Gamasutra Considers Obama & Game Legislation

Gamasutra has posted a lengthy piece which examines the state of video game regulation and what we might expect from the Obama administration in regard to games.

Author Neils Clark interviewed me for the article, so I’ll share my quote on Obama and games:

To be honest, I think that when politicians get around to legislating video games that will mean that they’re feeling comfortable with some of the more important issues. Right now there’s so much on President Obama’s table: the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can’t see his administration prioritizing video game content legislation.

Let’s be clear, though. While I don’t think that Obama will be pushing game content legislation from the White House, that certainly doesn’t preclude members of Congress from introducing their own bills, as we saw recently with Calfornia Rep. Joe Baca’s push to include cigarette-like health warnings on games rated T and higher.

State-level efforts, of course, are unaffected by Obama’s view on game legislation. Thus we will likely see a Jack Thompson-authored legislative proposal in Utah soon. California’s contested law will almost certainly head to the U.S. Supreme Court, no matter how the 9th Circuit rules on the state’s pending appeal.

Actually, as I told Neils, going forward I see the fight between consumers and media corporations over IP issues like DRM as even more of a threat to gamers than government legislation. On that score, however, I will qualify one comment I made regarding the feds’ 2007 mod chip raid, which I blasted in the Gamasutra piece:

Yes, mod chips have applications for piracy, but possibly also for homebrew gaming. It seems heavy handed to me to have federal agents kicking down doors over mod chips.

What’s fascinating is that we’re more than a year beyond that [raid] and all of those cases are still sealed in federal court… This is America, what’s going on here? You kick down 32 doors over mod chips more than a year ago and it’s still a big secret?

I did the Gamasutra interview in mid-November, but that was before an investigative report on GamePolitics broke the news that at least one big fish was busted in those 2007 raids. So, while it’s clear that not everyone whose door went down was a small timer, it’s still pretty interesting that the case remains under wraps 18 months later.

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  1. 0
    T5 says:

    It would be great if Obama never messed with games, however given his comments it is naive to say say that the possibility does not exsist.  It is not a stretch to imagine sweeping regulatory reforms that game companies would natural get caught up in, after all there is more ways to hurt the industry without directly legislating game sales.  

    Long story short: No reason to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt. 

  2. 0
    MrKlorox says:

    "But if the industry fails to act, then my administration would."

    That’s what Joe Leiberman said in the 90’s and it certainly got the job done. Neither we nor Obama’s administration want the government to regulate any more media than necessary.

  3. 0
    E. Zachary Knight says:

    In his Tech pollicy however, he stated that he supports industry self regulation when refering to TV. He doesn’t directly mention video games, but why would he support self regulation of one entertainment industry and not another?

    Okay, dumb question to ask about a politician.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  4. 0
    T5 says:

    He probably will not, but do not forget that he said he would support federal funding to study the effects of videogames on kids, as you may recall when he said to common sense media:

    "We need to give parents the tools and information they need to make choices about what programs their children are watching or what video games they are playing. As we move towards a digital environment, there is a golden opportunity for the industry to do this on their own—to use the latest in technology to give parents more information and more choice. For example, this technology could make it possible for parents to create their own family tier just by programming their television to block certain channels, block certain genres of programming like dramas, or block television at certain times of the day. The same can be said of video games, especially as we’re moving into an era when they can be downloaded as easily as today’s movies and television shows.

    I would call upon the video game industry to give parents better information about programs and video games by improving the voluntary rating system we currently have. Broadcasters and video game producers should take it upon themselves to improve this system to include easier to find and easier to understand descriptions of exactly what kind of content is included. But if the industry fails to act, then my administration would.

    And even if the industry does do some responsible self-policing, there’s still a role for the federal government to play. We need to understand the impact of these new media better. That’s why I supported federal funding to study the impact of video games on children’s cognitive development."

    Still we will have to wait and see


  5. 0
    reverandspaniel says:

    Burnout Paradise, Madden Football, NASCAR 09, NHL 09, NBA Live 08, Need For Speed: Carbon, Need For Speed: ProStreet, NFL Tour and Skate. Obama has placed campaign adverts in all of these games, he knows that games have a HUGE influence in today’s society and official statistics show that influence is growing. I think while he’ll have other things that will take priority, like Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Economy, Healthcare and Education, he’ll keep an eye on video games too. But I think he’ll be a bit more of an advocate for gaming than people reckon.

