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Undaunted, Blagojevich told TIME he plans to avoid the pitfalls of previous efforts by creating a narrower definition of what is violent or sexual. "The violence [banned] would be human-on-human violence and realistic depiction," says Blagojevich. "It's a definition comparable to obscenity statutes that routinely get upheld by courts," he says. Geoffrey Stone, a professor at the University of Chicago law school who specializes in constitutional law, says the Blagojevich bill focusing on sexual content has the best chance of succeeding because it would fall under the category of obscenity for minors, which is a widely accepted concept. In contrast, the measure to regulate violent games "is hopeless because there is no recognized constitutional principle that allows the government to shield children from violent expression," says Stone.
What's more, video-game makers and retailers have vowed to fight Blagojevich's plan. "We will oppose it," says Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, a trade group representing 25 major gaming companies. "The state of Illinois should not dictate the choices parents make," says Lowenstein, who believes that the industry should continue to regulate itself. In fact, some retailers are making an effort to crack down. David Vite, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, says big stores like Target have locking registers that do not permit video-game transactions until a buyer's date of birth is punched in. Proof of age isn't always requested, however. And compliance among retailers is voluntary and often spotty. In a 2003 study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, 69% of kids ages 13 to 16 who tried to purchase Mrated games were able to do so (vs. 36% who were able to get into Rrated movies). The city council of New York last month released the results of a local study that found 16-year-olds could buy Mrated games in nearly 90% of their attempts.
Opponents of video-game laws argue that it is the job of parents, not government, to regulate which games kids can purchase. But some parents say they could use more guidance in determining which games are appropriate for their children. Ruben Burgos, 44, of Chicago, who has a 6year-old son, supports Blagojevich's plan. "Parents need help with control of video games in the same way they needed help with control over cigarettes. Kids can still get cigarettes, but the laws do help," Burgos says.
Other parents believe that legislation goes too far. "I think people are smart enough to know whether their children should play these games or not," says Chicago mom Michelle Nolan, 37, who keeps her family's PlayStation 2 system in her bedroom so she and her husband can monitor what their children play. And, needless to say, most youngsters consider regulation unnecessary. Alex Spicer, 16, of Orinda, Calif., says that he plays video games for five hours at a time on weekends and that he and his friends stop only for bathroom breaks. He's a huge fan of Halo 2, in which humans and aliens kill one another with guns, grenades and other weapons. But he says the violence is "not that bad. It's really just for fun." Alex's dad Scott doesn't have a problem with his son playing the game and says, "He's 16. He can certainly separate reality from the fiction of those things."