Flanked by Captain Kangaroo and other children's advocates, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.)said yesterday that while video games are protected as free speech, some are too violent to be played by children.
"Few parents would buy these games for their kids if they really knew what was in them," Lieberman said at a Capitol Hill news conference.
Lieberman and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) have sponsored legislation that would give the video game industry one year to produce "a credible, uniform system to warn parents." If the industry failed to produce its own system of ratings or warning labels, the bill would create an independent council to impose a warning system.
Next week a Senate subcommittee chaired by Lieberman will hold hearings on the issue.
Sega of America Inc., one of the nation's largest video game distributors, said it is already keeping violent games away from children and younger teenagers. Sega Vice President Bill White said, "The adult market today wants something more than just playing Pac-Man."
Apparently, they're getting it.
Lieberman showed reporters segments of two video games, Mortal Kombat and Night Trap.
Mortal Kombat features two martial-arts warriors pounding away at each other amid much spattering of blood. The choices for killing the opponent include ripping his heart out or removing his head and spinal column.
In Night Trap, the goal is to prevent a gang of black-hooded killers from capturing scantily clad sorority sisters and using a drill device to drain their blood.
"We're not talking Pac-Man or Space Invaders anymore," Lieberman said. "We're talking about video games that glorify violence and teach children to enjoy inflicting the most gruesome forms of cruelty imaginable."
Lieberman said he would prefer that Congress ban such violent games, but he said they are constitutionally protected.
Bob Keeshan, also known as Captain Kangaroo, said greed was the sole motive behind the games.
Lieberman quoted one industry estimate that Mortal Kombat would generate $100 million in business this Christmas season. He said more than 3 million copies of the game have already been sold. The games cost between $40 and $80 but can be rented at video stores for a few dollars. They are also available in video arcades.