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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Demuzio: Mods and Indies in Trouble?

Much of my ado about the Illinois law has been focusing on their definition of violence and video games. By detailing a video game as a potentially harmful object, there is a whole new slew of ramifications which follows. This seems an easily overlooked aspect of the law, that it's not only making a moral judgement on video games but a public safety one as well.

There's another aspect which seems to have gone past unnoticed. We generally think of this law merely in brick and mortar stores like Best Buy or Circuit City. There is, however, no such distinction to be found in the law:

"Video game retailer" means a person who sells or rents video games to the public.
- HB4023 12A-10

That means this law includes any internet retailer as well. In it's current form, there is a bit of a safety net as probably 99% of all internet sales go through credit cards which is itself a valid age check.

However, even with that it could impact small developers who offer free downloads of their game that they also sell. So if you are an indie developer creating the next CrimsonLand and a 14 year old downloads the demo of your game in Illinois, you could be up for a $5,000 fine. Plus, you might be liable if that 14 year old gets caught in a subsequent violent crime.

There's an even more nightmarish problem. If the Illinois Assembly were to alter the wording so that it merely covers those who distributes violent material, any person involved on a mod team might be on the hook for this as well. You would no longer be able to distribute violent material without doing a proper age check. Since mods and indie games frequently do not undergo the ESRB rating, they would have no choice but to submit to the Illinois' much broader definition of violent material.

The costs of properly adjusting to these requirements alone could keep many mod teams from developing at all.

1 comment:

Corvus said...

I started this here, but it got too long, so I went ahead and turned it into a post:

http://blog.pjsattic.com/corvus/?p=93