Florida House panel votes to regulate video-game violence

Wednesday, April 22, 1998

Mortal Kombat 4.3

Mortal Kombat 4.7

Mortal Kombat 4.11
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A video game showing a triumphant warrior ripping out the bloody heart of his opponent helped a House committee decide Tuesday that the content of such games should be regulated.

“If we allow some of our young people to have their minds poisoned by this violence, it affects us all,” said bill sponsor Rep. Barry Silver, D-Boca Raton. “This violence has affected the moral fiber of our youth.”

The bill, which industry officials say would break new ground nationally, covers video games played outside the home, although it would also regulate the public display of home-based games in a retailer’s window.

A video arcade owner or retailer could be fined up to $50,000 if anyone under 18 years old enters a room containing graphically violent games. A companion bill in the Senate has yet to be heard.

House Bill 3341 defines “graphic violence” as death or severe injury including decapitation, dismemberment and repeated instances of grotesque cruelty.

Critics said the legislation may have constitutional problems, most notably a violation of the free-speech provision in the First Amendment.

Doug Lowenstein, president of the Interactive Digital Software Association, a video game industry group, said Florida is the first state to try to regulate the content of video games.

“For 50 years the U.S. Supreme Court has held attempts at the state level to ban content are unconstitutional,” he said. “It’s a waste of state legislators’ time.”

The outcome of the bill depends on what happens on the House floor during the last two weeks of the session.

The House Governmental Rules and Regulation Committee passed the bill unanimously after seeing a tape of the video game Mortal Kombat.

After a male warrior repeatedly pummels a female opponent, the game urges him to “finish her.” He then punches his hand into her chest and rips out her heart as blood gushes to the floor. At other times, the winning warrior instead pulls out the entire spine.

Next Generation

, a magazine devoted to the video gaming industry, called Silver’s bill a “serious threat to video games in Florida” in its May issue. The magazine said the measure might lead to the removal of all public video games in the state and possibly start a national trend.

Earlier this month, Gov. Lawton Chiles threw his support behind the measure and said increasingly violent video arcade games go beyond entertainment: “They’ve become an instruction manual for murder and mayhem.”