ECA Launches Action Alert Against Videogame Legislation

ECA Launches Action Alert Against Videogame Legislation

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The Entertainment Consumers Association has issued an "action alert" over the recent proposed legislation that would force retailers to conduct identification checks before selling M and AO-rated games.

Announced early in May, the "Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act" before Congress would see any retailer who failed to check a buyer's identification for compliance with age restrictions hit with a $5000 fine. The bill would also require all retailers to post an explanation of the ESRB rating system in their store.

The action alert, reported by GamePolitics, allows people to send an email to their Congressional representative urging them to withhold support for the bill. The form letter notes that the ESRB is already doing a "great job" of regulating the industry and empowering parents, and also points out that numerous previous attempts to regulate access to videogames have been struck down as unconstitutional, at great cost to taxpayers.

"HR 5990, the Video Games Rating Enforcement Act, is another Congressional attempt to unconstitutionally regulate the sale of video games. If it's passed, the federal courts will find it unconstitutional - and at great expense to taxpayers," the ECA said on its website. "By raising our voices now, we can let Congress know that we, as taxpayers and constituents, would rather they use their time and our money to discuss more pressing issues such as the war in Iraq, universal health care and the national economy."

To view the action alert in full and take part in the ECA's campaign against the bill, check out the ECA's website.

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....You know what? It's rare for me to say this, but this is pushing "unconstitutional censorship" of video games too far.

How exactly does the Washington brain trust intend to enforce this bill?

Post an explanation of the ESRB, and make it manditory to make sure you're not selling M games to minors... Sounds legit to me, unelss I'm missing something?

Yeah, I dunno. This actually makes a lot of sense; the same thing is done for tobacco, for alcohol, for porn magazines... anything given an M rating is strictly regulated.

I'm not actually American, we don't have a constitution that's quite as limiting (If you think about it) as yours... could someone please explain to me just how this is unconstitutional?

My impression is that it's being viewed as an end-run around the First Amendment. The content isn't being directly restricted, so the claim can be made that there's no Constitutional infringement. Which is sleazy, and unlikely to stand up to any kind of scrutiny, but after repeated First Amendment hammerings this is the sort of thing we should probably expect.

As far as it being "legit," consider the potential chilling effect on game sales. Is Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Radio Shack or any other major retailer with a largely slack-jawed sales force going to want to risk heavy fines because someone didn't bother checking ID and ended up selling GTA to a 16-year-old? And without unfettered access to major retail channels, what do you think is going to happen to M-rated videogame development?

And what hasn't been brought up are the penalties faced by movie theaters who admit underage kids to R-rated movies, or music shops that sell Parental Advisory Labeled CDs to 12-year-olds: There ain't none. The videogame industry is once again being targeted and we should all be concerned.

I see. I was not aware there were no penalties for selling MA rated cds to minors and the r-rated movies and such.

Well, so once again Video Games are just randomly being targetted and being treated like porn. Spleh, this will never fly. However the explanation of the ESRB ain't too bad. Theatres used to have posters explaining the rating system.

I'll bet you $20 that none of the people making this law have ever played a video game ever.

Doesent congress have better things to do?

I'm pretty sure that ID checks are required across the board here in Oz: I've been bitten on the ass at both a cinema and an EB because I forgot my photo ID. There is an exception though: books. As a 13 year old I accidentally walked out of Dymocks with a sci-fi book full of swearing, gory action and very graphic sex scenes. No one carded me because no one had to.
So I don't see the problem with this as long as the restrictions are made across the board. Of course they aren't, because the legislators behind such bills aren't interested in consistency.

I don't get what the big deal is either. Age checks and an explanation of the rating system would help little Timmy's mother know that the content of "Virgin Slicer 3: Axe Wound" isn't appropriate.

They would help (though it explains all you need to know on the box neway). But this bill isnt being introduced for that reason & it isnt being applied to all media formats, just videogames. The congressman who introduced it pretty much said "games are really, really evil; we should make sure parents know how evil they are & punish those who sell them to minors." $5000 for selling an M game to a minor accidently is, as Malygris says, large enough to be really offputting to some major retailers even if the number of M games sold to minors knowingly or accidently is lower than in other media's. The fact that this isnt a blanket law, but simply targetted at videogames, means that although in principle the idea of requiring ID checks & an explination of ratings isnt bad, this bill shouldnt be supported.

Wheres videogamings Frank Zappa when we need him? :-)

The plus side to this would be: People could no longer complain at Game Developers for making games that are being sold to kids. You'd have to blame the stores that sold it to them because they'd be responsible for checking ID and such like.

This is really the kind of thing we should be doing in Britain. It makes a whole lot of sense to me.

P.M.

Possum-Man:
The plus side to this would be: People could no longer complain at Game Developers for making games that are being sold to kids. You'd have to blame the stores that sold it to them because they'd be responsible for checking ID and such like.

This is really the kind of thing we should be doing in Britain. It makes a whole lot of sense to me.

P.M.

Sorry, but people have never been able to blame game developers for who their game is sold to, they just do it anyway despite the fact it is an idiotic and downright wrong argument. If a twelve yr. old has a copy of GTA4 who do we blame. The developer? The retailer? Or the parent who bought it for him?

urm...in Britain we dont need to explain the ratings as the BBFC & PEGI both very kinda use numbers instead of letters for these things (PEGI also use icons that look oddly simular to the lute charm icons in Bards Tale to show what a consumer can expect). If you cant work out what a big red circle with the number 18means itl take more than reactionary legislation to make you understand (a lobotomy might help though :-)).

