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ESRB Responds To Mixed Review From FTC

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the return-to-acronym-city dept.

Censorship 35

Thanks to GameSpot for its interview with Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) president Patricia Vance, following yesterday's publishing of a 'Marketing Violent Entertainment To Children' report [PDF link] by the Federal Trade Commission. The report's findings are discussed by 1UP, noting the FTC "still gives mixed marks to the American games industry when it comes to marketing mature games to a younger audience." Vance indicates that "ESRB's focus will continue to be on getting retailers to display signage at the point of purchase that increases awareness and use of the rating system", although, even after improvement over previous years: "69% of survey participants (aged between 13 and 16) were able to buy an M-rated game without hindrance, including 55% of unaccompanied customers." Outside of the ESRB's duties, "The FTC's chief sticking point was still with the placement of [M-rated] videogame advertisements... [which] still frequently appear in enthusiast gaming magazines and other publications technically aimed at a teenage audience."

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first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9660239)

first post


Re:first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9660241)

wow, and i got second post too. figures that my first first post is on something nobody cares about.

Ads? (3, Interesting)

bugbeak (711163) | more than 10 years ago | (#9660264)

You see ads for those energy drinks (what's that one drink that starts with B?) and the FTC doesn't throw red flags all over the place about how dangerous that drink is to developing teen bodies.


Re:Ads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9676416)

That is a really, really bad analogy...

Re: No it isn't (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9681528)

It's not a bad analogy at all, what i think he was trying to say is that "M" rated video games are just as harmless to teens as Energy Drinks are. I happen to totally agree.

Who will think of the children? (5, Interesting)

qrowh (771006) | more than 10 years ago | (#9660445)

I've just skimmed the first 30 or so pages of the report, and there seems to be a whole lot of waffling, with statements such as "Although neither of the magazines have a readership that is 45% or more under 17 (years of age), each has a sizable readership among teens and older children."

The 45% figure cited is the limit that the gaming industry's regulatory commission allows a magazine's readership to be before it is considered to be aimed at a teenage audience. What worries me is that the FTC report mentions that companies are in compliance with these guidelines, then slams them by claiming their "sizable teenage readership" without defining what exactly that means.

Re:Who will think of the children? (2, Insightful)

mutewinter (688449) | more than 10 years ago | (#9660885)

I wonder what percentage of readers of Playboy and Penthouse are under 18.

Comapre this to Movies (4, Insightful)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 10 years ago | (#9660594)

Most 13-16 year olds would have no problem getting in to see the matrix revolutions which shows kung fu kicks to the head and amounts of people getting torn apart on the ends of machine tentacles.

I find it puzzling that video games have much higher standards applied to them in comparison to movies. Consider GTA, 18-cert. For what? Swearing,car-jacking,violence. What about gone in 60 seconds? 15-cert for exactly the same stuff.

Re:Comapre this to Movies (2, Insightful)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 10 years ago | (#9660695)

Keep the context in mind. In Matrix Revolution you see the "evil" machines doing their evil work, in GTA it's the player, ie. the "good" guy, committing the violence. Also, GTA doesn't include harsh penalties for dying or being arrested. Sure, you lose your guns and some cash, but that's neglectible. In GTA, there are no severe consequences to your actions, you can kill people to get, say, the gun they're holding or just for fun (GTA1 and 2 even gave you money for killing people).
The active aspect (you're comitting murder instead of watching it) and lack of moral lessoning (you don't experience killing random people as "bad", which in some eyes is promoting violence) makes it worse than some movie where e.g. Schwarzenegger mows down bad guys to save the world or avenge his family or something. It's not just the subject matter, it's how this subject matter is presented to the player/viewer.

Re:Comapre this to Movies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9660738)

Yes, but GTA 3/VC is also rather fake looking and sort of cartoony while Gone in 60 Seconds is live action realistic.
Of course GTA 3/VC is interactive while GI60S is not so GTA 3/VC could still have the egde.

Re:Comapre this to Movies (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 10 years ago | (#9660717)

But movies aren't interactive. I personally think that the constant barrage of sex, drugs, (rock and roll) and violence through TV, movies& magazines has a far greater effect on a far greater number of people. How many boys do you of that have gotten eating disorders from playing violent video games? Now how many girls have from reading magazines and waching tv?

Yes its a double standard of sorts, but the evening news doesn't report that little sally became bulimic trying to emulate the Olsen twins. That and the gaming industry is a much easier target than "the movie industry"

But seriously, you don't think all that Mortal Kombat back in the day messed with people a little? those finishing moves were something else. I never really played much of it, but from the little i saw, the idea of ripping someone's heart out doesn't bother me so much anymore.

