The Southeast Michigan chapter of the IGDA just released the following memo:
Local Game Developers Protest New Legislation
Game developers in Southeast Michigan are voicing their complaints over some new legislation making the rounds in the state senate. Bills sponsored by Senators Hansen Clarke and Alan Cropsey prepare the state to take a much firmer stance on the sale of video games to young people. A number of hearings regarding these bills will be held this month to discuss them further. The next one is scheduled for May 6 at the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, where representatives from local and national game developers are expected to testify against this pending legislation.
Specifically, the bills criminalize the sale of games rated ‘M’ for mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board to anybody under the age of 17. Under one of the proposed amendments to the Michigan penal code, any individual who is found selling one of these games can be put in jail for up to a year and even fined up to $5,000. The idea behind these bills is that they are designed to protect our youth from “those who poison the minds of our young people,” Governor Jennifer Granholm said.
But Michigan’s local game development community contends that the proposed legislation is flawed on a number of levels.
“The bill indicts the game development industry on the whole,” said Cristopher Boyer, CEO of local video game publisher Variant Interactive, Co.
“When compared to other entertainment mediums which produce similar products, game developers are considered to be these villainous deviants with no moral compass,” Boyer said.
Currently, there is no law or legislation regulating the sale of movies, music or books containing questionable content.
The bills would also put unnecessary burdens on independent software developers, who would have to spend thousands of dollars more to have their game rated when they are only distributing their game on the Internet to credit card-bearing consumers.
“For independent developers, the cost of having your game reviewed could be more than what it costs to make the whole game,” said Gregg Seelhoff, Technical Director at Sophsoft, Inc. — a game development company in Michigan who makes solitaire games to sell on the Internet.
“It could put some people out of business,” Seelhoff said.
Local developers are also apprehensive of the bills when it comes to the growth of the industry, especially in Michigan. There is growing concern that such an attitude by the state’s legislators would create an inhospitable environment for game developers, making it harder to bring more members of the industry to the state. And as an industry that boasts domestic revenues of more than $7 billion per year and growing, local enthusiasts believe that it’s an industry Michigan can not afford to ignore.
“Rather than spending time trying to figure out how to censor games and put our young retail workers behind bars, I think it would be more appropriate for our State government to focus on generating new high-tech jobs by attracting the industry into the State,” said Brian Winn, a professor in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State University, and one of the coordinators of Southeastern Michigan chapter of the International Game Developers Association.
“I think its just another example of the politicians being out of touch with younger and college aged kids,” said Jay Semerad, another coordinator of the local chapter of the IGDA and founder of Red Leader Audio, a music composition studio based out of Ann Arbor, focusing on the game industry. He, like many others, believe that the state’s reluctance to better involve themselves with the game industry will cost them more than just economically.
“Why are they surprised when the kids want to get out of Michigan after graduation?” Semerad said.
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Note that this is not an official press release, as our chapter cannot fully represent the whole organization nor the entirety of its position. However, this statement does not conflict with the IGDA position, and it properly represents the stand of the chapter leadership.