Clinton, Lieberman Praise ESRB on Capitol Hill

Politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows.

This afternoon Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) joined with ESRB president Patricia Vance to praise the video game industry’s rating system.

It was just over a year ago that Sen. Clinton ripped the game biz over the Hot Coffee scandal. Both senators were on hand during the release of the National Institute on Media and the Family’s 2005 Annual Video Game Report Card, which gave the industry an F for ratings accuracy. The ESRB did much better in the 2006 report card, earning B’s. Sen. Clinton said today:

We all share in the responsibility of making sure our children play age-appropriate video games, and I’m pleased that the ESRB and retailers are working together to educate parents about the video game ratings and make sure they are enforced. As we enter the holiday shopping season, it is important that parents have the information they need to make informed choices that are right for their families.

Sen. Lieberman echoed those remarks, saying:

I continue to be concerned about the impact on minors of playing violent video games intended for older players.  Thus, I am very pleased that the ESRB and the retailers are taking these positive steps to reach out to parents to educate them about the rating system.  I have long said that the ESRB ratings are the most comprehensive in the media industry…

The joint press conference celebrates a new public service ad campaign designed to educate parents about rating as the holiday shopping season gets into full swing. The ads will run on 800 stations nationwide. 

The ESRB’s Vance added:

We’re excited to have the support of Senators Clinton and Lieberman, Best Buy and GameStop in this significant initiative to help ensure that parents choose appropriate games for their children.

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    […] There’s a small hitch though, that came rather a bit of an aftershock. The ESRB has generally received praise from Capital Hill over the years for its enforcement of game ratings and keeping parents informed of in-game content they may not wish their children to read. This strong backing has kept them in the business of ranking games and keeping the United States from seeing gaming bans such as those seen in the U.K. and Australia. However, a recent letter from Joe Lieberman, Hillary Clinton, Evan Bayh, and Sam Brownback may be the small wound that those opposed to violence in games may need to rip apart the ESRB. As noted in the letter, “We ask your consideration of whether it is time to review the robustness, reliability and repeatability of your ratings process, particularly for this genre of ‘ultra-violent’ videogames and advances in game controllers.” […]

  2. 0
    Brokenscope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Jack doesn’t deserve our hatred. He deserves our pity. He is a small bitter and angry man. He is an insignificant insect in a giant world and that is something he cannot come to terms with.

  3. 0
    Daniel says:

    @ Zerodash

    Yes, I’ve read about Jack Thompson’s letter gloating about the fact that a gamer had commiteed suicide. I’ve read a lot of other very disturbing things about that guy. He’s an evil villain. He thinks he’s a holy christian. I can’t imagine a holy person being happy that a fellow human being committed suicide. He is a bad bad man and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t like him at all. He was happy that a human being acommitted suicide only because he liked to play violent video games. Jack Thompson is not a moral christian man and he is evil to his very core.

    You’re absolutely right. He’s a very bad person and he hates violent video games, and the people who play them, to the point of insanity and madness. Some of the people up there say that he is a blessing to video games. I think they’re a bit right in that he keeps hurting himself, but he is keeping the issue alive and I think that’s a bad thing. I’ll bet all the anti-game rallies have Jack Thompson written all over them and I think that we should have a progame rally everytime Jack Thompson has an anti-game rally. We have to fight back because that man is sick.

  4. 0
    Thefremen says:

    Zerodash: I think most of us are exhausted from hating Jack Thompson’s actions. I mean, what, it’s been 19 years? We’ve spent 2 trillion dollars fighting him? I don’t want to cut and run but I don’t think we can achieve anything more by fighting him.

    Now, one exception would be to write some books, like “out of harms way: the fight to keep our first amendment rights from getting crushed by electioneering”.

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    Zerodash ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For those who don’t buy the “JT is the bad guy” thing- don’t forget his letter to gloating about the death of a (gamer) member of their community.

    Lying, backstabbing, and getting smug over the suicide of a kid are not admirable traits.

    Additionally, JT has on several occasions given himself full credit for taking down Rockstar and the Games Industry.

    Memories are getting short around here.

