Constituent Slams Congressman Over Video Game Law

As GamePolitics has previously reported, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) is co-sponsor of HR 5990, the Video Games Rating Enforcement Act.

The measure, currently before Congress, would require game retailers to check the ID of M-rated game buyers.

In today’s Salt Lake Tribune, a letter written by an apparent constituent refers to the Congressman as "Silent Jim" and mocks the introduction of the video game bill:

My biggest disappointment in this campaign cycle has been the silence of Jim Matheson. His silence is curious and maddening, especially given the bold results of how his district voted for Barack Obama in the primary. Even if he had supported Hillary, at least it’s a stand. 


How is Matheson going to have any respect in the Democratic caucus if he continues to act in this way? Oh, I know – maybe he should sponsor a frivolous and unconstitutional video game bill like H.R.5990. That should do it… 


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  1. 0
    tony selby says:

    a lot of them actually, granted for the most part the story was just a vehicle to explain why the actresses we’re sleeping with everything that moved, but it was a story none the less, for example, the story to "Debbie does Dallas" was that Debbie wanted to go to Dallas to become a Cowboys Cheerleader, so her friends decided to help her earn the money for her to fly to Dallas, it’s a week plot, but it is still a story line

  2. 0
    Loudspeaker says:

    I’m glad you pointed that out.  Basically all this proposed law would do is make it so the EA Games of the world can dominate the market even more because there’s now a barrier to entering the gaming market.

    [sarcasm]Oh yeah BIG WIN for the people.[/sarcasm]

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

  3. 0
    Erasmus Darwin ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    What’s also scary is that this bill, as written, would effectively ban independent games.  Consider this: I could have a webpage with a lengthy written diatribe filled with profanity, and a simple, inoffensive embedded flash game at the bottom along the lines of "get the dot through the maze".  If this bill were to pass, the diatribe would still be free, legal speech while the inoffensive little game would be illegal due to interstate distribution without an ESRB rating.

    Additionally, the ESRB would have free reign to charge whatever amount they want for ratings (since the law makes ESRB ratings a requirement but doesn’t regulate the ESRB’s behavior in any way), and they could even go so far as to ban games they don’t like by refusing to rate them.

  4. 0
    Anonymous says:

      When the government restricts the ability of businesses or people to disseminate or sell such free speech media to them they are restricting their first amendment rights.

    I should have added that receiving Free Speech media is included within the First Amendment Free Speech clause. So when the government through law denys a person or business to disseminate such media to people including minors, they are denying the people who wish to receive it their First Amendment right to receive that media and the ideas, information, messages, opinions and viewpoints expressed within.

  5. 0
    Loudspeaker says:

    Growing up should not include your version of a nanny state.  If we’re supposed to "grow up" as a society then less laws need to be in play not more.

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

  6. 0
    BmK ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

      <i>Frankly, I get a little sick of everyone trotting out the "constitution" argument. No one is restricting anyone’s free speech.</i>


    Actually, yes they are. Minors have First Amendment rights and rightfully so. When the government restricts the ability of businesses or people to disseminate or sell such free speech media to them they are restricting their first amendment rights. If a parent doesn’t want their child to have such media then that is fine <b>BUT</b> it is their sole responsibility to make sure they don’t get ahold ot it, much in the same way if an atheist parent doesn’t want their child to get ahold of the Holy Bible or a religious fundamentalist parent doesn’t want their child to get ahold of Harry Potter novels or Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species.

    Also stop making comparisions to alcohol and cigerettes. None of those thing are Free Speech media that express ideas, insperation, messages, opinions or viewpoints. Also their is strong, consistant, undisputible evidence that alcohol and cigeretttes are harmful and no such evidence that violent media has harmful effects beyond some extremely weak and inconsistant, incredibly flawed and biased psuedoscientific bullshit studies.

  7. 0
    LAG (Law Abiding Gamer) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I’ll add to this list of replies, since it seems that the message just isn’t sinking in…

    For those who are thinking "What’s the big deal?  Stores should check IDs.  It’s a good thing, right?", I agree that it’s a good thing for retailers to check IDs for more mature themed games.  However, consider:

    1. It’s unconstitutional to restrict speech arbitrarily, applying restrictions unequally

    2. It’s unconstitutional to enforce policies of private entities with the force of law (unless there is appropriate, constitutional, enforceable statutory code that parallels those policies)

    3. The US Constitution is the ONE document that forms the foundation and framework of ALL LAW in the US, a nation under the rule of law (as opposed to a nation under the rule of a private entity, like a despot, or the ESRB)

    4. Making a single exception to constitutional law, however small, opens the door to future constitutional breach…maybe next time someone will write a law saying that you need to show ID to participate in a peaceful, legal protest against anti-game legislation, then it’ll be law saying that only those with US passports may participate, then…it’s a slippery slope that NO US CITIZEN should think is okay to lube

    5. Generally speaking, those who are "grown up" tend to do a little research before opening their pie-hole…with that in mind, perhaps you’d like to rephrase your barb at the end of your post…just a bit?

