Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Video Game Legislation

December 10, 2007 -
GamePolitics readers are obviously quite interested in where the presidential candidates of both parties stand on video game issues.

But so far, there hasn't been much hard information available on this topic.

Now, watchdog group Common Sense Media has helped fill in the blanks. As reported by Jacques Steinberg of the New York Times:
Common Sense reached out to a dozen prominent candidates seeking the Democratic and Republican nominations... to ask about the policies they’d imagine implementing in regard to children and the media.

In addition to Senator Edwards, three others responded by the organization’s deadline... former Governor Romney, Governor Richardson and Senator Barack Obama.

Senator Edwards and Senator Obama and Governor Richardson said that they’d be more inclined to let the video game industry try to police itself... than to have the government regulate [violent game sales], at least as a first step.

Governor Romney, by contrast, suggested that “we get serious against those retailers that sell adult video games that are filled with violence and that we go after those retailers.”

Mitt Romney's response is no surprise. A Romney campaign ad earlier this year lumped video games into an "ocean of filth" in which today's children are supposedly swimming. And while she did not make the deadline for the Common Sense Media survey, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has been a high-profile critic of game violence - and Hot Coffee - over the years.

According to the NYT report, Clinton, along with Republicans Mike Huckabee and John McCain, expressed interest in participating in the survey but did not respond by deadline. Only Rudy Giuliani flat-out refused to participate. But his kids are older and apparently aren't on good terms with the candidate following his messy divorce from their mother.

CSM founder Jim Steyer plans to invite the eventual presidential nominees to a national forum on media issues next fall. That sounds a bit optimistic given that the fall of 2008 is crunch time in the run-up to the November election.

Detailed breakdown of candidate video games responses here.


Re: Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Video Game

Ok, I understand where they are going at but they overlooked 1 thing. Parents. If the parents step in and take control of what they're children play then we wouldn't have all this violence, if the parents know that the children are prone to copy what they see than don't buy them violent video games, for example me myself, I am 15 years old, good grades, never gotten in serious trouble, but I play games like Grand Theft Auto, and such, but I was raised in a well respected enviorment, knowing right from wrong, but like I said if the parents don't take control of course they will become violent

Coom sense prevails, at least for the time being, then?


I like to identify two types of political opponents of the industry: Fundamentalists and Opportunists.


Fundamentalists -- like JT, Huckabee, and Romney -- despise video games for the sake of their content and fundamentally see games as a major problem in America society. In no way do such individuals believe that games have equal intrinsic worth as an art form or should be extended the same range of artistic freedom that other forms of entertainment media enjoy. Their stance on games usually mirrors their stances on other issues regarding personal freedom: they do not value the rights of the individual, and do not extend protection to those who are different or disagree with them. Fundamentalists do not limit their positions to simply tightening up game sale laws; most of the time, they also express a desire to censor games and infuse them with artificial standards that are derived from some form of contemporary morality [99% of the time "Christian" morality]. Fundamentalists are the greatest threat to gaming and the freedom of the individual.


For the opportunist, being tough on video game issues represents the greatest (and least offensive) way to reach out to highly superstitious and "family oriented" voters who traditionally reject opportunist politicians. Opportunists' stances on video games are usually contradictory to their socially liberal values (ie, in most other areas they clearly value individual freedom) but can stand in such a state of contradiction because no one in the industry really gives a damn [consumers and developers alike]. Unlike fundamentalists, these individuals have not expressed an obscene amount of seething moralistic hatred and desire to censor the content of games. Most seem content to reach out to the cult of family by simply pushing for stronger game laws. Given the fact that most opportunists hold socially liberal values, they are far less likely to push for censorship, and their socially liberal values might lead them to change their minds on game legislation when the utility gained from their stances declines.

If you value games, I'd suggest standing behind politicians who either defend the industry or hold at least practice a more opportunistic criticism of the industry. Moralistic bible thumpers, like Romney and Huckabee, will always fundamentally despise things that do not share their superstitious and self-defeating value systems, no matter if the subjects include: violent/sexual games, freedom in film and art, the rights of homosexuals, women's rights, social liberty, aesthetic freedom, and virtually every other form of liberty that deviates from their perverse conception of "moral."

i guess facts are a little hard to come by up on your high horse, Pandralisk.

democrats have had a more active role in censorship in the past 20 years than anyone else. while Republicans are against video games because they don't like them, Democrats are telling you what not to watch, think, do, play, or say.

I forgot to inject quotes:

Let me give you an example of a fundamentalist statement:

Romney: I want to restore values so children are protected from a societal cesspool of filth, pornography, violence, sex, and perversion. I've proposed that we enforce our obscenity laws again and that we get serious against those retailers that sell adult video games that are filled with violence and that we go after those retailers.