Re:Comapre this to Movies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9662448)

"How many boys do you of that have gotten eating disorders from playing violent video games?"

Pac-Man can eat anything and not gain an ounce. Sadly the same does not apply to me. :(

Damn you Namco!

Re:Comapre this to Movies (1)

Canar (46407) | more than 10 years ago | (#9663365)

Untrue. You have no way to measure his weight. He could be just compacting it into himself, gaining weight and density instead of weight and size like you are probably doing.

It's my own personal theory that Pac-Man is intending to eat until he becomes the first ever sentient black hole.

Re:Comapre this to Movies (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 10 years ago | (#9661070)

Hollywood pays protection money to DC, one the game industry starts doing the same thing their problems will be 'forgotten'

It sucks, but it's true.

Re:Comapre this to Movies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9661132)

Yes, this is totally true. Just what i was thinking.

Problems with the study (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9660606)

I think we have to remember that the original study was politically motivated(it was called for by then-President Clinton almost immediately after Columbine, when idiots like Brent Bozell, Steve Allen, Joe Lieberman, and Sam Brownnoser started whining) and politically biased(it was favored to support Gore and Lieberman's views on the entertainment industry and it was released within 2 to 3 months before the Presidental election, which Gore lost) to begin with.

After reading the GameSpot article, I believe that the FTC investigators did not take into account three things:

1) the average age of a gamer today.
2) the average age of a reader of a specific magazine(i.e. EGM, PSM, GamePro, Nintendo Power), as average age dictates the direction and content of the magazine.
3) the primary age group of the viewership of TV programs that have game advertisements(i.e. WWE Raw, WWE Smackdown, TRL), or the difference between cable and broadcast TV.

On the plus side, the FTC pretty much admitted that the rating system does work(Joe Lieberman has even gone on record recently as saying that the ESRB rating system is the best rating system in the entire entertainment industry), and that retailers are starting to check IDs more(the report showed that a 13- to 16- year old was more likely to buy a R-rated movie or a music CD with the PA sticker than to buy a M-rated game without being carded), so the industry as a whole must be doing something right.

It also seemed to pretty much leave the video game and movie industries alone and focused mostly on the music industry, so that might still be the case when the next biased report comes out next year. Another report we may have to worry about is if the censorship-happy FCC decides to do their own biased reports. But that's for a another time.

== BearDogg-X ==

Not game industry's fault (4, Insightful)

arieswind (789699) | more than 10 years ago | (#9660848)

69% of survey participants (aged between 13 and 16) were able to buy an M-rated game without hindrance, including 55% of unaccompanied customers.

This is not the fault of the game industry.. it's the fault of all the Wal-Marts and Best Buys in the world that employ people that don't ask for id when someone young-looking tries to buy a M rated game, or they ask for id but then sell them the game anyways. There have been several documentaries on news shows about this type of thing. Secondly, even if there was 100% enforcement, if the parents don't care, they will just go out and buy the game for the kid anyhow, so...

Re:Not game industry's fault (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 10 years ago | (#9661117)

Secondly, even if there was 100% enforcement, if the parents don't care, they will just go out and buy the game for the kid anyhow, so...

However, this system helps parents that DO care but don't have the time/patience/whatever to monitor their kid around the clock (it's possible to hide games from your parents for a loooong time, especially if your parents don't have a clue when it comes to computer games). Parents that don't care can do much greater damage to their kid than simply buying video games not suited for children. With proper enforcement, however, the media can't just say "Little Timmy killed little Peter because of GTA" but also have to ask "How did little Timmy get GTA?" (or the public learns to ask that question) because he can no longer buy it. Okay, that's utopean.

Re:Not game industry's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9661168)

Who really cares if 13 to 16 year olds can buy the games. They're already teenagers and can understand the difference between reality and fantasy. For God's sakes they're already getting into alcohol, drugs, sex and much worse things then games.
NOW!! If 8 to 10 year olds were getting the games really easily, then yes that would be a problem. Of course 10 year olds don't really have $60 on hand and go off on their very own to the store to buy "M" rated games. And even if they did no person it sell it to someone that young even a teenage store clerk.

Re:Not game industry's fault (1)

XenoBrain (719411) | more than 10 years ago | (#9661971)

I've been buying M-rated games underage since the ratings system existed. How do I do it without being hasseled by retailers? Online. Parents' credit card, yes; but it's not like you can usually tell a game's rating by it's title.

