Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game Ratings Enforcement Act

June 10, 2008 -

Watchdog group the Parents Television Council has issued an "action alert" urging parents to rally behind HR5990, the proposed Video Games Rating Enforcement Act.

The bill, introduced in Congress last month by Reps. Lee Terry (R-NE) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), would require game retailers to check IDs of mature-rated game buyers and would also mandate that information detailing the ESRB rating system be posted in view of customers.

From the PTC alert:

The proposed legislation codifies the video game industry’s own voluntary policies and will ensure better enforcement by requiring all retailers to check IDs from any child trying to buy or rent Mature (M)-rated or Adult-Only (AO) rated games. It does not limit adults’ access to any games they want to buy for themselves or for their children – it merely helps ensure that children can only access age appropriate video games if they are accompanied by an adult.

However, the Entertainment Consumers Association, representing video game consumers, has issued its own alert in opposition to HR5990:

The Video Games Rating Enforcement Act, is another Congressional attempt to unconstitutionally regulate the sale of video games.  If it’s passed, the federal courts will find it unconstitutional – and at great expense to taxpayers. 

 

By raising our voices now, we can let Congress know that we, as taxpayers and constituents, would rather they use their time and our money to discuss more pressing issues such as the war in Iraq, universal healthcare and the national economy.

Full Disclosure Dept: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics


Comments

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I still love the massive age gap between being mature & being an adult, it's so delightfully arbitrary.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I cleared the link aboce just before you posted this. But thanks for the info.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Yeah, sorry about that, I saw that it'd been cleared just after I posted this. Ah well, people are more likely to read this anyways I suppose.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I haven't seen anyone bring this up yet, so I'm definitely going to say it...

WHERE is the ESA in all of this?  I understand this is a consumer issue, but a consumer issue is an industry issue.  When the gov't starts regulating things how you do your ID checks and what not starts getting a review by big brother over your shoulder.  I doubt any game retailer wants gov't lackeys running around deciding if they're doing a proper ID check or not.

On another point, for those wondering what's wrong with this proposed law here's another angle.  This legislation is to stop underage kids from getting their hands on games that are deemed too old for them.  We've already seen many posts from people who let us know it's not the kids who are getting these games it's the parents.  As soon as this passes and the numbers come out showing that parents buy GTA IV for their 13 year old there will be an instant cry for the law to be changed so a parent doesn't make the choice for their child, the gov't does.

This is a "we know best law".  I, for one, am an American who's very tired of such laws from my gov't.  It's a mentality that needs to stop.

-Loudspeaker
"Volume helps to get a point across but sharp teeth are better."

"Volume helps to get a point across but sharp teeth are better."

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

The ESA will get involved as soon as it is passed and signed into law. That is the only time you will hear from them.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I'm beginning to wonder you know, maybe someone should write suggesting a bill to outright ban games & see if they say anything then.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I don't mind people carding to make sure someone is old enough to play a certain game, I just mind it when the government decides to step in and make it mandatory. Parents should be the one to make parental decisions for their children.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

It is great to know that lawmakers feel this is a more important issue than a failing economy, weak dollar, rise in unemployment, highly polarized political system, healthcare, taxes, social security, etc etc.

Now that I got the sarcasm out of the way, I find this sad that they need to actually focus attention on this when there are more important things that need more attention.  

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I sent this throug hthe PTC form:

I am writing to you from the PTC's web form to show you why this bill and the PTC are wrong in this matter.

 

PTC: Will you stand with families to protect children from violent video games?  Today Representatives Jim Matheson and Lee Terry introduced a bipartisan bill that would require retailers to check identification in order to keep adult-rated video games from being sold to children.  I am writing you today to urge you to support this legislation. 

 

Zachary: Families are already protected. It is called being a parent. Parents have the final say in what media enters their home. There is no need to have the government intervene on parental matters.

 

PTC:Children are easily able to purchase or rent violent video games.  A 2005 Federal Trade Commission study found that 42 % of unaccompanied 13-16 year-olds were able to purchase “M” (Mature) rated games from retailers, even though the M-rating suggests the game is inappropriate for children under the age of 17. 

 

Zachary: They are quoting an out of date report. The 2007 report (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/05/secretshop.shtm) states that underage children were able to purchase them only 20% of the time. R rated and unrated Movies on the other hand were able to be purchased nearly 50% of the time. Why are they not calling for legislation on movie ratings enforcement?

 

PTC: Right now one of the most popular M-rated video games on the market is Grand Theft Auto.  The latest version, which was released just last week, allows players to shoot police officers and innocent bystanders, have sex with prostitutes, and receive lap dances from strippers. 

