When Games are Sold Like Guns: An Interview with the ECA's Hal Halpin

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When Games are Sold Like Guns: An Interview with the ECA's Hal Halpin

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In April of this year, the United States Supreme Court announced that they had agreed to hear a case submitted by the State of California over whether or not to legislate the sale of videogames to minors. The case, being called "Schwarzenegger vs. EMA," is set to be heard later this year.

Court cases of this kind are not unusual; lawmakers have been attempting to legislate federal control over game sales for years. What is unusual is that a case of this kind, which have all previously been easily and immediately dismissed for Federal courts as being in direct violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, is being heard by the highest court in the land.

The Escapist spent some time with The Entertainment Consumers Association's Hal Halpin at this year's E3 talking about what's at stake in this landmark court case, and why gamers - all consumers, really - should be concerned even if they agree that children shouldn't play mature-rated games.

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Hal Halpin: One of the key reasons for being at E3 is that we're trying to meet with all the publishers and make sure they understand that we're trying to help them with the petition and we could use their help to get the word out to consumers, to gamers.

After a decade of [game publishers] repeatedly saying "We want consumers to come up and help us with these kind of issues" and then recently being frustrated in the media saying "Where are the consumers to help us?" Well, here we are. So, now we're asking for their help to help us get more people [involved] because the bigger the petition is, the more impactful it will be.

The Escapist: That's got to be one of the biggest challenges for you guys, because the kind of gamers that would benefit from the ECA's protection are not necessarily the ones that are reading all the blogs or reading all the websites.

HH: Really, the downside consequences of a loss in the Supreme Court this fall could be staggering and widespread. The more we look at it from a legal, legislative perspective, the more dire it is.

It would have a chilling effect on the media, and we might see different games in different regions with different content - ours being sort of tamped down. The ways in which retailers might sell games could change entirely or change state by state. The ripple effects would just continue from there. It will increase into other forms of entertainment and visual entertainment and it's really important from all those legal, legislative perspectives.

For me, almost more importantly, this is a real opportunity for us to change the paradigm, change the way people view gaming and view gamers. Here we are, trying for all those years to try and change that perspective and make it so people understand that we aren't the stereotype, that everyone are gamers. They're pervasive in society and it's just as valuable as any other form of entertainment media. This is also an opportunity in that regard to work with the upside of winning with the mass media in order to get that message out.

TE: Can I get you, in your words, to sort of explain what's going on with this court case and what is actually on trial here?

HH: The most recent [case] was the State of California, which became Schwarzenegger vs. EMA. .... That wording came from Leland Yee, Senator Leland Yee's - at the time, Congressman Leland Yee's - opinion that, in his former life he was a child psychologist and he felt pretty ardently that games, because of the interactive nature of them as a medium, were different inherently than passively watching video or passively listening to music. Because of the interactive nature, they should treat it differently because you're really interacting with what's going on on the screen.

Having done a fair share of debates with him, I can tell you - I can channel him briefly - and tell you that he feels that if you watch The Sopranos and someone getting killed that it's a different experience entirely from if you were playing Grand Theft Auto and killing someone in the same sort of scenario. He feels as though that interactivity takes it to another level and therefore is harmful. He uses that as leverage in the bill to advance it through the courts. It came up to the District court level and then was turned down again on First Amendment grounds and then they appealed to the US Supreme Court.

Last September, we were expecting to hear back that they weren't going to be hearing the case because there was all this precedent before and then just recently, six weeks ago or seven weeks ago, we heard back through the Supreme Court that they were indeed going to hear the case, which was shocking to the industry and to everyone I think. It became a real cause of concern. The next step would be that mid-September, all the different amicus briefs are due and then the clerks and justices will read through them and that will help inform their opinions on background and understanding some of the idiosyncrasies along with some of the basics of the case. And then we go to trial.

TE: There have been a lot of studies on the psychology of behavior and evidence points to the fact that Yee may have a point. Children are psychologically impacted by games. Games are a very psychologically-impacting medium. Why does that not matter in this case?

HH: The vast majority of the studies, frankly, are studies that are value-less because they were done for sensational reasons on short-term impact and they are studying short-term spikes - that adrenaline. That same spike could happen if I just walk up behind you and go "boo." You'd have that spike of adrenaline, and you'd get that rush and it would go away. You probably wouldn't be traumatized unless I was really scary. The vast majority of all those studies are worthless.

Media impacts us, it does affect us. It stands to reason that we should study it. But so far the vast majority of studies single out gaming and exclude music and movies and everything else. They are rarely longitudinal in the study period and the ones that are don't necessarily inform us that it's bad. We get as much good data as we do bad data.

