In Wake of GTA IV Launch, Video Game Legislation Proposed in Congress

May 7, 2008 -
Variety reports that a new legislative attempt to regulate video game sales has been launched in Congress.

Undoubtedly spurred on by the publicity surrounding the recent Grand Theft Auto IV launch, Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Lee Terry (R-NE, seen at left) have introduced legislsation that would require game retailers to check a buyer's I.D. before selling a game with adult content.

Of the "Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act," Rep. Terry said:
[The bill seeks to ensure that kids] can only access age appropriate content without parental permission... The images and themes in some video games are shocking and troublesome. In some games high scores are often earned by players who commit 'virtual' murder, assault and rape.

Many young children are walking into stores and are able to buy or rent these games without their parents even knowing about it. Many retailers have tried to develop voluntary policies to make sure mature games do not end up in the hands of young kids, but we need to do more to protect our children.

In addition to mandating ID checks, the proposal would require retailers to post information about the rating system. Violators would face a $5,000 fine. Despite the abysmal record of such legislation on the state level, Terry expressed confidence that the bill would pass constitutional muster:
This bill doesn't involve itself in content or defining the standards for 'mature' or 'adults only. It simply requires the retailer to post what the industry has defined as 'mature' and 'adults only' so that parents can know, and requires checking of identification.

The proposal enjoys the support of the Parents Television Council.

For his part, Rep. Matheson has attempted to legislate video games in the past. As GamePolitics reported in 2006, a Matheson proposal by the same name failed to gain traction.

Rep. Terry was made to look a bit silly by The Daily Show host Jon Stewart following a congressional video game hearing in 2006.

By the way, GamePolitics challenges Rep. Terry to support his claim that rape is a feature in any commercial video game.

UPDATE: Omaha's Fox News affiliate has a report on the bill. Rep. Terry told KPTM-42:
This bill is all about empowering parents so they can make more informed decisions about what games they're kids are playing, knowledge is power and the more we know the better off we'll be.

Comments

Re: In Wake of GTA IV Launch, Video Game Legislation Proposed

I find it really disturbing, that anyone would want to protect civil liberties in the form of violence, especially when its gratuitous and sickening, as this and other games are. You, who are sticking up for this game really need to get a life, take anger management, take time to visit people who have been a victim of violence and othewise look at research that shows direct links to games and violence. Its not rocket science people, that violence of most forms causes violent behavior. Do you go around shooting, stabbing, raping, killing, car-jacking, pimping, speeding and othewise doing anything else that might cause harm to someone or something in real life? Okay, Im sure 'some' of you do, and shame on you for not taking more responsibility for your life, and those you might impact that are around you. The questions, and must be answered, is 'why' do we favor violence in games, movies or any other content, unless its to describe historical events ? We really need to ask ourselves as a society why we want violence ( especially when its is gratuitous) in our environment, instead of games, movies and other content, which is 'just as good' without violence if done right. We are creatures of habit, and once a given habit becomes standard, that is when the danger begins, and its not helped at all by a out of control world where profit and greed is more important that peoples right and duty to further peace and happiness. And if you think its just ok to accept violence, dont be too surprised , when you are the next victim of someone in society who thinks violence is 'normal &/or kewl', simply because the , 'It takes a Village' mentality of our world, and local communities has completely failed us. Do we forget so soon the peaceful , loving messsage of Jesus Christ and other prophets of the same message, or do we simply ignore it in the face of increasing profits of sales from movies and games and any other media that targets these phenomenon. We are suppose to work together as a tolereant and peace loving culture, for the benefit of all, and no one benefits from violence , except those trying to peddle it to make a fast buck. If you fall into that category on either end, whether producing or buying, just rembember you are helping to shape the quality of life, and how people view it for all generations, and if you favor violence you just might find yourself on the side of it that isn't so attractive, and if you can live with that then you aren't part of the 'real' world anymore, but have fallen victim to propoganda and the profit machine that represents the industry which peddles this garbage. In that case you are part of the problem, the social machine that helps push injustice and mayhem in a world where those with the least means, are constantly surrounded by a mentality of violence instead of peace and compassion that so many prophets have spoke of. Be a local hero , and tell the video game , movie, books and any other media pushing industry, that you are different and will not support their agenda of hate, violence and greed, - and help your community thrive in ways that compassion can only embrace. Let's all be part of a world that embraces non-violence, because its choosing to be part of a solution, not a problem; and tell me any day of the week, its not more 'cool', to give and recieve a hug,smile &/or a laugh , than to do or view things in a society which exhibit pain and suffering. Just think about it for a bit ;) COJ