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    Wolf ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “Daniel: I’m glad finally someone sees where I’m coming from. We need to stand behind the judges, who oppose game legislation, and we need to make our presence felt. That way, they won’t feel they’re making an unpopular ruling and will gladly continue to oppose game legislation in the future.”

    That isn’t what I was saying. Supporting the rulings of the judge is good, but we, too, need to take our own intiative. Use their own weapon against them, but with the integrity we are capable of to stand up and say “We’re sick of it! You are waste tax dollars, you target our games, you make up unconstitutional laws! It’s time to fight!” and debunk their claims with our own knowledge, using statistics and (lack-of) evidence (in terms of a long-term link in video games and violence). Attacking and flaming the other side is hardly the proper way.

    I have absolutely no idea where you come from. Such as wanting to ban the ESRB, and wanting to sell M-rated games to minors, and this idea that by us being a public entity will somehow comfort the anti-gamers to continue to pass laws. If we struck fast, and truthfully, countering them with anything they think off, providing stats and evidences (such as the waste of taxpayer money), then they’d be much more wary as long as we continued to do so, and gave our own information to the public. Urging them to check the information themselves, to use the ESRB rating, and such. So far, nearly everything you’ve supported, I’ve found ridiculous (except for supporting the judges; that’s not so bad at all). I’m only speaking up on my own opinion; I am not following yours.

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    J-Guy says:

    I’m surprised. No mention of their tried-and-failed legislations.

    So I guess this is a new tactic to become elected.
    1. Drop lawsuits
    2. Side with enemies
    3. Don’t reveal to the public that you use their money for stupid ideas

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    eXm says:


    Well said, Jack is actually a blessing in disguise. Imagine if someone with charm, charisma, and competence at practicing law were in his place…things would be much worse.

    As far as the story goes, I’m not giving these politicians (especially these two) credit for “seeing the light”. They didn’t even understand what hot coffee was, only a vague idea about “you can have sex in this game and children everywhere are playing it”. It suited them at the time to be up in arms about it. It suits them now to look like they helped change anything for the better and are the approving athority figures giving the game industry a pat on the head for being such good boys this year, thanks to their wise advice and wisdom.

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    illspirit ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    As I said in the last post about this, FEPA gives the ESRB the force of law, so Joe and Hillary kinda have to support them. It would probably be rather difficult for them to convince both Houses to give legislative, executive, and judicial powers to the ESRB if it didn’t seem trustworthy, now, wouldn’t it?

    Err, I’m not exactly sure what you’re on about. Jack Thompson is our strongest (albeit unwilling) ally! He’s a living, breathing Straw Man argument. Every time he opens his mouth, he makes the other side look even more ridiculous, and raises the stakes far too fast for any court to accept. By going straight in for the kill with total bans based on obscenity/nuisance language with no precedent which are easily defeated, he gives us precedent to shut them down entirely.

    The worst possible thing that could happen to us is if someone more patient and sneaky attacked us slowly. Creeping incrementalism is far more dangerous to freedom than an all-out attack. AKA, ye olde boiling frog analogy. See also: 2nd Amendment, 4th Amendment (and property rights in general), tax law, and strained usage of the Interstate Commerce Clause…

  10. 0
    thefremen says:

    “Clinton and Lieberman decide to take a break and rebuild their stores of false outrage for GTA IV’s release next autumn” would be a better headline.

    Vultures don’t change their plumage so easily.

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    ZippyDSMlee says:

    in old’in times they disliked alot of things ballroom dancing,books,dancing in general and anything that informed the common folk about the insanity of the rich and powerful.

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    Freekill says:

    @ Grahamr
    Just out of curiousity what could be so controversial about ballroom dancing? I don’t mean this out of sarcasm but I really do wanna know. It seemed kinda out of place with the rest n.n

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    Grahamr ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I don’t think the industry is 100% innocent, but certainly not deserving a moral panic.

    Besides, every creative medium has to go through something like this. Books, Television, Movies, Comics, Ballroom dancing, ETC. Eventully, people will see games as normal.

    So in a way, moral panic is expected, but if measures are taken to protect the constitution, then there won’t be any need to worry.

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    Yuki says:

    I already voiced my suspeciouns on why they are doing this.