Yes, U & PG13 etc are exceptions with the BBFC but no1 complains about games with ratings like that :-)

There seems to be some confusion here.

This is not about "protecting the children" or "empowering parents." This is a targeted attack on the videogame industry. How exactly is that acceptable in any way whatsoever?

Malygris:
There seems to be some confusion here.

This is not about "protecting the children" or "empowering parents." This is a targeted attack on the videogame industry. How exactly is that acceptable in any way whatsoever?

I don't see how its an attack. Most countries apart from the US have enforced sales restrictions, doesn't seem to effect them at all.

I for one am writing to my state senators asking that they either vote this down, or have it modified to include all forms of media.

I encourage everyone else in the states to do the same.

Malygris:
As far as it being "legit," consider the potential chilling effect on game sales. Is Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Radio Shack or any other major retailer with a largely slack-jawed sales force going to want to risk heavy fines because someone didn't bother checking ID and ended up selling GTA to a 16-year-old? And without unfettered access to major retail channels, what do you think is going to happen to M-rated videogame development?

Because it is so hard to check photo ID... All a employee has to do is check for the "M" or "AO" rating and ask for ID. Places already do it for beer and etc. If a employee slips up then they can make the employee pay the $5k.

13-year-old kid walks into a video store and buys Saw.

16-year-old kid walks into a games store and buys GTA IV.

In 500 words or less, explain which one is worse and why only one of these actions should be subject to heavy, punitive fines.

I like the idea but I can understand why others wouldn't. If ID checks become a requirement for buying M rated games that doesn't mean that there aren't parents that are too stupid to check the ESRB rating let alone sheet of paper explaining it. Just the other day I saw a parent buy a copy of GTAIV for her kid (he looked 8). I asked her if she really thought a game where you steel cars, shoot up gangsters, and commit various other crimes is appropriate for a child that young. She gave me a dirty look and walked off. Then a father and his son walked in the boy picked out a game and asked if he could get it and his dad looked at it and said it was to violent. So really, it depends on how responsible the parent is.

Malygris:
13-year-old kid walks into a video store and buys Saw.

16-year-old kid walks into a games store and buys GTA IV.

In 500 words or less, explain which one is worse and why only one of these actions should be subject to heavy, punitive fines.

now i see your point. All or nothing is then

<Double-post>

I'm a UK citizen so unlike America we already have a ratings system which encompasses the video game industry.

The catch is that videogames aren't currently required to submit themselves for BBFC ratings. Most do mainly because the content is usually adult-oriented and then the rating is legally binding. Anyone who sells an 18 rated game to an under-18 can be legally charged unlike the crappy European system which is only a guideline, much like the ESRB.

In my personal opinion I think that the reason Congress is passing this bill is because they can't find any other way round the irrisponisble behaviour of certain minorities of US citizens who exploit their freedoms and then blame everyone else for their own failures in judgement when the shit hits the fan ie. little Johnny plays GTA and then grabs a gun and holds up a 7/11 so of course it's the game's fault for influencing naive 14 year old Johnny and not the fact that there is an availability of weaponary, his parents bought him a Mature rated game and then didn't bother to teach him the difference between fantasy and reality.

In this case it seems they're trying to "put out a forest fire with a screwdriver".

Galaxy613:
Because it is so hard to check photo ID... All an employee has to do is check for the "M" or "AO" rating and ask for ID. Places already do it for beer and etc. If a employee slips up then they can make the employee pay the $5k.

Which is more likely what will happen. Why should the retailer who employs these people suffer for their poor lack of judegment? At least with alcohol, porn, etc. there is already legal implications.

But as I said in my previous post, I'm not a US citizen. Making the ratings a legal requirement is better choice.

soul_rune1984:
I like the idea but I can understand why others wouldn't. If ID checks become a requirement for buying M rated games that doesn't mean that there aren't parents that are too stupid to check the ESRB rating let alone sheet of paper explaining it. Just the other day I saw a parent buy a copy of GTAIV for her kid (he looked 8). I asked her if she really thought a game where you steel cars, shoot up gangsters, and commit various other crimes is appropriate for a child that young. She gave me a dirty look and walked off. Then a father and his son walked in the boy picked out a game and asked if he could get it and his dad looked at it and said it was to violent. So really, it depends on how responsible the parent is.

In the UK it's also an offense to purchase an age-restricted product for someone who is under-age and you have the right to refuse to sell to someone who you believe is purchasing for someone who is underage. Had several arguements to that extent.

I for one think ID checks should be done on MA (15 plus here in Oz) games, they do it at the movies, so why not? I don't think that minds that young are perhaps emotionally ready to deal with that sort of content. If ID checks are done, then anti-video game groups can't bleat out "Will someone please think of the children!" because we could counter "ID checks are done you stupid people!"

Any MA game that makes it into the hands of minors would be with the consent of a parent who would have their best interests at heart (we hope) and would be good judges as to whether or not a child is ready to deal with mature content.

I believe in the right of the industry to produce mature games, but letting minors play them is just idiotic.

So whats worse voilent video games pointed out by the government or their so called war in Iraq?

 

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