  8. 0
    gs2005 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Perhaps you should consider moving out of the USA, assuming you are living here.  The constitution is the LAW OF THE LAND.

    Take a civics class for cryin’ out loud.

    Also cigarettes and liquor have measured physical effects on you that can be determental, and video games DO NOT.

  9. 0
    Ghost Coins says:

    Unfortunately, the Constitution is the sole grounds of protection on this matter.  Citing the First Amendment rights afforded to games as art and expression is not enough.  There is an equal protection clause in the Constitution (Amendment 14 if interested).

    Put simply, you cannot restrict one form of speech moreso than any other.  To date there is no law on the books regarding the enforcement of checking ID’s at R-rated films, prior to the purchase of adult novellas (not necessarily pornographic) and graphic novels, etc.  Now, the checking of ID’s by these agencies are common practice, and they have been for a few decades now.  They got their run through the mud and came out with the same freedoms advocates of video games are asking for now.  There is a system in place, it is effective, it is informative, and there have been a few bumps.

    What really needs to happen is that the ESRB needs to start doing it’s own secret shopping, and bare teeth at those retailers that are not playing ball.  Granted, in the latest FTC study it has been shown that 20% of the time kids are still getting access to the games.  Pardon me for having a Colbert moment, but that isn’t that really 80% of the kids who are not getting access to these games without parental consent?  Mind you these averages are lower than any other medium which could be deemed harmful to children in terms of entertainment (r-rated movies at 27%).

    The government does not need to nanny-state this.  We do not need more frivilous legislation that will burn the taxpayer dollars when it gets tossed out of court, and the government has to pony up $1-2 million in legal fees for a fight they should have damn well known they were going to loose.  Lastly, they, as legislators, should be full and bloody aware of the reach of the constitution.  Throwing out mindless chunks like this to feed a rabid base of a few thousand ill-informed luddites belies the fact that we have more pressing matters that our elected officals should be tending to.


    To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful. Edward R. Murrow

  10. 0
    Gray-17 says:

    Did you actually read the bill? I posted it above, it’s not forcing the reailer to check ID, it’s making the ESRB ratings the law of the land. It says that all videogames must be rated by the ESRB before being sold, that videogames do not get the same protections on speech as movies and music and books despite being no more or less harmful, that it should be illegal to sell M rated videogames to anyone under 17, and in general is far worse than simply requiring an ID check.

    Furthermore there’s no comparison to cigarettes and liquor. Those two are physical substances that cause proven harm. Videogames are speech.

  11. 0
    Majestic_12_x ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    You’re kidding right? This is suppose to some kind of flame bait, correct?

    If not, here it is again for the umpteenth time:

    Cigarretes and alcohol are MIND-ALTERING SUBSTANCES. They are NOT considered forms of FREE SPEECH. Pornography is often NOT considered FREE SPEECH since pornography’s main goal is SEXUAL AROUSAL. The governing bodies of the United States are free to regulate these items due to these issues.

    Video games have legal precedent in which courts have declared that video games ARE indeed forms of ARTISTIC EXPRESSION, thus, they are considered FREE SPEECH.

    The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) is a PRIVATE group that attaches a rating to each game in order to inform consumers about the content they are purchasing. Allowing either a PRIVATE group to legally regulate sales or allowing the government to enforce the ESRB ratings as law is a big CONSTITUTIONAL NO-NO.

  12. 0
    jdmdsp911 says:

    Nobody needs to "grow up".  There is no reason for legislation.  Singling out video games in legislation like this is unconstitutional.  That is why the "constitution argument" will continue to be "trotted out". 

  13. 0
    Brokenscope says:


    They are mandating policies of a private group as law.

    They are claiming, with no factual basis, that games are harmful.(Sort of like you did in your comparison to cigs and booze)

    They are not giving it equal protection under the law.

    Chilling effect

    The devil is in the details, and they rarely succeed in big steps, they take them bit by bit by bit.


    The constitution is the best defense because it is the basis of this country and it represents the founding ideals. There is no better defense against government interference than bringing up the document that created the government and laid out the most important restrictions on its power.