    That being said, the industry has got to hold them accountable. If they don’t pull there game bill of the table, this is basicly everything the industry needs to ruin them. It’s so simple.

    “Senators clinton and Lieberman claimed to support the ESRB in it’s quest to help parents protect there kids from playing videos games that weren’t right for them, but they now wanna undercut the ESRB cause they think it’s “BROKEN”. That is a double standard, and blatant hypocracy. If there willing to lie to us, what do you think there willing to do to you?”


    I’ll wait till I see that POS bill off the table, then they’ll get my praise.

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    hayabusa75 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m with the people who refuse to give those two any praise. The timing of this is too convenient, what with the NIMF report card, all the failed laws and the reimbursement litigation. Video games are starting to sidestep the crosshairs, and little by little the polis are having to face the facts.


    I don’t think the judges are too worried about how popular their rulings are. They’re not politicians. They are more concerned that their decisions are fair and correct. Making bogus rulings in acquiescence to popular opinion would be far more damaging to a judge’s career, IMO.

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    Gray17 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’m betting this has a fair bit to do with the latest NIMF report card, various other surveys and reports, as well as the various legislative defeats.

    Look at this from the politicians point of view. You look at the various reports, and you’ll realize that the ESRB and various game retailers don’t make for nearly as good a target anymore. They’ve been improving. Even the NIMF card says that the biggest problem is lack of parental awareness. It’s kind of hard to rag on someone that’s improving, and doing better than comparable industries. Particularly when one of your favorite sources says that the current big problem is your constituents being ignorant and not using the information available to them. Similarly it doesn’t take much to look around at the various laws failing and realize that you aren’t likely to get much political capital out of your bill.

    The solution to this is obvious, start working with the ESRB to push awareness. The ESRB gets a couple of their critics helping to promote them instead of criticizing them. You get face time being concerned for the children without having to fight anyone.

    That your bill is still pending doesn’t matter. This is politics, the bill and the awareness promotion are two separate issues that you and the ESRB don’t have to agree on. You and the ESRB both know this, so any logical inconsistencies can just be conveniently ignored.

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    Tyetheczar says:

    @Freekill: I read through the entire thing.
    We should all go to Hillary Clinton’s page and praise her and Lieberman for their sudden change in heart and this might help her in the elections with the gamers support oy.

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    Freekill says:

    I dunno about this being just about politicians having their own agendas. I mean of course they do but their plan of action makes sense.

    1 year ago: Hot Coffee was still fresh in everyone’s minds and they leapt on the ESRB like a puppy who just got a new squeaky toy. Lets face it, it wasn’t the best idea for the ESRB to rate the game based on a checklist that the game makers provide.

    Now: Hot Coffee is more stale than moldy bread and the ESRB corrected its mistakes. Now that the ESRB is making more well-informed ratings for their games the blame can only be cast on the parents. So all the fuss that these guys made was productive in my mind.

    The ESRB is like a shield, as long as it stands strong there isn’t any more reason to rip into games than movies or music. Its creation protected the game industry in the time of Mortal Kombat, now its fortification will protect it from the hatred against GTA. So sure they were annoying, whiney, and pretty threatening sometimes, but some of these politicans are now praising the system and that means that slowly and surely others will get off our backs.

    Heh what a poetic simile. I should be an authoress. I suggest the book ‘The Ultimate History of Video Games’ by Steven L. Kent. It’s got tons of fun facts about the video games we grew up on and the people behind them along with all the politicial tensions that sprang up because of them. You’ll find some familiar names.

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    Tyetheczar says:

    Maybe they were reading all of that hate mail from some people and said oy, “Woah, liberals don’t really like it when we bash on games. Let’s talk it out with the ESRB.” See? Things work out much better when they talk it out instead of hurl insults at one another, oy.

  20. 0
    Daniel says:

    @ Black Manta

    You’re right. The Bully case hurt Jack Thompson’s credibility. Why don’t you send a letter to the judge in the case thanking and congratualting him for throwing Jack Thompson out of his courtroom? I’m sure he’d appreciate it.