Really? (1)

Inoshiro (71693) | more than 10 years ago | (#9662219)

So why would these companies ask for id? Don't ascribe to corporations the motivations of morality. These are the same companies paying kids 6 cents an hour to make Nike shoes. Why would they turn away a sale? A sale is, after all, a sale. Ferengi have more business morals than corporate America!

There is no law requiring that people buying games be IDed, to fines for failing to ask for ID, etc. Unless there is such a law, no corporation will do such a thing unless there is actual consumer backlash. Due to the amazing level of parental overwork because of the lack of socialized child raising in North America, that is not going to happen because the parents are two busy working 2-4 jobs to keep being able to give money for their kids to spend.

It's a very large and viscious cycle. If you want it to change, you're going to have to enforce penalties on corporations or allow parents the time to actually parent their children.

Re:Not game industry's fault (1)

Chasuk (62477) | more than 10 years ago | (#9662273)

I'm not going to sell heroin to preschoolers, but I'd sell an "M" rated game to anybody who presented the cash.

I'd let my own children play these games, so I'm not being a hypocrite. However, I do manage to actually BE a parent - you know, paying attention to them and knowing who their friends are, and even what games they play - and if I honestly objected to the content of the game once I'd seen it, they wouldn't be playing it again.

Re:Not game industry's fault (1)

dthree (458263) | more than 10 years ago | (#9675803)

to chasuk. I feel the same way. Last time my kid asked me for a rated-M game, I went looking for reviews, screenshots and videos before telling him he could have it. And then I will periodically watch him play and discuss issues with him if I feel it's warranted. Sometimes i find that his rated-M games have nothing I object to, but some E or T games do.

Re:Not game industry's fault (1)

PainKilleR-CE (597083) | more than 10 years ago | (#9673259)

it's the fault of all the Wal-Marts and Best Buys in the world that employ people that don't ask for id when someone young-looking tries to buy a M rated game,

Best Buy specifically has a trigger in their system for M-rated games that tells the employee to check ID, regardless of how young or old you look. I know this because I asked what tripped it when they asked me, when I was buying 2 games (M and T) and 2 movies (NR and R). Wal-Mart has the same thing for movies, but I'm not sure if they do for games as well.

On the other hand, the specialty stores seem to have much more variance on how they treat the issue, by which I mean that the individual behind the counter really seems to determine whether or not IDs are checked.

Then again, having the system automatically prompt for an ID check doesn't always work too well, as seen by the many times I've noticed checkers hitting 5555 to bypass the birth-date check when I buy cigarettes, despite the fact that both states I've lived in require checking IDs for anyone under 30 buying tobacco.

Re:Not game industry's fault (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9673551)

PainKilleR-CE, Wal-Mart also has that trigger you talked about(I should know, there are two Wal-Marts here, and Best Buy opens Friday), and I think Target and K-Mart also has it, but I'm not entirely sure.

== BearDogg-X ==

Lame (2, Informative)

dthree (458263) | more than 10 years ago | (#9661423)

If rated-M games can't be advertised in game magazines, where CAN they be advertised. Its just stupid. Movies trailers for R-rated movies can be shown in theaters before PG-rated movies and nobody complains. The trailers themselves are usually rated g or pg.

Just typically overreacting, call me when "GTA7: Bangkok Vice City" ads show up in Nickelodeon magazine.

Re:Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9663276)

That depends. The MPAA will only allow green-band trailers to play on PG or PG-13 films, even if they are for an R-rated movie. Red-band trailers cannot be attached to anything less than an R-rated movie.

Then again, Angelina Jolie's tit found its way into the green-banded trailer for Hackers, so... *shrug*

As far as what's "legal", that's a different story altogether.

Typical bureacrat ic slippery slope.. (4, Interesting)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 10 years ago | (#9662347)

When the ESRB was first forced on the game publishers ~10 years ago the standard byline of the time was "We don't want to censor game manufactureres. We just want parents to have the ability to know what their kids are actually buying!"

Now 10 years later... There are too many M-rated games being advertised in game magazines that kids read. This is bad.

Check out the seat belt laws too... 20 years ago in my state it was "We don't want to arrest people for not wearing their seat belts, we just need a seat belt law to increase awareness." So the law was written such that you couldn't be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt. You could only get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt if you were pulled over for something else. 2 years ago, they had the law changed. "Too many people are still not wearing seat belts, so we need to pull people over so that we can save more lives." So now we have random spot checks throughout the city where they take a look and see if you're not wearing your seat belt.