And an opportunist statement:

Richardson: A: I would consider this legislation, but I truly believe that we should make sure parents are educated about the inappropriate content of many video games. We have to get parents -- all parents -- more involved in the education of our nation’s students. Legislation and teachers cannot do it alone, no matter how good they are. Parental involvement is more important to a child’s success than any test or book.

As president, I will issue an executive order that provides all federal employees with eight hours per year of paid, one-to-one time with their children. And I will encourage businesses and the rest of the public sector to do the same.

I can tell you for a fact that Senator Edwards' stance will change on videogames the moment he finds it useful in order to get votes. Aside from that, he and Barack are complete jackasses (if you don't believe me, listen to Senator Edwards talk sometime. You can actually feel yourself becoming dumber and dumber as it goes on).

Of course, Romney is a jackass too, but at least he's honest about his views in this case, unlike Edwards.

As for Richardson, I really don't know enough about him to say anything on his stance on videogames, so I'll omit him until I do.

Why has our political system crumbled so much that the PRESIDENT needs to care about video game legislation now? The president has more pressing matters to attend to than bits of code but here we are, with presidential candidates basing their campaigns on video games instead of stuff that really matters.

I should be saying why politicians are getting involved at all when there are bigger fish to fry, but sadly this is the state of the country now.



I guess political consistency and moralistic gullibility have blinded you from identifying the true culprit in this case: social values derived from Christian superstition that are implemented on a mass scale. And which political ideology, I might add, stands for raping the individual of virtually every aspect of personal freedom and shoving their bullshit perception of morality into the public sphere? Remember, both Romney and Huckabee are MILD voices on the right. Hell, read Romney's statement. Democrats have been in favor of cracking down on game SALES laws, but they do not share the same sense of fundamental hate that seeps from fundamentalist politicans. Those who value personal freedom are in contradiction when they wish to censor games; their stances do not fundamentally align with their value systems. Being tough on games is a meer opportunity.

I think that we need to realize that much of the noise being made over videogames is a generational thing.

Before this it was Dungeons & Dragons, He-Man, and fantasy in general.
Before that it was televesion.
Befire that it was comic books.
Before that it was rock & roll.
Before that it was "talking pictures".
Before that it was the beginnings of the movie industry.
Before that it was books and other forms of art.

Its ALWAYS something else, or someone else's fault.

Its just how humanity is. We need something or someone to blame for parental inaccountability and non-involvement.

Being a fundamentalist has very little to do with it.


good point there. i imagine sometime in the future this attention to video games specifically will shift to a new kind of media. it is stupid how people can blame things on stuff like that and then years later ignore it and go after something else. they will play off current events and current pop culture trends and attempt to connect the two in order to show off some kind of "superior" political logic.

In time it'll most likely shift to Ipods and how kids are listening to music too loud or something.

@Austin Lewis
"Aside from that, he and Barack are complete jackasses (if you don’t believe me, listen to Senator Edwards talk sometime. You can actually feel yourself becoming dumber and dumber as it goes on)."

I am not sure how that will help anyone learn anything about Barack Obama.

Some of these guys actually recognize that this might be something that the government shouldn't dive into. I don't understand how you can say either are being disingenuous on this issue. Do you honestly believe that they didn't sit down and think about what their position meant before they answered?

No political campaign will ever answer a questionnaire if they believe their response will damage their image or credibility. It is an easy cop-out, because most organizations like these have no teeth to criticize candidates for not filling out their particular survey. If candidate does answer a questionnaire it usually means that the subject matter is of some importance to them. "Flip-flopping" has generally become something quite negative for a campaign and I wouldn't expect a 180 on these answers by any of the candidates.

Quite frankly I am not a fan of Edwards (Obama 08!) but even I think your stance on him is skewed by something beyond his stance on political issues. What is it, his accent?

"Of course, Romney is a jackass too, but at least he’s honest about his views in this case, unlike Edwards."

You gave me a good chuckle on that. Romney's "flip-flops" throughout the campaign season have been well documented (for example, women's rights). If there was a candidate that could be pinned for switching positions for votes, I think your man would be Romney.

"As for Richardson, I really don’t know enough about him to say anything on his stance on videogames, so I’ll omit him until I do."

What secret information do you have on Obama or Edwards in regards to video games? With the exception of this survey there is little, if any information to be found on their stances. Also, the three Democrats essentially answered the same way, how is that Richardson gets the pass?

Also, at least those guys had articulate responses as compared to Mitt and his rambling about the cesspool and getting the retailers.


