Congressman Seeks New Game Rating Legislation

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Congressman Seeks New Game Rating Legislation

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Another U.S. legislator is seeking a law against selling M-rated games to minors.

It's been awhile since the last time we did this dance, so here's a quick refresher. The ESRB rating system is entirely voluntary, and it is not illegal to sell M-rated games to minors in the United States. Various states have tried to implement legal restrictions on game sales and all have been shot down; California took such a law all the way to the Supreme Court, as you may recall, and lost.

But that isn't enough to stop Rep. Jim Matheson, a Congressman from Utah, from taking another run at it. His proposed "Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act," introduced on January 14, seeks to "require ratings label on video games and to prohibit the sales and rentals of adult-rated video games to minors."

"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," the bill says. It would also codify into law restrictions against selling AO-rated games to anyone under 18, and M-rated games to anyone under 17.

As far as I know, not one single court has ever allowed that sort of law to stand; it's a fundamental violation of the First Amendment and as the Supreme Court wrote in its majority ruling, "Even when the protection of children is the object, the constitutional limits on governmental action apply." Justice Alito wrote in a concurring opinion that "If differently framed statutes are enacted by the States or by the Federal Government, we can consider the constitutionality of those laws when cases challenging them are presented to us," but that leads to the obvious question of how Matheson's bill is any different from all the earlier, unanimously unsuccessful efforts to do the same thing. I'm no constitutional scholar, but I just don't see it.

Source: Congress.gov

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How long untill that guy's picture shows up as a meme with the text "Rated R, for, retarded. Do not sell to minors" appears on teh internetz?

He also seems ignorant of the fact that ESRB Labels appear on ALL games sold in north america and are clearly visible on the cover in the lower left corner, with another larger rating label on the back of the cover detailing what can be expected in the game, individual stores are responsible for ensuring games aren't sold to minors, and for the most part it isn't the problem, the problem stems from parents (People who are usually over 20, i hope) Go in, purchase games like Call of Duty, and then give them to their children because they are complacent, i think 90% of M rated games played by minors have been bought by their parents, the system we have now works, it's just that parents give in to their kids.

He sounds well intentioned, but I would hate what happened to movies happen also for videogames. I remember there being a controversy a year ago when a documentary about kids being bullied received an R for too many cuss words, so kids couldn't just walk into the theater and see it. I mean, seriously? A kid's everyday life can't be shown in a theater to kids?

This law would prevent 13 year olds from playing Call of Duty, but it would also prevent them from playing Spec Ops.

Serious question: Why is it okay for a movie theatre to not allow minors to watch R rated movies, but not okay for minors to be prevented from buying M rating games?

I am so jealous of Americans, they have sooooo much money to waste unlike us Brits.

Wish we could throw money each time a politician wanted to show up on Fox news (or in our case BBC).

But HEAVEN FORBID we put this kind of oversight on the selling of objects that ACTUALLY kill people ~_~

I was expecting this to be another ridiculous idea politicians were coming up with, but most other countries already have something like this anyway.

Uh does he know we already have not just one but two age ratings on each game and that an employee would get chewed out if he did just sell a game to a kid. Heck everytime I buy a game I have to show my license

DVS BSTrD:
But HEAVEN FORBID we put this kind of oversight on the selling of objects that ACTUALLY kill people ~_~

Uhh, we do. More than this in fact. Sarcasm only works if the implication is not disingenuous.

wrightguy0:
He also seems ignorant of the fact that ESRB Labels appear on ALL games sold in north america and are clearly visible on the cover in the lower left corner, with another larger rating label on the back of the cover detailing what can be expected in the game, individual stores are responsible for ensuring games aren't sold to minors, and for the most part it isn't the problem, the problem stems from parents (People who are usually over 20, i hope) Go in, purchase games like Call of Duty, and then give them to their children because they are complacent, i think 90% of M rated games played by minors have been bought by their parents, the system we have now works, it's just that parents give in to their kids.

This. This kind of law really seems to be trying to solve a problem that really doesn't exist. And involving the government in an industry that is already very well regulated could only cause problems, especially because it would involve giving a private organization legal power. No good could possibly come from this.

