings system has managed to turn away 87% of underage purchasers. And this is happening without threats, hefty fines or the heavy hand of government intervention. But, as we all have learned over the years, the government simply cannot believe that good things happen without its interference. Politicians’ jobs rely on this misconception. And that’s how we end up with suggestions legislation like this, one that claims to be “for the children,” but is really just the government hanging around outside game retailers with its hand out.

Judging by the impressive size of the fines (and the bizarre award of punitive damages to the minor — what? getting the game isn’t reward enough?), Kean is very serious about keeping “violent, sexually explicit” video games out of the hands (and eyes) of children — so serious, in fact, that he has introduced another bill, which oddly enough, finds a way to put these M-rated games right back in these kids’ hands (and eyes).

Under the second bill, minors would be permitted to purchase video games containing mature and adult content only if their parent or guardian is present during the purchase and gives their consent verbally or in writing at the time of the sale. Penalties for any violations are the same as with the first bill.

Good news, kids! Know someone over the age of 17? Then you too can own any number of “violent, sexually explicit” titles simply by declaring a random 17+ person your “guardian!” It’s called a “two-party sale” and it’s no different than hitting up the nearest 21-year-old still wearing his high school letter jacket and asking him (or her — but it’s always a him) to pick you up something to drink from the local liquor jobber. More seriously, why is this even needed? Parents have always had the option to purchase M-rated titles for their kids. This just throws additional pressure on the retailers who now have to make a judgement call as to the legitimacy of the adult accompanying the underaged purchaser. Before Kean’s meddling, all a retailer had to do was refuse the sale. If this bill makes it through, retailers will be faced with the dubious pleasure of selling M-rated games to minors simply because someone over the age of 17 said it was OK — and hefty fines if they screw up.

Here’s Kean rationalizing these two bills.

“Just as it’s unlawful for minors to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, because it’s detrimental to their well being, the same can be said of adult video games, most of which contain extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer’s eyes and ears,” said Kean. “These two pieces of legislation are intended to protect children.”

While I can appreciate the tiny bit of deference shown towards parents who may feel their children can handle Call of Duty (or just don’t care), I’m of the opinion that Kean’s much more fond of the first bill than the second. The first is a deterrent with a government-rewarding fine attached that plays right into his “video games hurt children” mindset. The second is lip service towards individual responsibility. If Kean truly cares about individual responsibility, he’d shut up and get out of the way and let a system that is working extremely well continue unimpeded by unnecessary government interference.

Filed Under: , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “NJ Assemblyman Sean Kean Doubles Down On Bad Video Game Legislation”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Rikuo (profile) says:

This. Takes. The. Cake.

I mean…how insane do you have to be to say “If the kid does wrong, we’re gonna fine the store and give the kid the money!” That would only encourage the kids to do it!

Okay, so it’s long been established that the politicians don’t really care about “protecting the children”. Why is it that they can’t at least do a decent job of pretending to be?
Oh wait. I just remembered that famous quote from some politician who said that they rarely read the legislation they vote on.

TaCktiX says:

Idiocy of the legislation notwithstanding, I feel like politicians are completely ignorant of video game demographics. They think that only children play video games, when the mean age is closer to the mid-20’s. It would play into the constant obsession with “for the children” legislation when they aren’t even the core market.

Anonymous Coward says:

So the first problem with Something 1 is that it is reliant on the (again, voluntary) ESRB rating system. Selling a game with ESRB rating of Mature or Adults Only to a person under 18 is illegal, but no other distinctions are made. If a game is not rated, or if it is rated by some other board in the future, or if it is given a replacement rating which is called something else but means the same thing (remember the Kids-Adults rating which was supplanted with today’s Everyone?), the sale is legal.

The second, much larger, problem is that awarding punitive damages to minors for such a sale encourages them to deceive the stores into selling them the games. Hey kids! Go to the game store and con your way into buying an M-rated game! Not only will you get the game, but you’ll put the store on the hook for breaking the law, and the government will dump a pile of money on you!

I’m not sure I could pen a more backwards system of incentives if I tried.

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

If children are playing unsuitable games, you need to ask who is buying them.

Stores should not be selling these inappropriate games to kids when they are below the age threshold and I cannot see too many stores doing so and jeopardising their business. Even then, I cannot see too many children with their own money and able to buy these games themselves.

It is the parents buying these games so it is parents who need to accept the responsibility for allowing their children such indulgences.

out_of_the_blue says:

Industry acts only when under threats.

The “video game industry’s entirely voluntary ratings system” is NOT “entirely voluntary”. Minion Cushing blithely ignores that without constant threats from gov’t stemming from the obvious public pressure, that “industry” would sell anything to anyone who had cash. These are the sort of societal standards that civilization requires, and we CANNOT leave it up to amoral “free markets”.

Another case of looking at a current complex societal system and claiming that it’s working fine and doesn’t need gov’t interference, when in actuality, it HAS much already and does need it. — Possibly not more interference, but keeping the pressure on can’t harm.