...Wouldn't it be wonderful if people would man-up to their own actions instead of blaming something else. Reminds me of those cases inwhich some young killer on trial would pull that "GTA made me do it" card. It's just sad that there's so many people who is willing to go along with that garbage.


I wouldn't be surprised >_>. I hear so many kids listening to their iPods so loudly I can hear exactly hear the lyrics to their songs they're listening too. They're going to go deaf.

"Senator Edwards and Senator Obama and Governor Richardson said that they’d be more inclined to let the video game industry try to police itself… than to have the government regulate [violent game sales], at least as a first step."

This is a good start at least. A statement that claims to let the industry police itself is not something I would have expected in a candidate in the last two elections. Perhaps with more politicians teaming up with the industry (see previous posts here on GP) parents and politicians can be engaged in some healthy dialog with the industry for once.

Mitt Romney has made many comments that I find outrageous (not related to video games, like Obama being TOO truthful about his attempts to consume drugs in his personal past-no human is perfect other than Romney apparently), so while I'm not really pro-anyone at this time, I am anti-Romney.

@ Pandralisk (yes I actually read all of your statements and boy was it tough. Bible Thumpers is back ;) )

So the family is a cult now? I find it hard to believe that anyone can believe that the basic natural human unit is a cult.

@ the topic

I am glad to finally hear what Obama's stance is. I have been trying to find out for a while. I figured he would be in support of the industry's self policing efforts.

Of all the front runners in this primary from both parties, he is the only one that I feel I can support. He is the only one that takes technology serious. I also like his plans for opening up the government for public scrutiny as well.

It's not as simple as that.Obama knows who his base is, young liberals.He knows that my generation (22) goes on to the internet and plays more video games than watch television (based on total number of hours).In that questionaire he has reluctant to say that the game biz needs regulating.

The real question that Obama is dealing with is "Do I attack the game biz and possibly harm my standing with young liberals or ignore the game biz and let Hiliary gain more support among the soccer mom vote?"

Hiliary has been the alpha dog lately on attacking the game biz and Obama knows that it could be a major factor in his campaign against her. Though Obama has attacked Hollywood for the content of whats in movies and television (it was in a old Time magazine cover story).

This brings up a interesting question, will Hiliary's past support of Hollywood durring the 90's be a factor in the war of Obama vs Clinton?

"we get serious against those retailers that sell adult video games that are filled with violence"

So why is there nobody attacking highly violent rated "R" movies?

i will never vote for anyone who is anti games

If you pick your presidential candidate based on their views about video games, you are seriously overinflating your own issue. I hate JT and the annoying laws (all so far killed) restricting games (which only ban sales to kids anyway), but jesus people, there's bigger fish to fry.

Stop worrying about Gears of War and start worrying about the real war.

"than to have the government regulate [violent game sales], at least as a first step."

In other words, until there is another Hot Coffee. Then all bets are off.

@Jon Kanders

Good point. While videogames ARE on my list, its pretty far down there in terms of importance. There are other, much more pressing, issues for me that will determine who I vote for.

@Austin Lewis

"I can tell you for a fact that Senator Edwards’ stance will change on videogames the moment he finds it useful"

Everyone's stance on Video Games will change as soon as they realise it gets them votes.

And now I have another reason to switch from Independent status to Democrat to try to get Barack Obama into office.

Papa Midnight


Can we not assume that everyone who is not with the industry is against it?

And everyone who is against it, can just go fuck each other?

@Papa Midnight

Vote a few times for me, will you?


Note that I said at least he was honest in THIS CASE.


I have a friend who works with the Obama election team or whatever they're calling themselves these days, and I've been in Edwards' office before.

@Pandralisk "...the same sense of fundamental hate ..." Even though I've "sound-bited" it and taken it out of context here, this quote of yours is what I (and apparently most of the rest of the forum, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof) take away from your comments every time you speak about people of faith and what you THINK their attitudes about things may be.

Politicians of any stripe who attack games concern me because in the larger sense, they appear to misunderstand the US Constitution and its intent. We shouldn't have to reinterpret the 1st amendment every time a new medium of expression comes along.

@Jon Kanders
if that was at me im just saying id like to keep this indutry alive no matter the cost

Isn't going after the retailers a good thing? I thought we were supposed to be getting the Wal-Marts and Gamestops of the world to start asking for ID on M-rated games. If Romney was going to go after the industry itself, he would've said so right off the top. (Then again, he didn't toss in the all-important "to kids" qualifier, so it does sound like he wants to keep everybody from buying Halo.)