What we've been trying to do in the course of the last five weeks or so is we've announced that we're doing this amicus brief and we've announced that we're doing this petition and why it's important and that every US gamer of any age can sign onto it. It really just boils down to the fact that we believe games should enjoy the same First Amendment rights as music and movies and shouldn't be treated and legislated like tobacco, alcohol and firearms.

If you can agree with that basic statement, then you should be signing the petition, if you're five or if you're fifty. If you're a casual Facebook gamer or a die hard first person shooter fan.

TE: It seems fairly simple. "This is an imposition on First Amendment rights, go away, end of story." It's been argued over and over and over again, right? But why does it seem so complicated?

The average consumer feels it's a rather complicated issue. "Children shouldn't play horrible games." They'll agree with that. What is clouding the issue for people on terms of being able to say "I'm going to sign that petition, because, duh."

HH: Assuming that ... there are 50 million gamers in the US, I would say that the vast majority of them look at it and simply say "OK, children shouldn't be able to have access to mature content, what's the problem?" The next thing I hear right after that is usually "In the movie theatre, it's illegal to show an R-rated movie to a minor." We usually have to have one of the social networking people jump in their and say "No, no, wait a minute. That's a self-regulatory system, just like ours is."

Just because the movie theatres have done a really good job over a long period of time of keeping children out of R and NC-17 rated films doesn't mean that it's regulated by the government. The difference is significant.

We're not concerned specifically with the idiosyncrasies of the bill and where signage should or shouldn't be and whether it should be behind locked glass or any of that. Our concerns are the much bigger 30,000 foot perspective ones of "My god, what happens if this fails?" What happens to us as gamers, as consumers? What happens to our rights? What happens to the way in which we enjoy gaming? What happens to the way in which developers are able to tell their stories? You don't see those kinds of concerns. It really takes getting over all of those humps until people understand.

The people who are signing onto the petition quickly are likely the ones reading articles on the enthusiast media website and magazines where the editor already understands him or herself. Once they get it and they're explaining it really well, people get it and they're through the process already, they sign up. Once they do, a large percentage of them use the tools provided on our website to share it with social media. The vast majority of people signing on are all coming via Twitter, Facebook and all these social media apps because they see other people that they respect signing on and because those people are reading it through editors that they respect.

TE: Can you explain in nutshell broad strokes what's beyond the hard-to-get-your-head-around, esoteric First Amendment effects - what's really at stake?

HH: The easiest way to boil it down so that you don't have to think about it at all, and you want to make a decision about whether this is something you support or not is: If you're a gamer, and you care about gaming, if you care about a relative who cares about gaming, then this is a no brainer.

The reason why is because if this law passes, if we fail, the repercussions would be profound and significant in ways that don't impact other forms of entertainment. .... The ways in which it will impact things, it will impact lives of professionals, like the 45,000 people that are here, it can easily impact retail and how you interact with retailers, so instead of shopping for games like you shop for DVDs, you'd have to shop for them like you'd shop for guns.

If that doesn't bother you, then by all means, ignore us. If that is something that horrifies you in the same way it horrifies me, then please lend your voice to the choir.

TE: It seems that folks like Leland Yee never go away, or if he finally decides that it's not worth fighting anymore or he retires, that someone else will pick it up.

HH: Leland Yee - he's already promised to already bring up another piece of legislation if he fails and we succeed in the US Supreme Court. And he said that he would continue to successively do so, each time altering the piece of legislation to make it less likely to be unsuccessful.

Frankly, I can't imagine the State of California - if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court and is rejected - would permit him to waste the state's time and money further. I'm not sure it would be good for his career and his constituents would probably think "OK, seriously. Even if we agree wholeheartedly with you, for crying out loud, it's been to the Supreme Court. We appreciate your heart, but, let's move on."

TE: Doesn't that seem like a gamer mentality in a way, to keep at poking at the problem until you find a solution; just trying every iteration until you find it.

HH: It could just be a stubborn streak that we all have in common.

TE: Maybe that's the way to find common ground with Yee. "We're just like you."

HH: Why can't we all just get along?

Permalink

Well, I'll be emailing this to anyone I can. This is important.

Oh man, I hope we don't end up like Australia (no offense guys Australia.) I mean seriously, this could be very interesting. Then again, if there's something weird it usually comes from California. Infact, I change my previous statement: I hope we don't end up like California.

