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ESA will sue to block Michigan game law

Video game industry's lobbying arm plans to file suit against the governor over legislation banning the sale of violent games.

The lobbying arm of the video game industry on Wednesday announced plans to sue the governor of Michigan to block recently passed legislation banning the sale of violent video games there.

The Michigan law, SB 416, is designed to limit the sales of violent video games. But the Electronic Software Association, which represents the video game industry's business and public affairs interests, said the bill, which Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed into law on Wednesday, contains language that's too vague to have any useful impact.

Further, the ESA stated, the law's language cannot be easily parsed by game developers to discern whether their products comply with the legislation.

"If the law is implemented, it will not only limit First Amendment rights for Michigan's residents, but, by virtue of its vagueness, it will also create a huge amount of confusion for Michigan's retailers, parents and video game developers," ESA president Douglas Lowenstein said in a statement. "I'm confident the court will affirm our position given the rulings on similar statutes in other jurisdictions."

Granholm's office disagrees with the ESA.

"On our legislation, we believe it addresses legal concerns with clear definitions," Heidi Hansen, a spokeswoman in Granholm's office told CNET, "and we believe that there is a compelling state interest on the issue and that issue being the protection of our kids."

The law is scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 1, Hansen said.

Meanwhile, Michigan isn't the only state where such legislation is under consideration. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last Thursday was given a bill passed by the state legislature that would ban the sale or rental of violent video games to children.

And in February, two Illinois legislators introduced a bill that sought to restrict sales of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.

Much of the recent outcry over the content of video games has come in the wake of the so-called Hot Coffee scandal, in which sexually explicit content in the hugely popular game, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," was discovered to be available by using a downloadable modification.

In the wake of that scandal, the Electronic Software Ratings Board forced GTA to change its rating from "mature" to "adult."

In any case, Lowenstein said that because the average video game buyer is 37 years old, "it's illogical that video games be treated more harshly than R-rated movies or music CDs with parental warning labels, both of which can be legally viewed and sold to minors."