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    Black Manta ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    While there’s understandable cyincism here, considering how both Clinton and Lieberman have railed against games in the past, the cockeyed optimist in me believes that the relationship between games and politicians have apparently turned a corner with this. No doubt the events of the last few days have played a significant factor; notably the ESA’s newfound fangs in demanding states pay for their failed game laws and the NIMF’s report card. Contrary to what Paul Sweeting wrote in his piece, though, Liberman and Clinton’s actions suggest to me that they looked at it very seriously rather than “hustle it off the stage” when bashing games no longer became politically convenient for them. I think Doug Lowenstein’s comparing games to Rock n’ Roll as a from of entertainment that was “here to stay” also carried a little bit of resonance as well. When they were finally faced with the knowledge that the ESRB, the developers and the retailers were right after all, that they were doing everything they could to keep up their end of the bargain as humanly possible, and that the the weakest link in the whole chain was indeed the parents, I guess they figured “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

    (On a side note, Lieberman may be loved in his home state of CT, but he’s just about despised everywhere else for what he did to get re-elected, and I think he realises this. Better to improve your image than to make yourself look worse than you already are railing against an issue that has already made you unpopular before.)

    Blame the parents=political suicide? Not necessarily. Not when everything else has been tried and failed. No politician really wants to be seen as a censor, and it’s obvious now that any laws that have been proposed have and will fail on Constituional grounds ( now coupled with financial repercussions from the ESA). Of course they want votes, still they have to be realisitic. And this might be one of the few times politicians have decided to apply a little common sense. I think once they realized games were not a fad that would simply “go away,” trying to hasten its departure through legislation, and that they would most likely stick around long after they would be gone, they decided to take the long view and espouse the position of educating the parents instead.

    As for good ol’ JT? No doubt he’s fuming about this now, and I can’t wait to read whatever tirade he decides to post over at Joystiq. But I think it’s apparent to all but himself now that he’s in the twilight of his crusade. The Bully debacle did serious damage to his credibility, compounded by his actions in and out of court after the judge rendered his decision. He’s still got that Contempt of Court charge hanging over him (any progress on that?), and he’s doomed to fail the Cody Posey case and whatever other cases he’s involved in, and the glorious failure of the Louisiana bill should be enough to make any politician think twice about enlisting his “expertise” ever again. He’s all but finished at this point.

  22. 0
    Daniel says:

    @ Wolf

    I’m glad finally someone sees where I’m coming from. We need to stand behind the judges, who oppose game legislation, and we need to make our presence felt. That way, they won’t feel they’re making an unpopular ruling and will gladly continue to oppose game legislation in the future.

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    Conor says:

    @ Daniel.

    be careful by saying that you don’t disrespect him any more than he disrespects us: because he trashes us a group quite frequently and distatstefully (“seriously, are all you gamers on drugs or what”?)

    just be glad Jackie Boy’s a complete moron, last thing we need is someone with views and the brain to speak them properly and convincingly. I’m angry that noone has shut Jackie Boy up yet, but i’m also glad that noone listens to him either.

    onto the the topic at hand, I am hopefully optimistic and i hope this isn’t just polotics as usual. Except for Bully, the industry hasn’t really done anything bad or attention getting in the last 18 months or so. perhaps why Clinton and Lieberman are doing this, so that they can still play the “family values” card and attract people to thier “cause”

  24. 0
    Wolf ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I will say something, though: “Remember they’re the only thing standing between Jack Thompson and the end of gaming as we know it.”

    If we gamers group together in protest, if take action and voice as one, then we are a power in ourselves. We do have the ability to change things, and people of common interests have gotten together to change what they feel was wrong, peacefully at that, and it has worked before.

    The judge has power, but so do we as a group, as gamers in a larger perspective as a whole. Just got to have the courage and the initiative.

  25. 0
    Daniel says:

    @ Brokenscope

    Maybe I have piled on the insults a little high against Jack Thompson and maybe that does make me look bad, but I don’t insult him anymore than he insults gamers and the video game industry. Instead of bad guy and good guy, I guess he really thinks he’s right and I definately think that I’m right. When I said I wrote a letter to Judge Ronald Friedman, I just think that people, who are largely neutral on this issue, need to hear both sides of the argument. There has to be a rebuttal and that’s what my arguments are. I’m saying why Jack Thompson is wrong.