Russ Pitts:
When Games are Sold Like Guns: An Interview with the ECA's Hal Halpin

Russ, would it be a good idea to leave Twitter/Facebook/URL links at the top/bottom of this interview so that people who want to support the movement can do with the least impunity?

If this all goes bad, I get the feeling Americans are going to be importing uncensored games from Europe and Japan.

I hope it doesn't go bad.

I dont care i dont play horror games anyway, they only stop me from enjoying a game

Now I read most of this, and my understanding of it is that they want it to be possible to punish people for providing minors with access to mature rated video games...

And we're supposed to be against this?

I must have interpreted something wrong because last I checked, keeping kids from playing games intended for more mature audiences is a good thing.

I am not seeing the problem...

Here in the UK it's illegal to sell a DVD to someone who doesn't meet the age classification. They should do it with games too. A parent can buy their 15 year old, say, Kill Bill or GTA4, but the kid can't go in and buy it himself. I'm honestly not seeing the problem. As long as the highest rated games don't have to be censored.

Also, the article seems filled with hyperbole. He says a lot of stuff, but he doesn't really say anything. He doesn't support any of his statements. He'd make a great politician.

fletch_talon:

I must have interpreted something wrong because last I checked, keeping immature kids from playing games intended for more mature audiences is a good thing.

I don't think it's a question of age, more a question of maturity. Age is just an arbitrary number. It's for a parent to decide if their child is mature enough to handle a game that is above their age rating.

Booze Zombie:
If this all goes bad, I get the feeling Americans are going to be importing uncensored games from Europe and Japan.

I hope it doesn't go bad.

A bigger problem is that a lot of people would turn to pirating to avoid ridiculous currency conversion rates and high shipping costs. This decision could be just plain bad for the gaming industry.

fletch_talon:

I must have interpreted something wrong because last I checked, keeping kids from playing games intended for more mature audiences is a good thing.

This is part of the problem. The first part of your statement is true and right. It's the second part that needs a little looking at.

Keeping kids away from mature games is a good thing.
But "intended for mature audiences"? Nope...this is saying "Only allowed to those who can prove that they are not only above a certain age (no matter what their maturity designates), look over that certain age, can prove their above that certain age, will prove that they are not allowing any minors to ever have access to that game (really tough for parents), that they have a right to be able to see that game, that the games themselves are suitable against any political upheaval past/future and that this MUST be carried out.

Say goodbye to all Steam Sales because Steam can't PROVE you're eligible. Goodbye to Mass Effect because it contains nudity. Hello to Micro$ost, Sony, Nintendo having to have ALL of your details on file so that you can prove, at any time, that you're eligible to play that version of that game.

Political situation? Say goodbye to all flight simulators sold in the aftermath of 9/11?
Mewtwo? Nope. World of Warcraft? Addictive, so your time on it will be logged and you will be forced offline.

Just for your own safety, of course. And that of your kids.

This is the way they're getting it through the courts. NO-ONE wants a 4 year old kid playing a blood-drenched game, but some 17 year olds? Maybe. Not under this ruling. You'd need to take an ID Card or a Passport everytime you wanted to play a game.

And if a High School shooting takes place? Guess who's just been edged closer to the top of the suspect list.

And who's pushing it forward?

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So, yeah...

razer17:
I am not seeing the problem...

Here in the UK it's illegal to sell a DVD to someone who doesn't meet the age classification.

Games as well. 5000 on the spot fine if you're caught doing it. Same with glue, solvents, fireworks (including Chinese Lanterns), pallette knives, airhorns, scissors.

But you can't get them online. What does the online retailer do to protect themselves against 5000 fine (per customer). They can't, without all of your details...

And if an Atkinson gets in here - And Vaz is really close - all your 18 games are rendered illegal.

I admit that's a worse case scenario, but the scenario is still there. Anyone who's seen the monumental cock-ups that have happened this last year know that it's a possibility.

razer17:

I don't think it's a question of age, more a question of maturity. Age is just an arbitrary number. It's for a parent to decide if their child is mature enough to handle a game that is above their age rating.

I agree, which is why it's the parent's responsibility, and they should be made liable. NOT the governments, which is what this is asking for.

Would this just be for California or the entire US?

This is stupid...
I mean, games have age ratings anyway.

razer17:
Also, the article seems filled with hyperbole. He says a lot of stuff, but he doesn't really say anything. He doesn't support any of his statements. He'd make a great politician.

I agree. He kept saying that it will impact millions of people, and I kept waiting for him to explain: impact whom? Impact how? But he doesn't.

not being American I don't see what the fuss is about.