Umm... I though this was already a thing in America? If the person at register things you are under 25 then you need to show your ID if purchasing titles with K16 or higher rating. Or else they get fined if caught (And in shopping malls they got CCTV on every register so, no one takes the changes there.

When I read this I was waiting the legislation to along the line "You can only play violent video games between hours 6pm and 8pm for 59 minutes and then filing a tax of 100$ to the gov - that goes to mental care funding." Or something as smart as that.

Man... I love living in a country that doesn't hate personal freedom.

Hey Andy, still playing the "Name That Party" game? ::checks:: Yup. Hooray for journalistic credibility. Remember kids, if the writer purposefully declines to ID X politician's party, it is a solid bet which breed X is.

That sounds pretty... reasonable.

Probably legally redundant and not paricularly helpful, but not problematic in itself either.

Punch You:
He sounds well intentioned, but I would hate what happened to movies happen also for videogames. I remember there being a controversy a year ago when a documentary about kids being bullied received an R for too many cuss words, so kids couldn't just walk into the theater and see it. I mean, seriously? A kid's everyday life can't be shown in a theater to kids?

This law would prevent 13 year olds from playing Call of Duty, but it would also prevent them from playing Spec Ops.

Umm... just thought I'd point out that the movie rating system is voluntarily enforced too. There is no law preventing a kid from walking unescorted into an R-rated movie. The movie/theater industry itself enforces that, just like the game/retail industry does for games. There is no difference at all.

Devoneaux:

DVS BSTrD:
But HEAVEN FORBID we put this kind of oversight on the selling of objects that ACTUALLY kill people ~_~

Uhh, we do. More than this in fact. Sarcasm only works if the implication is not disingenuous.

Oh so now we DO have to show some form of ID to purchase weapons at gun shows and gun stores are actually held liable for who they sell guns to?

kenu12345:
Uh does he know we already have not just one but two age ratings on each game and that an employee would get chewed out if he did just sell a game to a kid. Heck everytime I buy a game I have to show my license

that would be store/company policy, not the law (as far as i know). stores can enforce it, but they aren't legally required to, and can't face legal action if they were to sell a M game to a minor.

OT: not seeing the problem here really, in the UK this exists by law anyway, and it exists for films in the UK and U.S. (i think).

Entitled:
That sounds pretty... reasonable.

Probably legally redundant and not paricularly helpful, but not problematic in itself.

It's problematic as hell, but you have to understand how American law relates to our constitution to be able to wrap your head around the issue. Basically by issuing a law to restrict distribution and/or access, the proposed law would effectively declare that -unlike books, music and film- video games are not a valid form of speech since restricting speech is forbidden by our constitution. Once that happens, any governmental body at any level can restrict the medium any way they want, up to and including banning the medium's sale altogether(sort of like how we have "dry" counties that cannot sell alcohol).

So no, it is not reasonable at all.

suitepee7:

kenu12345:
Uh does he know we already have not just one but two age ratings on each game and that an employee would get chewed out if he did just sell a game to a kid. Heck everytime I buy a game I have to show my license

that would be store/company policy, not the law (as far as i know). stores can enforce it, but they aren't legally required to, and can't face legal action if they were to sell a M game to a minor.

OT: not seeing the problem here really, in the UK this exists by law anyway, and it exists for films in the UK and U.S. (i think).

Nope. As I said earlier(and as gets pointed out every time this topic comes up), there is no governmental restriction on any form of entertainment(except for porn because we're a bunch of prudes). And as I pointed out, what can work and be considered reasonable cannot work in the US because of differences in the way our laws work.

Scars Unseen:

Entitled:
That sounds pretty... reasonable.

Probably legally redundant and not paricularly helpful, but not problematic in itself.

It's problematic as hell, but you have to understand how American law relates to our constitution to be able to wrap your head around the issue. Basically by issuing a law to restrict distribution and/or access, the proposed law would effectively declare that -unlike books, music and film- video games are not a valid form of speech since restricting speech is forbidden by our constitution. Once that happens, any governmental body at any level can restrict the medium any way they want, up to and including banning the medium's sale altogether(sort of like how we have "dry" counties that cannot sell alcohol).