    If people only hear one side of an argument, then that’s the side they go with. That’s why, in court, there’s a defense attorney and a prosecuting attorney. The neutral jury needs to hear both sides. If only the prosecuting attorney were heard, then the jury would convict every time. I’m trying to get neutral people to understand that Jack Thompson is wrong. Maybe I should easy up on the insults against Jack Thompson a little bit, so I’ll have more credibility, but I read on the internet that after the case, Jack Thompson wrote a nasty letter to the judge in the Bully case.

    I then realized that it was important for judges to get letters from us saying that their rulings are good. Remember they’re the only thing standing between Jack Thompson and the end of gaming as we know it. I think they need to get letters filled with praise and reasons why they did the right thing in ruling the way they did. It probably helps them feel better when Jack Thompson wants to blame them, and their progame rulings, for random acts of violence and make them feel guilty. Rebuttal arguments are very important and without them, that’s like forfeiting to the lies of Jack Thompson.

  26. 0
    Benji says:

    Oh, yeah, they’re doing it because they want votes. But if they think there’s more political capital in working with the ESRB than there is with censorship and legistlation, why complain? They’re not asking us to like them, and we’re not asking them to like video games. But we’ve found some common ground. It should be, and would rightly be, a victory for both the industry and the pols if these sorts of efforts continue and meet with some degree of success.

  27. 0
    Brokenscope ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Thank you Daniel. Thank you so much for educating us about things we have know for the past 3 years. In other cases longer.

    Here is what you need to get.

    Your constant posts do not hurt him. They are taking up space with air. You have never added anything intelligent to a discussion here. A judge doesn’t need you theories all he needs is a document, a document that begins like this

    “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

    Near the end of this document it brings up somethings called amendments. I’ll read the 1st and most important one.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

    You are not fighting back. You are adding to the noise. You are acting childish.

    I am sorry, I tire of the label good guy and bad guy. Jack Thompson is not the bad guy. He is a misguided religious fundamentalist nut. I would not be suprised if he thinks the earth was created in 7 days. He probably denounces science except in the few cases where he can twist it to support his arguments. Unlike Hilary this is not a feel good issue. This is what he believes. He thinks games drive people to kill. This is not about fame. Otherwise he would have started claiming that he put a collar on the industry single handily. Like it or not he has changed the industry somewhat.

    Now back on topic.



    Okay I think it might be safe to like Joe again. Why did he have to be a jerk about this.

  28. 0
    Soniczip ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Feel sorry for Jack. He’s so misinformed you should pity him, not hate him. Would you hate a dog for pooping on your lawn? No. The dog isn’t as smart as you, he can’t help it. Do not hate those of lesser intelligence. Because if you do, you are sinking to their level.

    On this “praising”:
    Everyone seems happy about this, but I smell treachery. You have to take what politicians, especially what politicians such as Hillary or the Lieber-Hulk say with a grain of salt. They would not turn around and go back on what they’ve said for 2 years unless it benefits them. That’s the way politicians are.

  29. 0
    Terminator44 says:

    Finally, these two start saying the right things. The only question is, are they going to stop at words, or will they actively start supporting the ESRB? We’ll just have to wait and see.

  30. 0
    AgnostoTheo ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Wonder if this has anything to do with the ESRB’s announcement with the PTA earlier. My bet’s on the pol’s just finding out and deciding to back the ESRB on that.

    Or it could be they realized that people like us are registered to vote. Heh. There’s a hope.

    And To Jack Thompson, along with all of the others: We’re winning now. Run home to mommy.

  31. 0
    Yuki says:

    Hmm, strange, no mention of a Video game bill, you know, the one they co sponsered?

    Could it be that they are trying to do away with it so as to avoid lawsuits and scandal from the industry while still being “For the Childrens”?

    One a side note, anyone hear the loud scream of anguish? Sounded like it came outta florida, in the miami area.

    As has been said before Jack.

    “You’ve been PWNED BITCH!”

  32. 0
    Dorkmaster Flek says:

    Though I and many others consider NIMF’s “report card” a complete crock, I’m pleased to see politicians at least trying to work with the game industry. And with this, Lieberman becomes slightly less insane. Fear not, however, as Jack Thompson is still completely and utterly bonkers!

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