Um, what about kids who look older than their age? Just like cigs. Card them. Not difficult.

UGH....

[...] The Daily Show is great. This little piece was referenced in a post on GamePolitics.com today and I had to share it. [...]

First. I don't mind fining the retailers if they sell to kids. Just don't ban the games.

Rape:

Sexual intercourse accomplished without consent through force, fear or intimidation.

Where is this in any game (btw, Custer's revenge doesn't count)

@ F**KED UP


If you could,don't you think we would have done so by now?

So this bill basically does...Nothing.

Just because it sounds reasonable in its actual content doesnt mean its a good things, passing this law is an easy foothold for other lawsuits that are not so nice.

Supporting this law is just encouraging governement censorship and control, we have a perfectly good voluntary system that works better than any of the other voluntary ratings systems, and yet they still try to single out video games.. dont be decieved people.. this bill has no positive value.

@Black Manta

The thing is, this law isn't constitutional for the same reasons as some of the others. It makes ESRB ratings legally enforced at penalty of a fine. According to the constitution, you cannot give a private entity like the ESRB governmental power in that manor.

As for your comment of "Just because another medium isn’t enforced doesn’t mean it’s ok to sell it that way." That much is true. However, the constitution provides for protection of equality. As such you cannot legally restrict games, without restricting movies, tv shows, music, comic books, and novels at the same time. You have to regulate all entertainment media, or none. Furthermore it cannot be claimed that games are unique in being interactive; they aren't. "Choose your own Adventure" books, and American Idol, are two examples that spring to mind.

Furthermore, it still is a violation of the first amendment. The ESRB recommends a game for people 17 and up. The retailer chooses to lose some sales adhering to this, in the name of good public relations. The retailer can still choose to sell to someone under 17 at the cost of bad public relations. This law is the government stepping in and making a recommendation a requirement. Suddenly some people old enough to drive can't access some speech because the government says so. Their rights have been infringed due to government censorship.

I have no problem with ID checking people who buy video games, and certainly no problem with stores being required to display rating info.

BUT

Only applying this to video games and not other media (Movies, Music, etc.) seems to impy that video games are worse for "the chlidren", and there is no evidence to suggest that.

So this bill either needs to be extended to include all media, or scrapped. Do it properly or don't do it at all.

Well at least we have bipartisanship...


...damn it...

@Stinking Kevin:

And because Clarence Thomas ain't bright enough to make up his own mind and, hence, invariably follows suit with Scalia, we can pretty confidently predict at least 2 votes in favor of the Act's constitutionality. Not a bad start when ain't but 5 votes needed to uphold.

Again, WHAT RAPE?

"...we need to do more to protect our children."

Really? Then how about getting behind bills that call for a national health care system or improvements in education?

But seriously, I have no problem with a bill that addresses the points they describe. I think it's ridiculous that you can't count on retailers to be good community citizens and that a law is required, but I don't see it being any different than laws that restrict the sale of alcohol or tobacco products.

I'm crying foul on this one simply because it singles out video games. If they REALLY want gov't involvement then that includes movies, music, books, etc. All forms of media.

Oh hey wait. What I just described is gov't control on what you can see and hear. Sounds like censorship to me.

Well regardless of all I said above it is an election year. No one is going to touch this with a ten-foot pole unless Hiltery's advisors tell her this is her ticket to getting "back" into the presidential race.