So no, it is not reasonable at all.

I'm pretty sure that there was that time where the Supreme Court already declared that Video Games are an art form and deserve freedom of speech protection, so if that bill would really infringe on that, they could just call it unconstitutional. (of which I am not sure. How would a shopping age restriction infringe onn freedom of speech?)

It is ultimately the Constitutional Court that decides whether anything (including federal law) is constitutional, so even if I'm misremembering anything, and the Court didn't say anything about games until now, the reason why they weren't entirely banned in certain counties until now, is simply because no one wrote such a bill, not because they had explicit protection.

Stop giving these guys attention, Escapist. They're trolls.

DVS BSTrD:

Devoneaux:

DVS BSTrD:
But HEAVEN FORBID we put this kind of oversight on the selling of objects that ACTUALLY kill people ~_~

Uhh, we do. More than this in fact. Sarcasm only works if the implication is not disingenuous.

Oh so now we DO have to show some form of ID to purchase weapons at gun shows and gun stores are actually held liable for who they sell guns to?

More or less, we also have a waiting period.

Zen Toombs:
Serious question: Why is it okay for a movie theatre to not allow minors to watch R rated movies, but not okay for minors to be prevented from buying M rating games?

It's a commonly-held misconception that minors are legally barred from seeing R-rated movies in the US. They aren't. The MPAA rating system, like the ESRB system (and all others) is entirely voluntary. A theater can refuse admittance to a minor, but it is not liable for any legal penalties if a minor is admitted. That's why it's the ESRB that levies rating-related fines rather than municipal, state or federal governments - because the government is constitutionally barred from doing so.

Devoneaux:

DVS BSTrD:

Devoneaux:
Uhh, we do. More than this in fact. Sarcasm only works if the implication is not disingenuous.

Oh so now we DO have to show some form of ID to purchase weapons at gun shows and gun stores are actually held liable for who they sell guns to?

More or less, we also have a waiting period.

But is any of that actually enforced?

After looking into this guy I am deeply concerned.

He's putting video games ahead of gun control. He has a voting record on gun policy that I find morally questionable on some issues regardless of anyone being pro/anti gun. He's received multiple endorsements by the NRA receiving more donations than other Democrats. To top it all off The Daily Show just exposed the NRA's involvement in crippling the ATF agency and this guy, Jim Matheson, voted for such amendments preventing the ATF from doing their job properly.

Well I did have a big response planned, but I accidently lost it so, he's the gist of it.

How is this bad? All he's doing is making it so if you're under 17 you can't buy a 17 without your parent there. This means that the whole "publishers are selling mature games to kids!!111!" wouldn't have an argument any more. From now on.... responsibility would rest with the parents, and parents alone. This way, if they start bitching, we can just turn around and say "Well you bought it for him, it's your fault."

I know the US have a thing where they don't like selling AO things in stores, but this isn't AO right? It's just mature? So all should be fine.

However! I will say that if they are going to do this, it should be for films as well, and not just single out games, that's the bad bit.

If anything, this is waaaay better than the rest of them, he's not trying to ban, censor or invent new ratings or anything, he just doesn't want under age kids buying stuff. That's how it is here in the UK, and we still have everything you have on sale, and we generally have less ruckus about publishers pushing smack and conditioning to rise up on rampages on our kids.

Obviously feel free to point out any mistakes I have, I know things are a bit wonky in regards to law in the US, due to all the different states. A blanket rule may not be quite as easy as it is here in the UK.

Andy Chalk:

Zen Toombs:
Serious question: Why is it okay for a movie theatre to not allow minors to watch R rated movies, but not okay for minors to be prevented from buying M rating games?

It's a commonly-held misconception that minors are legally barred from seeing R-rated movies in the US. They aren't. The MPAA rating system, like the ESRB system (and all others) is entirely voluntary. A theater can refuse admittance to a minor, but it is not liable for any legal penalties if a minor is admitted. That's why it's the ESRB that levies rating-related fines rather than municipal, state or federal governments - because the government is constitutionally barred from doing so.

Lawyer'd! Thanks for clearing up that misconception.