    Just look at the stories GP has posted about him and his staff…

    It looks like he’s got an interest in games (both on a personal and professional level), and I reckon he’ll be a bit more liberal when it comes to video game legislation.

  6. 0
    Darmoth says:

    I’ve actually seen a lot of advertising for Teen and below games. Pure, Spore, Shaun White’s Snowboarding, Sid Meier’s Civilization Revolution, Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood.

    I’ve seen ones for GTA4, CoD: World at War, and Gears of War 2 as well. But they were airing during shows that young kids probably shouldn’t be watching.

  7. 0
    Wolvenmoon says:

    Unfortunately, most of the public advertising is for M and not T rated games. (Fallout 3 for example).

    Guitar hero and other casual games aside, the only commercials seen are for violent games. I never once saw one for the sims. (28 million sales there)


    It’s true, our media is sensationalist. I won’t even go into additional detail there.

  8. 0
    TBoneTony says:

    I think that America has to think about their own problems first before trying to solve other problems that most people in the White House don’t really understand.

    (eg. Iraq war and 9/11 were distractions that lead us to the greater problem that we have now)

    As for his talk on Commen Sence Media, the Videogame Industry and also the Movie Industry ARE already taking those steps and have been since the 80s and 90s.

    But the real problem is that we have a Sensationalist Mainstreeem Media around the world that are not getting the right information though to parents because the right information is not really newsworthy.

    You can promote the ESRB and the Parential Controls all you can but that does not stop the Mainstreem Media and the Critics chase newsworthy stories to get every parent into a moral panic.


    If you can solve that problem first, then we are getting somewhere. Because it is the mainstreem news media that many parents get their information from…

    Sadly I think most parents just don’t have the TIME to understand Videogames and the ESRB. THAT is the problem…


    But all in all, the ESRB and other Videogame Content Classification Systems are doing all they can, but they are not getting any support from the Mainstreem Press sadly.




  9. 0
    Wolvenmoon says:

    They’re politicians, 90% of what they do will result in someone receiving the shaft. Due to the DMCA and other shit that led up to the mod chip raids, it is the consumers and the innovative companies receiving it, instead of the fat cats bathing in caviar and gold. (I know, they don’t LITERALLY do this, and many of them aren’t LITERALLY fat, but you get the point)

  10. 0
    State says:

    He has 2 wars and a craapy economy to worry about. I think it’s obvious that video games will be dealt with on DAY ONE, people!

    This is questioning whether he would do something in his four (likely to be eight) years of being president. He and his administration will do other policies not related to either the economy or way, and many will be quite small topics. It’s ignorant to think that his administration won’t bother with any other issue unless it is one of the big issues.

  11. 0
    PHX Corp says:

    first off: That would not happen

    Secondly: He said that turning of the TV and putting away the video games is more like advocating parents to have some common Sense(and parenting thier children so we wont have idiots creating Laws like joebacca and [cough]Leland Yee[cough])

    Finally: the economy is comming close to being in shambles(the economy at this time is more of an issue at this time) any politician would be very stupid enough to make Video game laws (to waste more taxpayer money, plunging the US Deeper into debt and the politician(in question) would not be reelected the minute his seat is due up)

    IMO at most possibility: he’s Not stupid as a certain person on JAABLOG(he knows these Laws can and will be defeated in court)

    I’m sorry for the nasty Comments(but people who believe Barack Obama is going to pass legislation against the video game industry, That’s not going to happen)

  12. 0
    Father Time says:

    All I ever seen him do was tell people to stop playing games and get involved in politics (to be fair he also included TV in that speech).


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  13. 0
    State says:

    Judging by his comments in the past regarding games, I think it’s safe to say that he’d support legislation against them. He did blame them for the poor education of some children (whilst at the same time using them to advertise himself).

  14. 0
    Neeneko says:

    While video games would not be a high prioirty, thier low prioirty makes them easy folder for quick glurgy legislation designed to get a little good will from groups that are unhappy. And unfortunatly people who wish to take away rights tend to be louder and more persistant then people who currently enjoy a right… so I predict we are going to get lots of little attacks that might get through so that the admin can be a few percentage points higher in public polls.

  15. 0
    Father Time says:

    If Bush couldn’t be bothered to care about game legislation I doubt Obama would be either, and probably for the same reasons.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

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