May 31, 2005

COMPUTER GAMES: Kanagawa poised to ban sale of violent video game to youth (JAPAN)

Kanagawa poised to ban sale of violent video game to youth

YOKOHAMA ? Kanagawa Prefecture is poised to ban the sale of a violent video game title to youth under 18, claiming it is harmful to minors, local government officials said Monday.

The prefecture is expected to become the first in Japan to designate a violent video game harmful to minors after following the advice of its child welfare council to do so in connection with "Grand Theft Auto III," developed by Rockstar Games of the United States and sold in Japan by Osaka-based Capcom Co.

In the game, the main character kills a number of enemies using guns and other weapons. Capcom had sold about 350,000 volumes of the game software in Japan as of April.

Kanagawa officials selected "Grand Theft Auto III" as the most harmful after buying and playing six game software titles widely distributed in Japan and reputed to have violent scenes.

Child welfare council members judged the violence in the game, such as the main character randomly killing pedestrians using vehicles and guns, as having the "potential to induce youth to feel like doing something cruel," the officials said.

If the game is designated as a harmful publication, its sale to those aged under 18 will be prohibited and the title will be sold on store shelves reserved for similarly designated software and pornography.

Those who sell such games to youth aged under 18 will face fines of up to 300,000 yen.

With a municipality taking action to restrict the sale of publications designated harmful to youth, parents may have second thoughts about letting their children access such publications, said Kanagawa Gov Shigefumi Matsuzawa.

"So, the measure could work as deterrence," Matsuzawa said.

A Capcom spokesman declined to comment on the latest move as it has yet to receive any administrative guidance from the Kanagawa government.

Experts are divided.

Takaaki Hattori, who teaches media-related law at Rikkyo University, said authorities need to show reasonable cause to designate a particular title harmful before exercising their power.

"It's difficult to draw a specific line to decide which kinds of violent games are influential on children," he said.

Meanwhile, Akio Mori, who teaches brain and nerve science at Nihon University and is an author of a book critical of children playing video games, said, "There's no doubt young boys' brutal incidents have been caused under the influence of violent games. We should restrict sale of games in which splattering of blood is a commonplace." (Kyodo News)


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