In the UK if anything has a certification age rating then selling it to someone under that age is illegal, seems like a pretty good system. Video games had voluntary ratings thanks to an error in the laws wording but that got fixed last year, no-one cared.

damn someone already said most of that

/quote But you can't get them online. What does the online retailer do to protect themselves against 5000 fine (per customer). They can't, without all of your details... /quote

Generally the use of a credit card is seen as enough. You have to be 18 to have most and the ones you can get at 16 are easy enough to block. There simply is no way to truly prove age.

fletch_talon:
Now I read most of this, and my understanding of it is that they want it to be possible to punish people for providing minors with access to mature rated video games...

And we're supposed to be against this?

I must have interpreted something wrong because last I checked, keeping kids from playing games intended for more mature audiences is a good thing.

I BELIEVE the general idea is that media industries in America are self-regulating, but this would make it an actual crime to sell games to minors. Honestly, living in England, where this already happens (without the sky falling, too!), I don't see the problem - it all strikes me as a knee jerk 'but they get to play with their own ratings!' rather than a rational 'well... Kids shouldn't get their hands on 18 rated games unless their parent feels they're ready.'

Also, self regulation is only good when it works. From the ammount of American kids clogging up the team chats of 18 rated games, it clearly doesn't...

The_root_of_all_evil:
Say goodbye to all Steam Sales because Steam can't PROVE you're eligible. Goodbye to Mass Effect because it contains nudity. Hello to Micro$ost, Sony, Nintendo having to have ALL of your details on file so that you can prove, at any time, that you're eligible to play that version of that game.

The only problem with your post Root is that you contradict yourself with the following.

The_root_of_all_evil:

razer17:
I am not seeing the problem...

Here in the UK it's illegal to sell a DVD to someone who doesn't meet the age classification.

Games as well. 5000 on the spot fine if you're caught doing it. Same with glue, solvents, fireworks (including Chinese Lanterns), pallette knives, airhorns, scissors.

But you can't get them online. What does the online retailer do to protect themselves against 5000 fine (per customer). They can't, without all of your details.

Surely if Steam can't already prove your age when you buy it, they wouldn't be selling anyhing because of the number of possible fines they are open too. If thats the cae, why can I buy GTA on there (with money off too)?

I honestly can't see the problem. Hell, I'm tempted to support California because I think more should be done to keep games meant for mature audiences away from Kids. Also, isn't there already some sort of precident(sp?)in the US with the selling of Porn?

Seem doesn't have a problem with these things in the EU, no idea why it should in the USA.

This happening is not the end times, what it does allow is for responsible retailers to point out that the game has been certificated by (in the UK's case) the same people that rate movies and it is only really suitable for people over a certain age (best you can do really, maturity is a subjective judgment)

Of course people will still ignore it, but now it's their fault, not the game makers or the retailers.

Plinglebob:

The only problem with your post Root is that you contradict yourself with the following.

Look closely, no contradicition.

Surely if Steam can't already prove your age when you buy it, they wouldn't be selling anyhing because of the number of possible fines they are open too. If thats the cae, why can I buy GTA on there (with money off too)?

Because Steam doesn't have to, at the moment, deal with any need to prove age. They have a legal declaration which indemnifies them against prosecution from "fair defence".

If this comes in, Steam will have to not only protect against California (good luck proving those IP traces) but of people within California's jurisdiction, but not within their IP coverage. That means a rigorous test of identity to give 100% certainty that said purchaser is not under 18.

The UK fines are restricted to shop sales. Web sales don't suffer from that, and neither do delivered sales. With the incoming legislation, that would restrict Steam and D2D to proving the age and the identity before they could sell the game. That would require at the least a web-cam image to verify the credit card sale wasn't to the minor, under current ruling.

Also, isn't there already some sort of precident(sp?)in the US with the selling of Porn?

Only video porn. Audio, Written, Image porn is actually unrestricted, apart from the seller.

I know under English law you can be sued for not allowing a four year old to buy Penthouse if they want to.(It's really convuluted, but the customer has final choice) (They may have to get their Father's permission, but yeah...)

Aren't guns really easy to get in the US?

The_root_of_all_evil:
Say goodbye to all Steam Sales because Steam can't PROVE you're eligible. Goodbye to Mass Effect because it contains nudity. Hello to Micro$ost, Sony, Nintendo having to have ALL of your details on file so that you can prove, at any time, that you're eligible to play that version of that game.

Political situation? Say goodbye to all flight simulators sold in the aftermath of 9/11?
Mewtwo? Nope. World of Warcraft? Addictive, so your time on it will be logged and you will be forced offline.