  14. 0
    SpiralGray ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Frankly, I get a little sick of everyone trotting out the "constitution" argument. No one is restricting anyone’s free speech. They are saying the retailer is responsible for checking ID, and if they don’t they’ll get punished. Kind of like they do with cigarettes and liquor, y’know? They are not saying selling the game is illegal, or that the game cannot be made and stocked. Grow up for cryin’ out loud.

  15. 0
    tony selby says:

    (b) Penalty- Notwithstanding section 5(m) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45(m)), any person who violates section 2 or 3 of this Act shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 per violation.


    Note that the fine for selling cigarettes to a minor is only $100 for a first offense, going up to $300 for a third offense

    the fine for Alcohol is a fine of $1000 for a first offense

    taking these into account the $5000 fine is absurdly high and seems to make the assumption that games are more dangerous to minors

  16. 0
    Gray-17 says:

    Plus this particular law attempts to delegate governmental power to a private entity. Which is also a big no according to the Constitution.


  17. 0
    Cheater87 says:

    Cigarette and liquor are able to damge and cause harm to someone. Video games are not able to harm someone just by playing it. PLUS they are only targeting video games not also movies and music.

  18. 0
    tony selby says:

    just because most stores will not sell them does not mean that they are not sold, you just have to go to different locations to get them, much the same way you need to go elsewhere to perchase adult movies most of the time, granted adult video games are harder to find, simply because there are a lot more adult movies out there, and reletively few adults only games that have a shot of turning a profit

  19. 0
    jdmdsp911 says:

    The United States has a proper age rating system.  It is called the ESRB.  Parents are the ones allowing the games to get into the "wrong hands". 

  20. 0
    Brokenscope says:

    Because this isn’t "most other countries" this is the United States. We tend to have very strong free speech protections despite the efforts of some of our leaders and citizens.


  21. 0
    Erik ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Simple as… raping the constitution?


    Seriously, there have been many other attempts at legislation like this one, and each one has been found to be unconstitutional.  So its not so simple as it first appears.

  22. 0
    tony selby says:

    the difference is most other countrys have their own government backed rating system for movies and games, and are not attemping to rely on the ratings of a private company to enforce their laws

  23. 0
    I_Kerotan_I says:

    Seriously, I don’t see what all the fuss is about, just have a proper age rating system like most other countries, so that the only ones that can be blamed when games get in the wrong hands are the parents.

    Simple as.

  24. 0
    Gray-17 says:

    No they aren’t required. All age restrictions on sales for media (except pornographic media) are solely store policies. As for what the bill does, here’s the text of it:

    Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act (Introduced in House)

    HR 5990 IH


    110th CONGRESS


    2d Session

    To require ratings label on video games and to prohibit the sales and rentals of adult-rated video games to minors.


    May 7, 2008

    Mr. MATHESON (for himself and Mr. TERRY) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

    To require ratings label on video games and to prohibit the sales and rentals of adult-rated video games to minors.


      Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,




      This Act may be cited as the `Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act’.




      (a) Conduct Prohibited- It shall be unlawful for any person to ship or otherwise distribute in interstate commerce, or to sell or rent, a video game that does not contain a rating label, in a clear and conspicuous location on the outside packaging of the video game, containing an age-based content rating determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.


      (b) Requirement of Retailers To Post Ratings Information- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall promulgate rules requiring all retail establishments engaged in the sale of video games to display, in a clear and conspicuous location, information about the content rating system of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Such rules shall prescribe the information required to be displayed concerning the basic age-based content ratings of such Board.




      It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or rent, or attempt to sell or rent–


        (1) any video game containing a content rating of `Adults Only’ (as determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board) to any person under the age of 18; or


          (2) any video game containing a content rating of `Mature’ (as determined by such Board) to any person under the age of 17.




          (a) Unfair or Deceptive Act or Practice- A violation of sections 2 or 3 shall be treated as a violation of a rule defining an unfair or deceptive act or practice prescribed under section 18(a)(1)(B) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 57a(a)(1)(B)). The Federal Trade Commission shall enforce this Act in the same manner, by the same means, and with the same jurisdiction as though all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act were incorporated into and made a part of this Act.


          (b) Penalty- Notwithstanding section 5(m) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45(m)), any person who violates section 2 or 3 of this Act shall be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 per violation.


        A BILL
        H. R. 5990

      • 0
        Freyar says:

        There currently isn’t a national law (although various smaller communities and various states try and pass these kinds of things) that require retailers to check for ID. I’d be happy if the retailers did, and I make sure to comment when they ask me for my ID.


        —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

      • 0
        Ace ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        Just to make things clear for me, aren’t retailers already required to check the ID of someone that wants to purchase a game with an age rating? Is this a bill advocating stronger punishments for those who don’t or something?

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