Congress Addresses Violent Games [05/07/02]

As reported on MSN, a bill, known as The Protect Children from Video Game Sex and Violence Act of 2002 has been introduced in Congress by Rep. Joe Baca, D-CA. The bill would apply to any game that features a variety of violent acts and crimes including rape, decapitation, car-jacking and most anything else that can be considered a crime in real life. So, basically, any game that earns a Mature Rating from the ESRB would be covered by the bill. Oddly enough, vulgar language and nudity doesn't seem directly mentioned.

If passed, the bill would make selling or renting these games to minors a punishable crime. First time violators could pay up to $1,000 in fines and multiple violations could result in jail time and fines of up to $5,000. Since, a large percentage of retailers (78% in a December FTC study) sell games to underage shoppers, this is sure to affect game sales and even the enforcement of policies with a number of companies.

In a press release, Baca stated: "When kids play video games, they assume the identity of the characters in the game, and some of these characters are murderers, thieves, rapists, drug addicts and prostitutes. Do you really want your kids assuming the role of a mass murderer or a car-jacker while you are away at work?" God forbid parents take an active role in their child's interests. Maybe that's part of the problem. It's sad that the government has to make a law to make parents pay attention to what their children play.

What it boils down to: If this passes, underage gamers will be forced to actually include their parents in on their game purchases, thereby giving some validity to the ESRB system which has been mostly ignored for some time in the retail market. Underage gamers will have limited access to more violent games, which in turn may affect sales. And, if companies realize that a portion of the market their game is being aimed at can't buy it, game developers may be required to alter the content.

Let's be honest... If this had gone into law a year ago, how well would games like Grand Theft Auto 3 and Metal Gear Solid 2 sold? Both would have sold well, but not at the numbers they did. Many parents would have balked at the idea of paying for games in which your child can commit acts of violence, no matter the fact that it is meerly a game.

As an older gamer, the thought of this law tears me in two directions: 1) Maybe the ESRB ratings will actually be taken at more than face value and younger gamers won't be allowed to buy Mature Rated games anymore. I know they'll complain, but in all honesty, they shouldn't be buying the games in the first place. 2) The government shouldn't have to make parents take an interest in their children's hobbies, and what's to say that this isn't the first step towards mandating censorship or required changes in games to meet government standards. Either way, the impact on gaming from this bill may be huge if or when it gets passed.

- - Kinderfeld

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