This is being extremely paranoid now. I realized you agreed this is a worst-case scenario but it's not even that, it's as possible as China going on a nuclear rampage tomorrow. Prohibiting retailers to sell software meant for adults to kids does NOT lead to that scenario. Many European countries already have regulations like that for years and they did not turn into this fascist dictatorships you're describing here.

The_root_of_all_evil:
What does the online retailer do to protect themselves against 5000 fine (per customer). They can't, without all of your details...

Amazon in Germany works this way: You order an 18+ rated product, it gets delivered, the mailman checks your ID, done. If you're paying with a credit card, this step is unneccessary since minors aren't allowed the use of credit cards.
Some Austrian online-shops want you to scan your ID (you can blacken the photograph/current residence etc. only name/date of birth/ID-number are required) and send them to you via email. Only bad thing is that you have to pay 5 Euros extra :(
It's not as impossible as you may think it is and they also don't need all of your details.

Edit: Oh yeah, the Steam Store is also fine because the only way you can pay there is via credit card - can't get a credit card if you're under 18, therefore no further checks needed.

Gladion:

This is being extremely paranoid now.

Honestly? I wish it were the case. Take a quick look at half of the news stories in the Escapist's back catalog about how the media reports video games.
Now imagine if they had something that could be done about it. Micro$oft actually did get investigated by the FBI over Flight Simulator. Steve Jackson Games had their entire catalog seized over the printing of GURPS Cyberpunk. That's not actual paranoia anymore. I really wish it was.

Amazon in Germany works this way: You order an 18+ rated product, it gets delivered, the mailman checks your ID, done. If you're paying with a credit card, this step is unneccessary since minors aren't allowed the use of credit cards.

Germany who have the highest rate of banned games? Also how can you tell if it's not a minor using a "borrowed" credit card?
Even the postman system falls down if an 18 year old "collects" it from the door.

Edit: Oh yeah, the Steam Store is also fine because the only way you can pay there is via credit card - can't get a credit card if you're under 18, therefore no further checks needed.

Problem is that you can get a card at a really early age here. Natwest/TSB Solo Debit card, which can be used for some credit purchases, can be gained at 11.

Especially as my credit card is the only proof of ID I have. No passport, no driving licence, no gun licence...

"The ways in which it will impact things, it will impact lives of professionals, like the 45,000 people that are here, it can easily impact retail and how you interact with retailers, so instead of shopping for games like you shop for DVDs, you'd have to shop for them like you'd shop for guns."

best line to explain the situation! Hope the Justices really see what is going on here and vote this case down!

If it wins, the case would instantly become precedence for anything else the Government want to regulate. Killing the First Amendment effectively >.<

razer17:

fletch_talon:

I must have interpreted something wrong because last I checked, keeping immature kids from playing games intended for more mature audiences is a good thing.

I don't think it's a question of age, more a question of maturity. Age is just an arbitrary number. It's for a parent to decide if their child is mature enough to handle a game that is above their age rating.

Until we can create a system that can determine the maturity of a child, age is the best we've got.
A 15 yr old may be as immature as a 10 year old, but a 10 year old will not be as mature as an average 15 yr old. Its also a case of mental development, yes a 14 and 15 year old are going to be at a very similar stage in mental development, they're both likely to be beyond the impressionable stage of, say, a 10 or 11 year old.

Basically we need a system to be in place. You say its up to the parents. I agree to an extent, unfortunately parents can't always be relied on to parent, not to mention kids are quite capable of buying things without a parent present. At least with this in place, we don't have to worry about unsupervised children buying things that aren't meant for them. Much like with alcohol and cigarettes. Parents (older brothers, older friends, hobos, etc.) will certainly still circumvent the law and buy things for them, but it diminishes the issue despite not completely eradicating it.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Keeping kids away from mature games is a good thing.
But "intended for mature audiences"? Nope...this is saying "Only allowed to those who can prove that they are not only above a certain age (no matter what their maturity designates), look over that certain age, can prove their above that certain age

Here in Aus game stores ask for ID. I don't know about America, but here, most high schools seem to give out school ID cards. If you need to prove you're over 15 but don't have a driver's/learners license that does just fine. If you need to prove you're over 18, you likely have a driver's license, otherwise we have 18+ cards that can be applied for.

will prove that they are not allowing any minors to ever have access to that game (really tough for parents)

I think you consider your government to be stupider than it is, or could conceivably be. There is no way to prove that. Just as there is no way to prove you aren't buying that alcohol or those cigarettes or porn for a minor. Yes if you get caught providing a minor with these things (unsupervised) then you can be charged but it will be very hard to prove. I sincerely doubt anyone is stupid enough to think enforcing age ratings is going to eliminate the problem, what it will do is prevent kids from buying games without their parents knowledge.

that they have a right to be able to see that game, that the games themselves are suitable against any political upheaval past/future and that this MUST be carried out.