Devoneaux:

DVS BSTrD:
But HEAVEN FORBID we put this kind of oversight on the selling of objects that ACTUALLY kill people ~_~

Uhh, we do. More than this in fact. Sarcasm only works if the implication is not disingenuous.

Except the regulatory agency, the ATF, has been effectively neutered by the NRA.

elvor0:
Well I did have a big response planned, but I accidently lost it so, he's the gist of it.

How is this bad? All he's doing is making it so if you're under 17 you can't buy a 17 without your parent there. This means that the whole "publishers are selling mature games to kids!!111!" wouldn't have an argument any more. From now on.... responsibility would rest with the parents, and parents alone. This way, if they start bitching, we can just turn around and say "Well you bought it for him, it's your fault."

I know the US have a thing where they don't like selling AO things in stores, but this isn't AO right? It's just mature? So all should be fine.

However! I will say that if they are going to do this, it should be for films as well, and not just single out games, that's the bad bit.

If anything, this is waaaay better than the rest of them, he's not trying to ban, censor or invent new ratings or anything, he just doesn't want under age kids buying stuff. That's how it is here in the UK, and we still have everything you have on sale, and we generally have less ruckus about publishers pushing smack and conditioning to rise up on rampages on our kids.

We had this problem a few years ago. A Californian senator tried to pass pretty much the exact same law. There was a massive debate and in the end the law was struck down by the supreme court. The result of that is that if this bill actually passes (which it probably won't) we can remove it on the grounds of it being unconstitutional.

The bill itself wasn't bad, but the precedent it set was. Video games are an expression of free speech, and restricting them by an arbitrary rating system law would mean video games could have been restricted in other ways.

Burst6:

elvor0:
Well I did have a big response planned, but I accidently lost it so, he's the gist of it.

How is this bad? All he's doing is making it so if you're under 17 you can't buy a 17 without your parent there. This means that the whole "publishers are selling mature games to kids!!111!" wouldn't have an argument any more. From now on.... responsibility would rest with the parents, and parents alone. This way, if they start bitching, we can just turn around and say "Well you bought it for him, it's your fault."

I know the US have a thing where they don't like selling AO things in stores, but this isn't AO right? It's just mature? So all should be fine.

However! I will say that if they are going to do this, it should be for films as well, and not just single out games, that's the bad bit.

If anything, this is waaaay better than the rest of them, he's not trying to ban, censor or invent new ratings or anything, he just doesn't want under age kids buying stuff. That's how it is here in the UK, and we still have everything you have on sale, and we generally have less ruckus about publishers pushing smack and conditioning to rise up on rampages on our kids.

We had this problem a few years ago. A Californian senator tried to pass pretty much the exact same law. There was a massive debate and in the end the law was struck down by the supreme court. The result of that is that if this bill actually passes (which it probably won't) we can remove it on the grounds of it being unconstitutional.

The bill itself wasn't bad, but the precedent it set was. Video games are an expression of free speech, and restricting them by an arbitrary rating system law would mean video games could have been restricted in other ways.

Mm I remember, and I agree that it can set a dangerous precedent, however, it's not happened in the UK yet, and while your government has a more aggressive stance on video games, I can't see them going any further than this. Maybe give it a few years till the old guard is out and some more "level headed" (hah!) people are in there. So the law is in place, but the people in charge ain't the same people who also just want to burn them.

I dunno, I feel like if the law was in place, there would be a bulwark in place where responsibility is in the hands of the parents, and would reduce finger pointing at the games industry. Okay yeah they're making violent games, but in order for kids to get at them, the parents /have/ to buy it for them.

Why is it these politicians want government out of THEIR lives, but not out of OURS?

Gotta reiterate the theory several have presented here: I don't think he knows that videogames already have ratings

Punch You:
He sounds well intentioned, but I would hate what happened to movies happen also for videogames. I remember there being a controversy a year ago when a documentary about kids being bullied received an R for too many cuss words, so kids couldn't just walk into the theater and see it. I mean, seriously? A kid's everyday life can't be shown in a theater to kids?

This law would prevent 13 year olds from playing Call of Duty, but it would also prevent them from playing Spec Ops.

