What would the so-called Massachusetts "Games-as-Porn" bill really mean?
“SECTION 1. Section 31 of Chapter 272 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2004 Official Edition, is hereby amended by deleting the definition ‘Harmful to Minors’ inserting the following new definition: ‘Harmful to minors’, matter is harmful to minors if it is obscene or, if taken as a whole, it (1) describes or represents nudity, sexual conduct or sexual excitement, so as to appeal predominantly to the prurient interest of minors; (2) depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors; (3) is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors; and (4) lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.
“SECTION 2. Said Section 31 of Chapter 272, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by inserting in the definition of ‘Visual Material’ after the word ‘videotape’, the following: ‘interactive media,’.”
-Full text of the proposed Massachusetts House Bill 1423, titled “An Act to Restrict the Sale of Video Games with Violent Content to Minors”
What you see above is the entirety of the bill introduced in Massachusets this week, sponsored by state representative Linda Dorcena Forry and backed by Boston mayor Thomas Menino.
From the outset, it’s easy to see that the introduction, discussion, and imminent failure of this bill is mostly for the sake of posing for cameras and influencing constituencies. Anyone attached to a bill like this can be pointed at as a “family values” candidate, someone who supposedly has the best interests of our children in mind. The recent popularity of gaming makes it a prime candidate for the fire and brimstone of politicians, something that people can look at and condemn at the drop of a hat as they watch it capture the imaginations of the world’s youth. Shouldn’t they be outside, playing? Should they really be interacting with something that treats stealing a car as a good thing? This bill represents people who don’t understand a medium preaching to people frightened by it, a volatile combination any way you look at it.
Still, based on the text of the bill, one might take some issue with the ways it has been represented in the media. For one, it is constantly referred to as the “games-as-porn” bill, which seems a bit disingenuous, since such a label seems to imply that those behind the bill are chomping at the bit to call games porn, to get them out of stores and ruin the day of the developers and publishers behind the filth. I don’t necessarily see it that way—to me, it looks a little bit like a “games-can-be-porn” bill, which actually makes a little bit of sense, to a point.