Pols Target Video Game Violence

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Welcome to the dark world of "Grand Theft Auto San Andreas," where killing cops earns you points, not prison.

Who would buy such a violent game? As CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports, plenty of people.

The "Grand Theft Auto" series has sold more than 35 million copies with worldwide sales approaching $2 billion.

High school teacher Deb Perryman knew the games were out there, but until she was asked to review them for a statewide task force, she had no idea what was actually in them

"I was really shocked," she says. "They were even to me more graphic than the most graphic movie I've ever seen."

Partly because of her task force's findings, Illinois passed a law making it a crime to sell violent or sexually explicit video games to anyone under 18.

When Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich signs that bill into law, it will face almost certain challenge. Similar laws have been struck down as unconstitutional in Washington state and Indianapolis.

"The courts have never considered the harmful impact that playing violent and sexually graphic has on young children," says Blagojevich.

The video game industry says it will continue to fight any further restrictions. It points out that just like the movie industry, it voluntarily rates its game for age appropriateness, even though a recent study found that despite the warning labels, 50 percent of boys age 7-14 have bought a game rated-M, for mature audiences, and a stunning nine out of ten of the boys have played them.

Fifteen-year-old Travis Perryman says he can understand why some parents might have a problem with a kid playing violent video games.

"Yeah, I can see that, but like I said, this does not equate reality in any way," he says.

But the recent discovery of graphic sex scenes allegedly hidden inside "Grand Theft Auto" and unlocked by a simple code available on the Internet was enough to lead to calls for a federal crackdown.

As for Deb Perryman, she'll take any help she can get to say ahead of the game.

"It's impossible as a parent to keep up," she says.

Reporter's Postscript: in a Web-only addition to the story, Cynthia Bowers writes about her concerns about violent, explicit video games and her 11-year-old son.

As a mom this story hit close to home for me. My 11-year-old son spends a lot of his time playing video games. And other than knowing the names of the games and their rating, I admit I don't know a lot. For a while now he's known how to go on the computer to download "cheats," or, as he calls them, "guidebooks." Now I'm finding out a "cheat" on the game Grand Theft Auto-San Andreas can take the player into an x-rated scene. The game's maker claims the scene is not part of the game, that it's the work of determined hackers. An investigation is underway to find how who's to blame, but I'm not sure that's what matters to me. What does matter is that I am reminded again just how technologically savvy my son is and how that scares me.

I can't always control what he do at other people's homes, but am I even in control in my own home? Where did my son even learn how to download all this information about video games? And how often does he do it? I know there are always clusters of papers lying around with codes on them. And I know the "cheats" only seem to heighten his fascination with a particular video game.

I guess it's like the difference between working a cheesy airline magazine crossword puzzle versus the Sunday New York Times' crossword. But I'm not sure video games are as healthy for his brain as crosswords are for mine. And I wonder now where do the "cheats" he downloads "take" his game. Probably not anywhere dangerous, but since I can't play the game myself, I have no way of knowing -- other than to ask him.

We had a long talk last night about whether the time he spends alone in front of a screen playing games is emotionally healthy. I tried to explain the concept of moral bankruptcy, about how sometimes when I waste time I end up feeling empty rather than full. I'm not sure the conversation will change his habits but it will change mine. Too often I've been taking the lazy way out and curling up with a book, but after dinner tonight I'll invite both my kids to turn off the TV, log-off the internet and play cards or dominoes instead. Who knows, maybe we'll talk too!