Epic Fail.

This is a couple of congressman trying to pull a JT liking video games to cigarettes and alcohol.

GO FIX THE DOLLAR VALUE AND OUR ECONOMY!!!! Idiots... SHEESH!

Oh, and as for fining retailers, what about kids who look older than their age?

Not so proud to be a Nebraskan right now >_

@Loudspeaker

Hella. If ya' wanna help the kids, fix the schools!

The political system in America is made up of Incompetent idiots. We need some change or hell a revolution. I dont maybe a War?

Is it possible to declare war on Incompetent Idiots in politics?

The daily show link says video not available. Possibly because I'm in Canuckistan?

@Jordan

It's not your fault. I myself live in California, where they APPEAL shit like this. Now THAT is shameful.

wow , my comment got cut short there... Anyway, I'm not opposed to this bill. The issue I have is when the legislation tries to regulate the actual content of the games.

Actually, this doesn't like a bad idea. I like the idea of requiring ID checks and mandating more information, however, loudspeaker does bring up one negative point. This legislation should be focused on all forms of media entertainment, not just Video games.

Aside from that, I'm all for this, because it actually bolsters the Industry's defense against frivolous lawsuits like those levied by JT and the like. With a congressional like this in place, the retailers can go, "Well, I checked his ID, so we followed the rules, or "Our information was clearly posted as per Federal law, you should have exercised more caution before buying for your kid."

If this passes the first amendment, it won't pass the fourteenth (equal potection). You CANNOT SINGLE OUT VIDEOGAMES!

[...] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptVariety reports that a new legislative attempt to regulate video game sales has been launched in Congress. Undoubtedly spurred on by the publicity surrounding the recent Grand Theft Auto IV launch, Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Lee Terry (R-NE, seen at left) have introduced legislsation that would require game retailers to check a buyer’s I.D. before selling a game with adult content. Of the “Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act,” Rep. Terry said: [The bill seeks to ensure that kids] can only access age appropriate content without parental permission… The images and themes in some video games are shocking and troublesome. In some games high scores are often earned by players who commit ‘virtual’ murder, assault and rape. Many young children are walking into stores and are able to buy or rent these games without their parents even knowing about it. Many retailers have tried to develop voluntary policies to make sure mature games do not end […] [...]

"enjoys the support of the Parents Television Council" seems they've gotten bored of dealing with their own industry so they had to come around and pay us a visit huh?

If 'Custer's Revenge' doesn't count, then I'm sure there are a bunch of 'dating simulators' that were released in Japan that have rape sequences.

But in NONE of the Japanese games will the act get you a 'high score' or any kind of score (unless you ENJOY watching rape...)

I hope they actually thought this through. Heat of the moment legislation is why we have shit like the PATRIOT act. :(

@Logan

Yeah, that was a stupid question on my part, and no...the teacher lied when she said there were no such thing as stupid questions.

@Sean

Basically, Instead of letting retailers off scott free for selling an M rated game to a kid, it fines them, makes them think twice about it.

The only game with a western release and rape would be that Atari game where you play a cowboy raping North American Indian women.

And high scores? *sigh*.. why do these people see fit to open their mouths when they clearly know nothing about what they're talking about.

Quite honestly, I don't have a huge problem with their proposition either - so long as it applies to other forms of media as well. But they lose all credibility when they say things that are not true (obviously).

@Loudspeaker:

I'm not so sure about no one on the Hill supporting this because this is an election year. I suspect that's all the more reason for the Bill to garner support. Something tells me that all these anti-game politicians have done their homework and have some rationale basis to conclude that many more voters than not are in support of anti-gaming legislation. If it wasn't so, then they wouldn't all be jumping on the bandwagon.

@blackadvent

Those games aren't sold at retail stores, so those may not count either.