 

Zachary: Yes. The most popular M rated game. What they don't tell you is that the most popular games in general are the likes of the T rated Guitar Hero, T rated Rock Band, E rated Mario Galaxy, E rated Wii Sports. Gee, I wonder why they forgot to mention that information.

 

PTC: It’s outrageous! Legally, stores can not sell children pornographic magazines or handguns – but they can legally sell video games to children that contain sexual content and teach children how to kill.  In the wake of the horrific school shootings in Paducah, KY, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a West Point psychology professor, Professor of Military Science, and an Army Ranger stated:
Certain types of these (video) games are actually killing simulators, and they teach our kids to kill in much the same say the astronauts on Apollo 11 learned how to fly to the moon without ever leaving the ground…  All you have to do is see what kids are being scripted to do (on the video games) to get the high scores, and you know that in a very short period of time, their dark fantasies are going to become your tragic realities.”
This legislation will not prevent adults from buying whatever games they want for themselves or their children – but it will help millions of parents by ensuring their children will not be able to buy games like this without their consent. 

 

Zachary: Wow, there is a lot to say here. First, it has been ruled constitutional to restrict the sale of obscene material and firearms to underage children. Legislating the sale of video games has been attempted at least 9 times and every time it has been ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL. As for Grossman, his comments are rather ignorant. Video games are about as much of a training simulation as playing Cowboy and Indians when I was growing up. Then there is ther last claim. It may not directly effect adults, but it does cause a slippery slope of legislation. What will stop the government from creating more strict laws regarding content if this one goes through? And again, parents have the final say in what enters their home. Most children will not have the means to get the money to buy games or transport themselves to the store to buy the game by themselves. Someone has to take them there and give them the money.

 

PTC: Please support this important legislation.  Our families are counting on you.  Our children are counting on you.

 

Zachary: Don't supposrt this bill. As a parent, I hate the idea of people claiming that I am so incompetant in my duties as a parent that we need the government to get involved. I have the final say in my home. If my kids were to bring home a game I told them not to get, it will go back to the store and they will lose the money they had to get it. They know the rules of my home.

 

I am sorry that the PTC's membership base are incapable of setting rules in their home and enforcing them. I am sorry that they are so incompetant that they need the government's help. But I am not. I don't need the government to interfere.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Detailed, straight to the point, clear...I love it.

THIS is what kind of letter we should be sending (instead of rants, which I never agreed to). I certainly hope it'll works.

Keep us updated on this (and keep up the good work).

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Nice letter mate, I don't suppose you can send it to a few newspapers around america as a sort of open letter? Expose the pointless nature of the bill & hopefully open some eyes.

Also the PTC are being terribly insensitive, it's not "stripper", it's "Erotic Industry Personal Interaction Professional"

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Thanks for the suggestion. I think I will.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

No probs mate, just slip in a few references to how great I am, I need the ego boost

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

COMBO BREAKER!!!!

LOL, those people are really inept to even answer you properly about every issue you were replying to them. PTC forums looks worst than 4chan in many levels.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Nah. That is the PTC's form letter to send to the politicians. I simply broke it up and did a point by point counter argument for my Representatives.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Ohh, I get it now. They still look stupid. :)

---------------------------------------------------------------------------- The cynical side of videogames (spanish only): http://thelostlevel.blogspot.com/

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Sad thing is that even if your e-mail doesn't immediately go to their "junk/we don't care and won't even bother replying" folder, they'll just reply with some comment that shows that they couldn't care less about what you said.  Aside from the PTC's social agenda, their other agenda is to make money. As we already have clearly seen from previous stories involving this group.. I can't believe they still have any clout after all these years and being caught in their lies.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I have planned for the spam folder thing. I figure any smart politician will send all PTC form emails directly to the trash. So I will be sending it again from my personal email account when I get home. I will aslo add a few things that I have just remembered.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

EZK wins.  I mean, it's a given, but its true.  Way to lay down the law man!

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Why do they keep doing this? It always fails, but still they come back for more. I predict that this will be found unconsitutional because: 1) it regulates free speech and 2) It gives a private organization the force of law.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Ever seen a mouse in a maze that keeps getting lost no matter how many times it's put in? Or the kid who keeps trying to push a square peg through a round hole? That's the US goverment and "our" politicians.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Minor's have First Amendment rights and rightly so. The nanny-state shouldn't be able to decide for children (esspecially older children and teenagers) or adults what media/speech they can or can't be exposed to.

If a parent doesn't want their children to have it then that is fine but it's their responsibility to make sure their kids don't get ahold of it just in the same way if they didn't want their children getting ahold of the Holy Bible or Harry Potter novels.

I find any attempt to restrict free speech whether it be to those over or under some magical arbitrary age limit dangerous.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Looks like the PTC is throwing down the gauntlet on this one.  I plan on wiriting my representative as soon as I can.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

This bill is only OK with me provided it includes ALL forms of media and not just games.  Otherwise I can't really see anything about it that annoys me...