Reality is R rated, thus kids should not be allowed to exist until they're 18.

elvor0:

Mm I remember, and I agree that it can set a dangerous precedent, however, it's not happened in the UK yet, and while your government has a more aggressive stance on video games, I can't see them going any further than this. Maybe give it a few years till the old guard is out and some more "level headed" (hah!) people are in there. So the law is in place, but the people in charge ain't the same people who also just want to burn them.

I dunno, I feel like if the law was in place, there would be a bulwark in place where responsibility is in the hands of the parents, and would reduce finger pointing at the games industry. Okay yeah they're making violent games, but in order for kids to get at them, the parents /have/ to buy it for them.

The UK system works differently i believe. You guys have a much looser idea of freedom of speech than the US does and i don't think the court system works the same way. Besides the US is a massive video game market, bigger than the UK.

I think the congressmen would try to pass more laws for video games. You've been reading the escapist news articles right? I think this is the third attempted law and 89% of parents still think that video games caused the massacre. Every time something like this happens people will latch onto a scapegoat, and politicians will try to appease the people. Video games will be the scapegoat for a few decades, which is plenty of time to do serious damage.

The video game industry self regulates far better than most other entertainment industries. Most stores follow the ESRB guidelines. That bulwark is already pretty much in place, a lot of people just ignore it.

elvor0:

Burst6:

elvor0:
Well I did have a big response planned, but I accidently lost it so, he's the gist of it.

How is this bad? All he's doing is making it so if you're under 17 you can't buy a 17 without your parent there. This means that the whole "publishers are selling mature games to kids!!111!" wouldn't have an argument any more. From now on.... responsibility would rest with the parents, and parents alone. This way, if they start bitching, we can just turn around and say "Well you bought it for him, it's your fault."

I know the US have a thing where they don't like selling AO things in stores, but this isn't AO right? It's just mature? So all should be fine.

However! I will say that if they are going to do this, it should be for films as well, and not just single out games, that's the bad bit.

If anything, this is waaaay better than the rest of them, he's not trying to ban, censor or invent new ratings or anything, he just doesn't want under age kids buying stuff. That's how it is here in the UK, and we still have everything you have on sale, and we generally have less ruckus about publishers pushing smack and conditioning to rise up on rampages on our kids.

We had this problem a few years ago. A Californian senator tried to pass pretty much the exact same law. There was a massive debate and in the end the law was struck down by the supreme court. The result of that is that if this bill actually passes (which it probably won't) we can remove it on the grounds of it being unconstitutional.

The bill itself wasn't bad, but the precedent it set was. Video games are an expression of free speech, and restricting them by an arbitrary rating system law would mean video games could have been restricted in other ways.

Mm I remember, and I agree that it can set a dangerous precedent, however, it's not happened in the UK yet, and while your government has a more aggressive stance on video games, I can't see them going any further than this. Maybe give it a few years till the old guard is out and some more "level headed" (hah!) people are in there. So the law is in place, but the people in charge ain't the same people who also just want to burn them.

I dunno, I feel like if the law was in place, there would be a bulwark in place where responsibility is in the hands of the parents, and would reduce finger pointing at the games industry. Okay yeah they're making violent games, but in order for kids to get at them, the parents /have/ to buy it for them.

Perhaps I'm in the minority here, but at the stores I go to with my younger brother (who is 23 but looks well under 18) the stores wont sell to him without him showing ID, my presence or a parent.

Let's face it. No matter how many laws and ratings exist, until every video game store starts making the parents sign a paper that says "I, BobbyJo Dumbshit, hereby state that I am aware that I am buying Little Billy Dumbshit, Age 12, Call of Duty MegaMurder Rape Force 17 which contains graphic violence, foul Language, racial slurs, sexual slurs, depictions of violence against women, smoking, drinking, and bestiality which carries an Adults Only rating and I absolve GameStop of all responsibility for my negligent parenting methods." This kinda of stupid law-making is never going to end. Until that waiver is in place, Bobby Jo is gonna buy her little Dumbshit kids violent games, totally ignorant of what is in them, then go screaming to her congressman that her kid was sold this horrible game and she knew nothing about it.

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