@Valdearg

Getting you and your manager fired isn't exactly "getting off scott free"

The problem with the US rating system is that it has a DYSFUNCTIONAL Adults Only rating. The fact that the major retailers over there refuse to carry Adults Only games is what is killing the system. If the major retailers DID carry Adults Only rated games, then the likes of Jack Thompson and the conservatives could have their cake and eat it too! Games would by law be restricted for sale to minors AND would not be banned. And the ratings board over there would not feel compelled to "shoe-horn" games that would otherwise be Adults only into an "M" rating. Win-Win situation.

Here in Australia we're screaming for a R18+ rating; we want games that would otherwise be unable to be sold to be rated Adults Only. Why? Because retailers here are not stupid! They know the goods will sell and they just need to train their staff to check ID's before selling it to people.

Lobby the stores, people! They are the ones killing the perfectly good system that you have.

I'm mostly just worried that the old media will call us pussies for losing the fight and being the first media to be legislated against.

@Grizzam

Comic books would like a word with you.

Is just me or does Lee Terry look like Dan Aykroyd's twin brother?

@Michael

It doesn't really help that the big 3 -- Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft -- are unwilling to allow AO games on their systems (Microsoft may be a different story, so correct me if I'm wrong). It wouldn't matter if the retailers could stock them anyways because no one would be able to play them regardless.

AO games are allowed on the PC but they can only be purchased over the internet. Frankly I don't think the AO rating matters anyway because I've yet to really hear about an AO game that was any good.

@JackDon'tKnowJack

The scary part is that I was thinking the same thing. I thought it was Dan Aykroyd though.

@Jeff:

Thanks. I hate thinking it's just me.

lol don't worry guys this will NEVER pass in congress... seriously... they are screwing with first amendment rights here... and do you know the LONG and HARD proccess it take to get a BILL PASSED?

LADIES, GENTLEMEN, TO YOUR KEYBOARDS!

@Sean

The comics code wasn't legislation, it worked out like the ESRB did: Either you do this, or we(Congress) crack down. What's funny is that the CCA died off years ago thanks to comic shops.

They have no intention of actuallly getting this passed, they are just like MADD, and all of the other GTA hangers-on. If you attack video games right now, you get free publicity, and in this case they can turn back and show how they tried to protect the childrens, but were thwarted by their political opponents and "activist" judges.
There will be no real attempts to fix schools/the economy/the environment/etc, because those would take real work and does not guarentee a spot on the nightly news. Attacking video games takes no work, no research, all they have to do is parrot the same lies other critics parrot, and no one in the media is going to question them. They look good, they do nothing, they win, America loses.

[The bill seeks to ensure that kids] can only access age appropriate content without parental permission…
So if they are with a parent, they could still make a sell, I am fine with that. What annoys me is that they are singling out video games. I get IDed every so often for a rated M game, but I could get 'The Hills have Eyes' no problem.

"[The bill seeks to ensure that kids] can only access age appropriate content without parental permission…"

Gee, if only there were the option on all three current-generation consoles to allow parents to limit the games their kids could play...

@GRIZZAM 512

Actually, the CCA dying off was kick-started by the government itself, when the Nixon White House asked Marvel to produce an anti-drug comic. When the CCA refused its stamp of approval due to the presence of drugs, Stan Lee went to publisher Martin Goodman, who said to go ahead and ship it.

Oh geeze not this rape in games thing again.

@Valdearg

When the same efforts can be applied to ALL violent media, then it's a different idea, but that doesn't automatically mean a GOOD idea. Making a law against video game media specifically is a bad idea. Knucklehead politicians (such as Leland Yee in my state), are always looking for a scapegoat and video games are the current whipping boy of the older generation who still do not recognize that video games are not necessarily for children, and enjoy first amendment rights like other older media.

Finger pointing by politicians is ALWAYS easier than dealing with the real problem-bad parenting. It's complete bullshit blaming video game media for parents who are too busy to raise their child. Look at all the news articles that cite parents leaving their kid in the car, or buying them something to keep them busy so that the parents can be alone doing something else or whatever.
 
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