-- mostly harmless

mostly harmless

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

 

Really? All forms of media? Like billboards? Lawn signs? Newspaper editorials? Spoken conversations in public places?

It does annoy me that subjective opinions about the age-appropriateness of a game's narrative elements, as provided by a part-time employee whose salary is paid by the game publishers trade organization, will suddenly become enforceable by law.

I guess we're just different in that regard.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

So, all this bill asks is that retailers would be forced to hang up ESRB references as well as check IDs for adult games?

Honestly, I really don’t see anything wrong with this. They’re not even saying children can’t buy adult games, they’re just asking for a parent to be present if they want to.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

No, HR5990 wants to make it illegal to sell M-rated games to anyone under 17, AO-rated to anyone under 18, and a $5,000 dollar fine to anyone that does.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Why not hold DVD movie sales to the same standards? No one's crying for those to be legislated.

There's a host of more ambiguous free-speech issues that not everyone cares about, but I always figure the failure to treat movies and games the same, when there's no reason to figure they're different, is the most damning feature. You can make an argument for controlling violent media, but I think saying you want to regulate one specific industry just because some parents don't like it is nothing short of shameless, useless political grandstanding.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

They did, I think the last time was back in the 90s, but seeing how big and powerful Hollywood's lobbying groups were (and are more so today) it was squashed rather quickly. That might have been just theaters though, IIRC it's what lead to theaters cracking down on minors getting into R rated movies.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

It's still unconstitutional. "Compelled/coerced speech"

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Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I just received a reply from Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), in regard to my e-mail requesting he take notice of this bill and consider the detriment it could have.

Currently, the bill proposed by Representative Matheson is pending in front of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

I'm glad I got some kind of response from him, but I still favor the one I received from Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL).  It was obvious from his reply that he really took time to look at the bill and consider it from both a politician's standpoint, and that of a parent/grandparent.

I encourage my fellow Floridians to send out their messages as well, as our senators have taken notice and are open to opinions on it.

Despite the well meaning intent of the bill, a trickle can eventually turn into a river.  I'd rather fight the trickle now, than get stuck throwing sandbags in front of a flooding dam of anti-videogame legislation.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

What response did you get from the two?

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

From Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL):
" Dear Mr. Perry:

Thank you for contacting me regarding H.R. 5990, the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act. I understand your concerns and appreciate your taking the time to be involved and informed about matters important to Florida and our nation.

Introduced by Representative Matheson, this legislation is pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Please know that I will keep your views in mind if this issue is considered before the full Senate. If you have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me in the future."

 

From Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL)
" Dear Mr. Perry:

Thank you for contacting me regarding video game content. I appreciate hearing from you and would like to respond to your concerns.

The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) was established in 1994 and is a self-governing body that provides information and ratings for video games. Under the ESRB, games are given one of six ratings which include Early Childhood (EC), Everyone (E), Everyone 10+ (E10+), Teen (T), Mature (M), and Adults Only (AO). The ESRB also provides content descriptions on the back of each game package describing what elements may be displayed in the video game.

On April 12, 2007, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report on marketing violent content to children. The study found that the video game industry seems to be complying with the advertising restrictions on M-rated video games on television shows that are popular with teenagers. However, the FTC found that the ESRB is not adequately enforcing internet marketing restrictions.

As a proud grandfather and father of three, I understand a parent’s desire to ensure our children are protected from violent or sexually explicit video games. While I believe that regulations should not necessarily restrict individual expression, I do maintain the belief that media outlets have a responsibility to their consumers to exercise proper judgment when providing or selling potentially offensive material.

Again, thank you for contacting me. If you have any additional questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact me. In addition, for more information about issues and activities important to Florida, please sign up for my weekly newsletter at http://martinez.senate.gov.

Sincerely,

Mel Martinez
United States Senator"

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Reading the responsees you posted, it sounds like Nelson is open to voting against the legislation but Matinez is more than willing to regulate video games. I would keep an eye on him.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I keep an eye on anyone who represents me =)

Senator Nelson might be in opposition, but he doesn't really let on all that much.  Whenever I write to both represenatives, I usually get a more detailed and personal response from Senator Martinez....a bit of irony in that, neh?

Senator Martinez might be more inclined to support regulation of violent media, but I am willing to take the plunge and say he at least sounds open to hearing the other side.  That's why it's so important for other Floridians to get into contact with them.  They are aware of the bill.  They are considering which side to go for.  Now, they need to know how the voters want to be represented!

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

So...this does exactly what?  Makes that which is voluntary into something compulsory?

Is the opposition to this basically one of those slippery slope kind of arguements?  "Can't give an inch, they'll take a mile" kind of thing?