I'm not 100% sure of what you mean by this. If you meet the age requirement then you have the right.
As for political upheaval, do you mean if a government wants to tighten restrictions, or change what qualifies a game for a certain rating (or if it gets rated and released at all?). If this is what you mean, then again that's not something you can enforce, otherwise I don't know what you mean.

Say goodbye to all Steam Sales because Steam can't PROVE you're eligible. Goodbye to Mass Effect because it contains nudity. Hello to Micro$ost, Sony, Nintendo having to have ALL of your details on file so that you can prove, at any time, that you're eligible to play that version of that game.

To possess a credit card, or to sign up for accounts like that you are supposed to be 18 or at the least have parental permission, again something that can't necessarily be enforced. I live in Australia, we (as far as I know) legally enforce age restrictions on movies and games. We still have access to Steam and companies do not have our details on file.

Political situation? Say goodbye to all flight simulators sold in the aftermath of 9/11?
Mewtwo? Nope. World of Warcraft? Addictive, so your time on it will be logged and you will be forced offline.

Now this is just sounding like stereotypical American (even if you're not) paranoia. A constant fear that the government is incompetent. They're asking to be able to restrict game sales to minors based on a rating recieved before it is released. Once a game has been rated M15+ and released, they can't (again to best my knowledge) then reverse the decision because of an event like 9/11. Games like flight simulators might be censored due to things like 9/11 but that's already happening/happened because publisher's are smart enough to know that it can potentially bring negative press.

This is the way they're getting it through the courts. NO-ONE wants a 4 year old kid playing a blood-drenched game, but some 17 year olds? Maybe. Not under this ruling. You'd need to take an ID Card or a Passport everytime you wanted to play a game.

Who doesn't have their license or ID with them when they go out? And personally I don't see a reason why a 17 yr old can't wait a year to play an 18+ game. If its really that vital, as I said above, they can't enforce the law well at home. As long as the kids don't go broadcasting the fact that they're playing 18+ games their parents can buy them for them and the law is none the wiser.

And if a High School shooting takes place? Guess who's just been edged closer to the top of the suspect list.

Except they don't record ID they just check it for proof of age. Just like they don't record your details when you buy spraypaint/knives to track down graffiti artists/knife murderers (its illegal for a minor to buy spraypaint or knives here in Aus).

Chipperz:

fletch_talon:
Now I read most of this, and my understanding of it is that they want it to be possible to punish people for providing minors with access to mature rated video games...

And we're supposed to be against this?

I must have interpreted something wrong because last I checked, keeping kids from playing games intended for more mature audiences is a good thing.

I BELIEVE the general idea is that media industries in America are self-regulating, but this would make it an actual crime to sell games to minors. Honestly, living in England, where this already happens (without the sky falling, too!), I don't see the problem - it all strikes me as a knee jerk 'but they get to play with their own ratings!' rather than a rational 'well... Kids shouldn't get their hands on 18 rated games unless their parent feels they're ready.'

Also, self regulation is only good when it works. From the ammount of American kids clogging up the team chats of 18 rated games, it clearly doesn't...

I agree. As I said in a previous post, Americans have this stereotype (so it seems) of not trusting their own government. The whole right to bear arms seems to be based around the fear of the government becoming corrupt and using the army and police (made up of the public) to oppress them.

I don't see why the American government is more likely to go overboard with these laws than the Australian or English (British?). Especially when they're constantly reminded of how badly the public would take it if they did.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Gladion:

This is being extremely paranoid now.

Honestly? I wish it were the case. Take a quick look at half of the news stories in the Escapist's back catalog about how the media reports video games.
Now imagine if they had something that could be done about it. Micro$oft actually did get investigated by the FBI over Flight Simulator. Steve Jackson Games had their entire catalog seized over the printing of GURPS Cyberpunk. That's not actual paranoia anymore. I really wish it was.

This Flight Simulator thing was an extremely special case and had nothing to do with youth protection - same goes for the SJG-case - and how old is the latter one? 20 years? 25? It also didn't have any effect on anything whatsoever.

Amazon in Germany works this way: You order an 18+ rated product, it gets delivered, the mailman checks your ID, done. If you're paying with a credit card, this step is unneccessary since minors aren't allowed the use of credit cards.