But remember, this is all for your own good.

Re:Typical bureacratic slippery slope.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9663936)

It's a good analogy, however, the key difference here is that the Constitution is a major factor that makes or breaks this entire issue.

The First Amendment is a powerful defense for anybody, especially an entertainment medium like video games. Appeals courts have twice blocked laws restricting game sales by ruling that video games have equal protection under the First Amendment as movies, books, and music. Those same Federal Courts have also rejected any attempt to hold video game companies liable for stuff like the Columbine and Paducah school shootings.

Like I've said in past postings, if the Supreme Court has to get involved in this debate, I firmly believe that the Supreme Court would rule that the First Amendment protects video games from censorship laws and frivolous lawsuits, because the Court, when rejecting appeals of the decisions siding with the industry, silently agreed with the rulings saying that video games are protected speech.

As I've mentioned earlier, Joe Lieberman, the most prominent critic of the industry over the last 10 years, not only has toned down much of his criticisms, but has gone out of his way to praise the industry for having "the best rating system in all of entertainment". Now, if you can make your most frequent critic say that, it shows not only how far the industry has gone in the last 10 years, but also how much credibility the industry has received in that time frame. Not to mention that in all of entertainment, video games has become the biggest cash cow, even though it's the youngest entertainment medium.

That same comment by Lieberman will eventually be the anti-video game movement's downfall. If Lieberman does a full turn and completely sides with the video game industry, say by doing an ESRB commerical(talk about an unholy alliance that would have been unthinkable just 4 years ago, let alone two years ago), it will damage the credibility of groups like the Lion and Lamb Project and people like Joe Baca and Jack Thompson, because Lieberman started the debate over 10 years ago.

== BearDogg-X ==

Re:Typical bureacrat ic slippery slope.. (1)

hambonewilkins (739531) | more than 10 years ago | (#9677583)

The difference is that your kid playing an M-rated game won't kill him but when your car crashes into a Semi and he's seatbeltless, it will. Seatbelts are a good thing and as far as reducing mortality, yes, it is for the public good to mandate them.

Its SAFER (1)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 10 years ago | (#9677811)

For kids to take public transportation. By your argument, the government should mandate that too.

Re:Its SAFER (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9677869)

Libertarian Reluctantly Calls Fire Department

After attempting to contain a living-room blaze started by a cigarette, card-carrying Libertarian the_skywise reluctantly called the Cheyenne Fire Department Monday. "Although the community would do better to rely on an efficient, free-market fire-fighting service, the fact is that expensive, unnecessary public fire departments do exist," the_skywise said. "Also, my house was burning down." the_skywise did not offer to pay firefighters for their service.

Re:Its SAFER (1)

the_skywise (189793) | more than 10 years ago | (#9678048)

Piss-poor analogies aside, you DO realize that there's a difference between funding a governmental service and government telling you how to live your life under the guise of being "safe"?

Devil's Advocate (1)

dogles (518286) | more than 10 years ago | (#9665310)

You're freakin blind if you don't see how M-rated videogames are marketed towards young audiences. I have nothing wrong with M rated games per se, but I think video game marketing is pretty irresponsible (though arguably no less responsible than the film or music industries).

I do think the escalation in violence in video games is a bad trend. If all that games are good for is simulated killing, then it becomes hard to defend it as artistic statement (and thus protected speech). Yes, there are a few exceptions to the rule, but I think most games released now are about killing stuff, with simulated violence. (If you don't believe this, just check out gamespot's [] front page at any given moment. Right now I see, Dead or Alive Ultimate, WH40K: Dawn of War, Disciple II: Elves, Ghosthunter, etc, etc. The only games I see there that *aren't* about killing stuff are sports games.)

I like games, and I indeed like many games involving killing stuff. But the current state of the industry should be at least a little embarrasing for any gamer, or game developer.

Re:Devil's Advocate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9666143)

Let's compare the games you mentioned along with the GTA games, Manhunt, the Metal Gear Solid series, and the Resident Evil series with some violent movies that have come out over the last 30 years, like The Godfather and Godfather Part II, Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Starship Troopers, The Passion of the Christ, the Friday the 13th series, the Terminator series, and the Nightmare on Elm Street series.

Now, other than the violence, what key element do all of these violent movies and games all have in common that the Constitution protects as free speech? That key element is plotline, which always seems to be overlooked when talking about games, but it's what the courts pretty much look at when deciding a First Amendment issue regarding entertainment like books, movies, and video games.

== BearDogg-X ==
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