I'm genuinely curious.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Partly the slippery slope, partly the unfairness of not also making say R and NC-17 ratings legally enforced, partly the unconstitutionality of giving the ESRB ratings the force of law.

For any that wish to read the text for themselves, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/ and do a search for HR5990.

It's not simply a matter of forcing an ID check. It's outright making it illegal to sell an AO game to someone under 18, or an M rated game to someone under 17.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

On top of the "Can't give an inch" argument, there is also the cry for fairness.  If the bill covered books, DVDs, movie theaters, and Internet sales, I'd be less concerned.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Personally, I'd go a step further and I would support such a bill.

“A reasonable man adapts himself to suit his environment. An unreasonable man persists in attempting to adapt his environment to suit himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” George Bernard Shaw

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

Why? It's still obviously unconstitutional.

There's then two possibilities for the way the bill is writtine

1) Government does the ratings.

  Obviously unconstitutional, you just broke the First Amendment. Government can't get into speech regulation without immediate harm being shown.

2) Third party does the ratings (e.g. MPAA, ESRB, ALA)

 Again, unconstitutional, this time by the Fifth Amendment. Third parties can not be given force of law.

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I beleive that this bill will ultimately fail, however, I did want to bring up a question.

Wasn't there something that says that you don't actually have constitutional rights until you're of voting age?  I'm probably wrong on this, but I thought I heard that somewhere

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Erznozik vs. City of Jacksonville that:

 "Speech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to some other legitimate proscription cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body thinks unsuitable for them. In most circumstances, the values protected by the First Amendment are no less applicable when government seeks to control the flow of information to minors."

So beyond Speech that falls under the legal definition of "obscene to minors" which is the same as the Miller obscenity test for adults except all three prongs of that test are done in regards to minors, the government can't restrict Free Speech access to minors. Unless of course they can proves that minors are actually harmed by playing such games BUT the evidence for that is extremely weak and inconsistant, incredibly flawed and biased as well as nothing more then psuedoscientific nonsense.

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I believe the entities whose rights are being violated here are the game publishers.  This regulation limits the publishers' rights to sell something.  I'm not sure that there is any law stating that everyone has the right to BUY something (I may be wrong there).  The real constitutional issue, as I see it, is whether or not Congress can pass a law that regulates the distribution of 1st-Amendment-protected material without also regulating similar material (movies, television, etc.).  If I'm correct, then the age of the purchaser becomes irrelevant.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

No, the supreme court has upheld that minors have Constitutional rights. It's somewhat limited compared to an adult, but they still exist.

And regulating media for one group is effectively impossible.

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

It does not limit adults’ access to any games they want to buy for themselves or for their children – it merely helps ensure that children can only access age appropriate video games if they are accompanied by an adult.

Sounds fine to me, I dont agree with the idea that teenagers are endangered by games but i respect the right of the parent to ultimatly decide weather or not they should play the game.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

The problem is it is not the government's job to be a surrogate parent, at least when it comes to this issue. If we start restrciting Free Speech media to minors under the basis of helping parents then we have to do it for all Free speech meida out there that a parent out there would find inappropriate or unsuitable for their children.

We'd have to restrict the dessimination of the Holy Bible to minor's as atheist, jewish and muslim parents don't want their children getting ahold ot it. We'd have to restrict the dessimination of Harry Potter novels and Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species to minors as religious fundamentalists don't want their children to have it. We'd have to rectrict the dessimination of Conservative based literature to minors as liberal parents don't want their children to get ahold ot it and vise versa for liberal litertaure and conservative parents.

Nothing under the constitution bars a parent from restricting their own children's access to Free Speech media they don't want them to have, so parents are still in charge of what their children can or cannot watch, play, read or listen to.

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

I have said this before and I will say it again.

We should just make it illegal to sell anything to a child. We don't want to offend any parent now do we.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

As a parent, I'd be offended if my child couldn't buy things.

Sure I'm not really a parent & would prefer to die rather than have children but there's doubtlessly a parallel universe where I am one & HE'S offended by the suggestion.

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

That is the plan.

E. Zachary Knight
www.editorialgames.com

 

Re: Parents Television Council Backs Congressmen's Video Game

It does not limit adults’ access to any games they want to buy for themselves or for their children

No, but on the other hand, it pretends games are more harmful than TV, movies, etc. There's no equivalent laws for DVDs, or forcing V-chips to be default "on" unless the parents turn it off.

It's substitute parenting. Parents have even less incentive to pay attention, because they are safe in the knowledge that the government is watching their kids for them.

If parents can't be bothered to look at their kids' game collections once in a while, they aren't very good parents.

Parents need to learn one simple thing. "Not in MY house." People are so spineless nowadays.

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