Germany who have the highest rate of banned games?

This is not true - it's an extreme oversimplification of what is happening here. The only things really 'banned' in Germany are child pornography and Nazi stuff. Please just take my word for it now because it'd take really long to explain it correctly and it seriously does not have any importance in this discussion.

Also how can you tell if it's not a minor using a "borrowed" credit card?
Even the postman system falls down if an 18 year old "collects" it from the door.

In this case, the postman will only hand the product to the person who ordered it, it's not like anyone can take it just like any other regular package.
I also agree the system is not perfect, but I'm not protecting it or arguing in its favor, I'm just saying there is a system active right now that does not lead into dictatorship.

Edit: Oh yeah, the Steam Store is also fine because the only way you can pay there is via credit card - can't get a credit card if you're under 18, therefore no further checks needed.

Problem is that you can get a card at a really early age here. Natwest/TSB Solo Debit card, which can be used for some credit purchases, can be gained at 11.

Wow, at 11! I knew credit cards are far more common in the US, but I didn't know THAT. This surely proves to be a problem alright. :/

The_root_of_all_evil:

Germany who have the highest rate of banned games? Also how can you tell if it's not a minor using a "borrowed" credit card?
Even the postman system falls down if an 18 year old "collects" it from the door.

You cant but nothing can prevent that from happening this law or any law for that matter. That same 18 year old can still walk to the store buy the game and give it to the minor even after the law passes so nothing changes.

Honesly i dont care if this law gets passed or not as its meaningless and does the exact same thing as our video game ratings do right now. You already need to provide proof of ID to buy mature games.

The_root_of_all_evil:
Problem is that you can get a card at a really early age here. Natwest/TSB Solo Debit card, which can be used for some credit purchases, can be gained at 11.

Especially as my credit card is the only proof of ID I have. No passport, no driving licence, no gun licence...

Its easy enough for companies to nolonger accept those credit cards. Im not saying the law is good im saying the law will change nothing since it wont change anything at all. Its not the end of the world its simply turning the current rating system into law. It most likely will not pass just like all the others before it.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Problem is that you can get a card at a really early age here. Natwest/TSB Solo Debit card, which can be used for some credit purchases, can be gained at 11.

Credit card at 11? Glad I'm not living in the US.

Russ Pitts:
so instead of shopping for games like you shop for DVDs, you'd have to shop for them like you'd shop for guns.

If that's true, the problem lies more on how you shop for guns than how you would shop for a game if the law pass. You only need an ID to buy a gun? That's crazy! Are they thinking that driving a car is more dangerous than having a gun?

fletch_talon:

Here in Aus game stores ask for ID. I don't know about America, but here, most high schools seem to give out school ID cards.

I'm UK, and ardently against ID cards for a number of reasons. The two main ones being that confidential files get lost on trains here, and that we already have the most spied on community in the world.

And, like I said, I have my credit card as ID, and that's it. (Though I haven't been 18 for quite some time)

I think you consider your government to be stupider than it is, or could conceivably be.

I'll admit that, but then they've proved it over a number of things.

For instance, our bus stop service, which cost ten million dollars to put in; and hasn't worked for the past ten years, is being scrapped and replaced with a brand new one.
Reason given? Dogs peed on the posts and it shorted the electrics.
Funny how it's worked in ten other cities up and down the country.

Yeah, I think it's fair to say I don't have a lot of trust in them.

I sincerely doubt anyone is stupid enough to think enforcing age ratings is going to eliminate the problem, what it will do is prevent kids from buying games without their parents knowledge.

Seriously? Listen to Michael Atkinson, Jack Thompson, Keith Vaz, Alan Titchmarsh or a number of other "commentators". They've all said similar things. If you want, I can dig you up clips, but I'll need some time. I'm meant to be cleaning.

that they have a right to be able to see that game, that the games themselves are suitable against any political upheaval past/future and that this MUST be carried out.

I'm not 100% sure of what you mean by this.[/quote]
Basically, even in these 'enlightened' times, we still have jerks like Tim Langdel, the Xbox Live suer, the woman who heard "Islam is the Light"...who have their cases strengthened by judgements like this.
Faux News and the Daily Mail would run entire week's worth of Game Hate Campaigns off of this.

Now this is just sounding like stereotypical American (even if you're not) paranoia. A constant fear that the government is incompetent.

Is it still a fear when proven?

This is the way they're getting it through the courts. NO-ONE wants a 4 year old kid playing a blood-drenched game, but some 17 year olds? Maybe. Not under this ruling. You'd need to take an ID Card or a Passport everytime you wanted to play a game.