@Simon Roberts

i think hes after more violent games than halo
he would probably be after stuff like COD 4 or Mortal Kombat


Pandralisk said:
"So the family is a cult now? I find it hard to believe that anyone can believe that the basic natural human unit is a cult."

I don't think he meant to say that the basic family unit is a cult, it's more the cult-like brainwashing that purports to support "core family values" and all that save-the-children BS.

Generally speaking, I think Pandralisk comes off way too obnoxious with his Bible-thumper-thumping, but I think he has a legitimate point here. It's hard to deny that a great many politicians, particularly recent Republicans with a strong Christian leaning, have allowed their faith to inform their secular decision-making to an alarming degree. I absolutely hate that; in fact, one of the biggest campaign issues for me is whether or not a candidate will keep his faith firmly separated from his politics. It's just plain ignorance to think that that isn't a serious issue in this country right now.

I was going to say something like that, Pandralisk has issues with religion to the point of it being venomous to whatever issue he is talking about, if he would focus on other basics like protecting kids and family's from reality and how most high profile religious politicians seem to put the blinders on to said reality and vote on "faith" hoping that their moralistic whims will not damn the world while gaining them pandering points.

I believe Ron Paul would run a free as you can get market and let the market censor itself, its a shame Huckabee is pro gov censorship when it has no way to bind and enforce it without breaking laws and the spirit of the constitution I was thinking of making him my 2nd choice but with this hes now below Obama and Edwards who are equally as "inept" as each other but better than everyone I did not mention.

The rest come in 2 flavors hacks and crooks with Hitlaery being somewhere inbettwen both..........


I think what you're asking is unreasonable. People of faith can't just turn it off because you happen to disagree with their decision making abilities. Plus its unconstitutional to ask them that. They have the right to freely express and practice their faith.

What you're asking would be like telling an artist to stop being an artist when making a decision. They wouldn't be able to do so and they shouldn't have to.

I'm growing exceedingly weary of having to defend this since it seems like so few ever listen.

A person's faith is a part of everything that they do and every decision that they make. It would be a violation of that faith to make a decision that went against the things they believe in. So the only way to get what you want would be to ban anyone but athiests and agnostics from running for office, and THAT is definitely both unconstitutional and discrimination at its worst.

I'd say that Obama's views on the matter are the ones I most agree with.

"Democrats have been in favor of cracking down on game SALES laws, but they do not share the same sense of fundamental hate that seeps from fundamentalist politicans."

How does this apply to Christian Democrats and atheist Republicans?

Wow, the first time I've ever seen "Common Sense Media" do something

a) Good
b) Right

Those people have been trying to 1-Up the ESRB and undermine the ESA for as long as I can remember. Their actions are second, if not equal, to the NIMF! And that makes a whole lot of widespread ignorance!

So far, my support has been for Obama since Day 1. The guy has a good head on his shoulders, and is quite smart. He's bold, daring, and intelligent.

And from the comments I gained from the news post, it sounds to me like Obama's take is:

"You know, I'd rather the game industry take care of itself without the government stepping in. If we have to, then we have to, but I'd rather cross that bridge if we ever come to it."

Sounds reasonable to me.

After all, Hot Coffee definitely shone light on the then current ESRB practices and the content development of the game creators and publishers. It showed that there was a potential for a leak in game content that would go under the ESRB's radar, and that was patched up.

Sure it left a nasty rift between the ESRB and lobby-ists, but after the dust settled (even though some people would prefer to kick that dust back up again) the end result was that the ESRB made some changes as did Rockstar.

They took care of things.

For the politicos to still be riled up about all this only shows how ignorant they are.

This is why I like Obama.

He ain't like that.


@ Z. Knight

"Cult of family" refers to those who prioritize perserving the social values of their own family over respecting the rights of others. Such people are not afraid to violate the rights of others to ensure that their children will fall in a certain moralistic mold and will use "for teh children" to justify virtually any assault on the moral autonomy of their fellow citizens. Remember, folks, religion is relevant here. Where do the beliefs - for the overwhelming majority of Americans [and virtually everyone who has a problem with "adult" games] - that fictional violence and sexual conduct pose a danger come from? Why are these activities wrong or "sinful?"

A person's superstition [you call it "faith," but such nonsense contains as much evidence as the belief one will suffer bad luck by crossing the path of a black cat or evoking the power of Thor] should not be used to justify any binding obligation on others.


If you can't seperate "faith" [superstition] from secular politics: get the hell out of politics. As an elected offical, you are required to uphold a secular Constitution and represent people of all faiths. No public policy should be warranted by religious superstition; as such superstition is binding ONLY on those gullible, scared, or ignorant enough to believe it.
We live in a secular democracy that grants people of all faiths religious freedom [by having a secular government, duh]. Elected officals should and can not inject their superstitious hate throughout society.

