Banned in Boston: Transit System Equates M-rated Games with X-rated Movies, Nixes Future Ads

December 13, 2006 -
Last month GamePolitics devoted quite a bit of ink to a controversy which raged in Boston over subway car ads for Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.

Now from the Boston Herald comes word that the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) has yielded to local political pressure and will no longer accept ads for games rated M (17 and older) and AO (adults only). Since there are no AO games, this means that the MBTA has, in effect, banned all M-rated game advertising. 

The Herald reports that transit chief Daniel Grabauskas, in consultation with MBTA attorneys, decided that if X-rated movie ads were unacceptable on Boston's buses and trains, so were ads for M-rated games. Said Grabauskas:
We don’t want to offend our riders.

Harvard's Susan Linn, co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the advocacy organization which initiated the call for the removal of the GTA ads, commented:
We are thrilled that the MBTA has been so responsive to community concerns. The children of Boston can now ride the MBTA without being targets for advertising that glorifies violence... (the MBTA decision) sends a strong message to the videogame industry that public property cannot be used to promote violence to children. We hope that other cities will follow suit.

Ms. Linn is the author of Consuming Kids: Protecting Our Children From the Onslaught of Marketing & Advertising.

Comments

Re: Banned in Boston: Transit System Equates M-rated Games ...

It makes me wonder just how much money they wasted banning those ads. I mean, I don't really know how the ad game works, but I do know less bidders=less money boston marketing

M = X?

Yeah freakin' right.

See, what'd I tell you? They obviously threatened to fire Grabaukus's if he didn't adopt the absurd standard of "violent games=pornography."

So where's the ban on ads for R-rated movies?

MBTA just opened a can of worms, and I think the industry should sue.

Ok, so let me get this strate. Adds for "violence" are bad, but adds for smoking and drinking are good. I for one, would beleave that cancer causing items are far more worse than video games. sorry MBTA, game over.

*sonic game over music*

Communities have a right to object to things, as they did in this case. But I do feel that this is less a concerned community than it is a few politicians and soccer moms who bought into the 'blame GTA' trend.
Some of the most shameful things about this:
-M-rated video games are being singled out, even though the T advertises for other adult-oriented products.
-It's a ban on all M-rated game advertising, meaning the highly objectionible GTA is lumped together with the altogether more accepted Halo.
-Most disturbingly, it's a government-sponsored agency that has made the connection between violent games and pornography. Hopefully the practice doesn't become widespread - it's a dangerous precedent. (Although, I'm not sure what the exact nature of the MBTA is. If it's basically a private company that works with the state, I guess there's no big issue. If it technically is a branch of the state, then maybe the ESA can rightfully complain that they're arbitrarily being discriminated against?)

"We don’t want to offend our riders."

I think it would be very funny if University students and young adults (20s-30s) in the Boston area started complaining that they were offended by the removal of the ads. What then?

I'm actually very offended that one of my favorite hobbies has now been equated with porn, though I'll admit I find myself thrusting in and out of enemies a lot in Devil May Cry 3.

It makes me wonder just how much money they wasted banning those ads. I mean, I don't really know how the ad game works, but I do know less bidders=less money.

Interesting. Since they're not banning R rated movies though, couldn't they be sued under the 14th Amendment? Is the MBTA a public utility?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

How many times does it have to be said that M rated games = R rated movies!

AO rated games = NC-17 rated movies

@Jabrwock: That's what I was wondering - if the MBTA can potentially be sued. If it's not, then it's basically a private company saying it doesn't like certain sources of money - sure, fine, whatever. But if it's technically a government branch then it seems like it's something approaching unequal treatment.
Still, there's no real reason to sue because I doubt the game companies can gain anything from it. Even if there was no written policy that says the T will refuse ads for M rated games, game companies can't force the T to take their money. And besides, like I said - if they don't want to accept money from certain sources, fine, it's their right to. It's even somewhat admirable in a way. But their reasoning just continues to be all wrong in claiming that GTA games promote real-world violence. If they thought that the game is distasteful and offensive, fine, but it's not responsible for violence.

Ugh...one of those rare, rare victories for the bad guys.

@SpicyRagnatz:

Why don't you bookmark the homepage so you don't have to scroll through manually?

again MR newbie rapper can hock his fast food ads violent movie ads and his 40oz ads yet not his game ads... logic left the station last year and has not been seen since...

I ride the T everyday in Boston and have seen many of the GTA ads on the green line. I personally don't like the game and don't think that younger kids should be exposed to the ads. Maybe GTA is in it's own 'rating' category(when compared to other M rated games) and ESRB should widen it's rating 'ranks' because it's too broad?

@Ken: A lot of gamers on the site advocate just that. Trouble is, supposed a fair portion of non-gamers already have trouble understanding the existing system - apparently "E"verybody, "T"een, and "M"ature are too complicated. Trying make up a lot of sub-categories might only make things worse.

@Benji:
Your point about sub-categories is a valid one. After looking at the ESRB more, they do list specific reasons why a title has its 'M' rating. The MBTA could have stuck to the 'M' rating ads but ones which do not include descriptors such as:(from ERSB) "Strong Sexual Content", "Use of Drugs", etc.

Do they ever advertise R rated movies on the trains?

Rockstar should immediatly file suit against that organization for attempting to violate there first amendment rights.

That might teach them not to stick there nose where it doesn't belong.

@ Brokenscope

I think they do. I've seen many ads for R rated movies on buses, but the real point here is that this violates freedom of speech. Violent M rated video games have every right to advertise where ever and when ever they want. This is an awful violation against the innocent video game industry. I hope gamers don't take this crap and fight back.

I'm offended by their attempt to not offend me.

Here's the best part. South Station, one of the main commuter stations, used to have 8 million HUGE iPod ads hanging from the ceilings and walls and all kinds of shit like that. Now they've got a new ad. Guess what it is. Give up? It's whiskey.

SO are they not going to have posters of the next noobie rappers new gangster movie or what?
ban M rated games yet overlook pop culture gangster movies....sad...

"We are thrilled that the MBTA has been so responsive to community concerns. The children of Boston can now ride the MBTA without being targets for advertising that glorifies violence… (the MBTA decision) sends a strong message to the videogame industry that public property cannot be used to promote violence to children. We hope that other cities will follow suit."

Hell yeah! Way to go! I now fully expect all of Boston's ills to magically disappear overnight now that they've struck this blow against the evil video games! Yep! Any minute now! Any minute...

I think that the MBTA has made a huge mistake. They are stereotyping games just because they have a letter attached to them. Sure, It's their right to not want money from certain people; But it is also the right of gamers to protest against undue discrimination. I'll give that it is not at the person themself, but at something that they hold dear. I say Protest.

[...] En fin que no ganamos para disgustos, sobre todo cuando haciendo historia descubrimos que este mismo grupo es el que consiguió el año pasado mediante una protesta que eliminaran todos los anuncios de juegos con clasificación M del metro de Boston. [...]

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[...] Shameful. After MyFox Chicago ran a little piece questioning why a violent game is being advertised on city buses, the head of the Chicago Transit Authority had the ads removed. There are so many things wrong with this, from ignorance on parade to the violation of free speech as a public authority arbitrarily decides what gets to be advertised and what doesn’t. Earlier they decided that M-rated games were equivalent to X-rated movies. No doubt there are still ads for Cialis, the NRA, and the military still cruising around town. [...]

i want to drive the mbta
 
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