Who doesn't have their license or ID with them when they go out?

Like I say, me. I really don't want to be carrying a piece of paper that says exactly who I am. Especially one that could get easily pickpocketed and that would cost me 40.

And if a High School shooting takes place? Guess who's just been edged closer to the top of the suspect list.

Except they don't record ID they just check it for proof of age. Just like they don't record your details when you buy spraypaint/knives to track down graffiti artists/knife murderers (its illegal for a minor to buy spraypaint or knives here in Aus).

Illegal for us to buy a lot of things. But your Boots/Tescos smartcard carries a lot of information. Shopping habits, purchase limits, etc. And Data Mining is BIG business now.

Dupont already got in trouble for checking their employee details for cancer sufferers in their family and deliberately hiring people without a genetic pre-disposition, so they could boost their health record.

I'm not saying everyone is out to get you, me or gameplayers in general. I'm just saying that this form of legislation is dangerous in that it allows more ways for the World to turn towards the Atkinson/Langedel laws and further away from Lincoln/Kennedy.
(And it really annoys me that I couldn't find a decent UK politician to put against Lincoln...perhaps Ashdown?)

Gladion:

Wow, at 11! I knew credit cards are far more common in the US, but I didn't know THAT. This surely proves to be a problem alright. :/

lomylithruldor:

Credit card at 11? Glad I'm not living in the US.

I'm UK. I'm unsure of the debit card for US, but the US credit card is 18.

If that's true, the problem lies more on how you shop for guns than how you would shop for a game if the law pass. You only need an ID to buy a gun? That's crazy! Are they thinking that driving a car is more dangerous than having a gun?

That's what we do agree on. And games aren't THAT dangerous.

Here we go.

I agree this is a BIG deal, but it goes beyond video game consumers and the industry, down to the fundemental right of the goverment to impose morality based censorship on private media. Hence why this had been shot down so many times before.

I find it disturbing that it has been taken this far, however I suppose it doesn't surprise me with the general switch of govermental power. Arnie is a Republican, but with the current situation in the White House and House Of Representitives, it strikes me as being the ideal climate for them to win at the supreme court. Having a sympathetic Republican bring the case makes it seem more universal than it really is.

Very interesting, and while I still respect Mr. Schwartzneger [SP] I am a bit disappointed.

I seriously hope this is defeated easily, because I fear for what it will mean not just with video games, but with free speech in the US in general.

I think, although there are some good ideas behind this, it does seem a little, brutal? I think a suysrtem of control does need to be put in place, but, why let it go to court and what not. Why not try and develop a system which protexts children, publishes, parents and anyone that has to interact with the sale of games?

This is what I have to say:

Publishers bring out games that are rated by some independant board. This rating is legit and applies to everyone [ Almost everyone ]. This is a clear indication on what age people might play this game when they are deemed 'adult' enough.

Usually, 12 year old gamers get access to 18+ games anyways. You know HOW? Parents that give them the money and are too lazy to check up on what they actually play. They cannot be bothered. Game shops not upholding the law and still selling these games without ID.

Sure, some people might use older people to obtain these games but the end responsibility is STILL with the parents. No matter what. Rockstar made a big announcement that their games are NOT for children. They effectivily removed the forced responsibility from them towards the parents. After all, they are YOUR kids. You aren't supposed to wait until they fuck up, a little bit of monitoring does wonders to the world, trust me.

Simply because I'm allergic to 'alarmist' thought, anyone care to elaborate on how this is in any way functionally any different from the AO rating us yanks have?

The few games that have gotten the AO rating recently have been toned down for store shelves, then later had the offending content released in a patch.

Not to mention, every retailer has toyed with the policy to not sell M games to people clearly below the age of 18. These experiments lasted exactly as long as it took for one parent to get pissed off at their day being interrupted by the need to go buy whatever game for their children.

This law would simply prevent parent ire from weakening the resolve of retailers, and force them to re-instate their own policies.

Not to mention, considering how irrelevantly small any realistic fine may be, retailers may just go the "shock jock" route, and argue that for every fine they pay, they sell a thousand copies.

Also, film studios do just fine with targeting the pg-13 rating, then releasing "unrated" home versions.

Blah blah blah more regulation leading to more control of our identity in corporate hands...
and what happens when you need a credit card just to buy a game with cash? all those gamers forced into owning a credit card...or how about a new national registry system, taxed of course, so that we can buy our games with a simple ID card? good christ that's creepy.
Sign the damn petition people.

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