Furthermore, I do not personally think it is unreasonable. You would be claiming that some of the greatest figures in US history -- including Presidents Jefferon, Adams, and Kennedy -- could not manage to respect the religious beliefs of others (when they clearly did). Infact, the Constitution and Federal Legal Precedent clearly demands. People of faith must realize that their absurd beliefs are fallible, and do the fact that such beliefs are derived SOLELY from superstition, the beliefs possess no binding value on others and should warrant NO public policy. If you cannot respect the religious beliefs of others and keep your superstition where it belongs, you should not be serving in public office. But then again, social conservatives [modern facists] are so deluded, perverse, and arrogant in their own beliefs that they assume their perverted and disgusting superstition should function as a norm by which all actions are judged.

Reality Check: The insane interpretations fundamentalists dream up from a morally perverse 3,000 year old book [deticated to the image of genodical, child killer, murderous dictator] in its 40th edition are fallible, at best, and down right false at worst. The values in such an absurd document are binding on only those superstitious enough to believe such trash. You do not have the right to practice your faith when you use it to rape others of their rights, censor their thoughts, and enslave them to your own perverse moral norms. It's a shame that Evangelicals and religious facists in this country have made Chrisitanity into the 21st century's most freedom raping, disgusting, and socially regressive instrument of national policy.

“Democrats have been in favor of cracking down on game SALES laws, but they do not share the same sense of fundamental hate that seeps from fundamentalist politicans.”

BULLSHIT. They hate videogames just as much as all the 'fundamentalist politicians' because its something they don't have a government agency to control that they can't profit from the censorship of.


No, there are critics who would change their stances in a heart beat if it became politically advantageous to support the artistic freedom of the game industry. 99% of these critics are people who value social liberty.

And, again, their are morally perverse -- bible thumping crusader -- types who wish nothing more than to stomp out our freedom, directly censor the game industry, and impose their moral agenda on all Americans in virtually every manner: "obscenity" laws, denying homosexuals equal rights, keeping women in the home [Hi Huckabee], opposing civil rights efforts, etc.


Really? That's funny. I detect a little Ron Paulian hyper-libertarianism in your reponse. If such a statement was true, their political ideologies and stance on gaming would be GROSSLY inconsistent. Most on the left value social liberty enough for it to encompass gaming with little problem. Again, the overwhelming majority of critcism from the left centers around creating laws that set national standards on the sale of games to adults. The critcism is practiced only because it is politically convient to do so: if gamers could mobolize, and become a movement equally as large as the tiny segment of leftist "family value voters," then I suspect that their positions would change over night. I have yet to see a strong call for downright censorship and content regulation.

...Now, can the same be said for a moralistic pig like Romney, a person gullible enough to believe that Adam and Eve rode on the backs of Jurassic Era reptiles [Brownback], or someone who has exclaimed that the role of women should be limited to the Kitchen and Home [Huckabee].


Wasn't Obamas stance on video games obvious when he said we should put down the Gameboys and become politically active in our community?

He probably views video games as a waste of time.

@ Pandralisk

Why do you hate Christians so much?

Im sorry, if i find a canidate who is right (in my opion) on the issues, but is anti-game I would still vote for them. I hate those stupid laws they try to pass, but there are more pressing matters.

@Austin Lewis

I hate, I desperately hate to admit it, but he has got a point. Sort of.


Just to clairify, do you accept that there are some Christians and Jews who don't follow their crowd, and try to stand up for other people's rights?

Interesting, especially considering the BBFC just got it's wrist slapped over the Manhunt rating, so the problem is dealing with itself without the government getting involved at all in the UK, despite Hilary's claims.



But, unfortunately, their choice to positivly deconstruct and interpret whatever superstition inspired their beliefs does not excuse the superstition itself of its moral failings. Sadly, their beliefs contradict the superstition itself. Nor does their outstanding moral character redeem the actions of others who denounce freedom to shove their religious values down the throats of others.


If you have some inside information on Obama and Edwards in regards to video games dish out.

If you have worked with the Edward's campaign and you have a friend with Obama, you know how many of these surveys are tossed out.

As far as Obama, the only other things I know about him in regards to media/internet is that he was for net neutrality.

Edwards ruined any opportunity at winning this election for VPing with Kerry in 2004.


As much as I want to say protect the video games in the end you are absolutely correct. Single-issue voters have no problem voting for ridiculous candidates as long as they agree with the one issue.
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