Such items are a staple on Techdirt because give gamers angst and excuse to wail — like ankle-biters who are actually protected inside fenced yards from the many types of dangers outside it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Industry acts only when under threats.

You seem to have a lot of theories about TechDirt’s readership demographic, variously calling us all ‘gamers’ or ‘pirates’ or whatever strikes your fancy at the moment. I’m very curious as to what your own role is here, continually showing up and spouting tangential nonsense – personally, “village idiot” isn’t a title I’d want attached to my name, but to each his own I guess.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Industry acts only when under threats.

There are stupid posts here in Techdirt and then there are your posts, which i lack the knowledge of words to say how stupid, idiotic and moronic they are.

I have to acknowledge that being such an idiot like you requires both EFFORT and a NATURAL ability.

Anyways, please do continue to post your idiotic statements. I laugh a lot at the idiocy you display and how the other people mock the s**t out of you.

DannyB (profile) says:

Additional rationalizing

Here’s Kean rationalizing these two bills.

?Just as it?s unlawful for minors to purchase alcohol and cigarettes, because it?s detrimental to their well being, the same can be said of adult video games, most of which contain extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer?s eyes and ears,? said Kean. ?These two pieces of legislation are intended to protect children.?

I would like to point out that High School also contains extremely inappropriate content for a young viewer?s eyes and ears. So if you want to protect the children, then keep them out of high school and safe at home playing video games. This third item is at least as good for the children and for society as the first two pieces of legislation.

Thank you legislators for considering this legislation on this fine early day in April.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Additional rationalizing

This is an astoundingly good point – I doubt any of these “think of the children” fools have set foot in a public school in the last decade. I’ve heard strings of cuss words from elementary school students that would make a foul-mouthed trucker sob for the future of humanity.

Children are our future (and all that kitschy, bumper-sticker crap) but over-regulation of the media is completely missing the point.

Michael (profile) says:

award punitive damages to the minor

Fantastic idea! Prenda Law was looking for a new niche! With this as law, they will be able to send legal threats to video game retailers to pay up because they have evidence that a child has purchased an M rated game! Now they can troll the legal system AND PROTECT THE CHILDREN!

Dear Retailer,

It has come to our attention that you have sold a video game rated Mature to our underage client Alan Cooper. We are representing him in this matter because we feel your behavior has been deplorable. Although we know you have done this before, we are willing to accept a $10,000 settlement for this offence even though the maximum penalty for such acts is $20,000.

Please mail your check immediately.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘will be discarded before it ever becomes law, thanks to the Constitution’

most of the time, the entertainment industries, with the permission of the courts, are allowed to ignore the Constitution. in another 10 years or so, the constitution wont exist, all thanks to Hollywood and their opos!

the only reason he’s trying to do something like this is to justify the salary he’s being paid. he obviously hasn’t got the sense of a rockin’ horse and those that voted for him are no better! always makes me wonder what else would be banned, prohibited or what have you if it was possible. someone always wants to force their opinions on to others, but never want to take on board what others have to say!

Anonymous Coward says:

I was harmed by a video game store selling me a video game for $30, I deserve $10,000 in compensation.

*a few weeks later*

I was harmed by 333 video game stores selling me a video game for roughly $30, I deserve $20,000 from each of them (or $666,000) in compensation.

*a few weeks later*

I was harmed by 222,000 video game stores selling me a video game for roughly $30, I deserve $20,000 from each of them (or $4,440,000,000) in compensation.

*a few weeks later*

I was harmed by NJ Assemblyman Sean T. Kean, thanks to him no more video game stores exist, and everyone hates me. Whatever will I do with my $4,440,000,000 for the rest of my life?

TaCktiX says:

Re: I think we missed the point of these bills

But the problem is that it’s adding regulation where none is needed. It’s additional oversight when the industry itself is already doing a more than adequate job.

As the linked article to 87% denied states, the FCC does the secret shopping, NOT the ESRB or any other gaming retailer. The oversight is already there and is already working, no more regulation is needed.

That is why the bill is stupid and wasteful.

avideogameplayer says:

Instead of taking away the video games, why don’t we first stop showing unrealistic depictions of violence on the little and big screen?

We wouldn’t have this issue if we weren’t trying to feed our kids a daily dose of violence at every turn…

And they wonder why our kids are growing up screwed in the head…

We have gave up parental resposibilities to television, movies and the internet…


Or get sterlized…

NaBUru38 (profile) says:

That’s how it’s the law in Uruguay: minor can’t watch films rated 18+ alone, but they can if accompanied by an adult. Same for films 15+, 12+ and 9+. Anyway, GI Joe and Die Hard 5 are 9+, and only Tarantino-level films get 15+.

It does make sense to me. Anyway, the Supreme Court said that a similar Californa law for videogames was inconstitutional because it restricted freedom of speech, that it, minors were prevented from access to speech. The same will happen here.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...