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The ESRB Bites Back

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the snap-grr dept.

Games 60

Next Generation has an interview with ESRB president Patricia Vance, who is not taking the criticism of the Board lying down. From the article: "There are people who just don't believe in self regulation. They don't believe that an industry can regulate itself, even though there are plenty of examples of successful regulatory bodies out there, including the film business."

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I believe in self-regulation (0)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928013)

"There are people who just don't believe in self regulation."

There are also people who do believe in self-regulation but have seen that the entertainment software industry is incapable of doing it. An industry claiming to regulate itself is not the same as an industry actually regulating itself.

The games industry has demonstrated time and again that it does not want age ratings to be enforced and will actively take steps to prevent this from happening. Therefore, if we want ratings to be enforced, third-party regulation is required.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

XenoRyet (824514) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928054)

Mind citing a few examples of mis-rated games, and events where the ESRB "Demonstrated that it does not want age ratings to be enforced"?

Mind you I'm not trying to be particularly argumentative, but blanket statements don't really lead to productive discussion, examples do.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928587)

The most well-known example is the furore over Soldier of Fortune.

The game was marketed from conception to release as an adults-only product, unsuitable for children. Yet when the Canadian authorities officially classed it as adults-only (so it could not legally be sold to children) there was a court case to get the decision over-turned.

The logical conslusion, to my mind, is that the publisher wanted it to be legal to sell the game to children because they wanted children to buy it.

It was a ridiculous situation. We had a supposedly self-regulated industry imposing an age restriction on a game, and then taking a government to court over its support for that age restriction! It was almost as if the game's publisher was using the ESRB rating as some kind of cynical marketing device... but surely that couldn't be true?

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

Starsmore (788910) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928828)

One publisher does not an industry make (unless it is EA).

Was it just the publisher of Soldier of Fortune that brought the court case together, or was it the industry itself? Maybe the ESRB, the EFF, or their Canadian equivilants did it, because the ratings system as it existed was already in place, and there was no need for further rating?

There's also a difference between 'Mature' games, which I believe Soldier of Forture was rated, and 'Adults Only' games. Mature carries the conotation that it's violent, or dark, or moody. Something like Apocalypse Now. And at least in America, you can still get Wal*Mart and Best Buy to stock Mature-rated games. But Adults Only carries the connotation that it's pornographic, like Debbie Does Dallas, and Wal*Mart and Best Buy refuse to carry it.

The logical conclusion in my mind is that the publisher didn't want it's game to be labelled pornographic, and kept out of the major retailers, cutting into it's profits. If they had a marketting campaign that focused on the fact that Soldier of Forture was NOT a kid's game, there was no need for the authorities to classify it as Adults Only; the Canadian ESRB (or do they use the American one?) and the advertising campaign would have been enough to inform parents that this game was not for children.

There is a difference between pedalling to children, and making sure your bottom line isn't slaughtered by uptight government officials.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928915)

"the advertising campaign would have been enough to inform parents that this game was not for children"

Anecdotal evidence (which is all I have) is that only a minority of parents exercise enforcement of age ratings. And children who are not allowed to buy adult games can still get hold of the games by borrowing them from a friend, playing them at a friend's house, etc.

The situation as it stands at the moment (with self-regulation that doesn't regulate) is that marketing a game as not-for-children is a great way of making it desirable to children, and the age rating does little to stop children from buying the game.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

Starsmore (788910) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929019)

Anecdotal evidence (which is all I have) is that only a minority of parents exercise enforcement of age ratings. And children who are not allowed to buy adult games can still get hold of the games by borrowing them from a friend, playing them at a friend's house, etc.

That's the parents fault then, not that of the publisher/developer.

But then again, I'm not the developer/publisher for Soldier of Fortune, nor am I their marketing department. So I can't tell you that no, they were not specifically trying to get the games into the hands of kids. Then again, you are not any of those bodies, so you cannot try and tell me that selling violence to children was the only reason they brought the suit forward and got the adults only classification overturned.

But it is easier to assume, in a multi-billion dollar industry, that they'd be more apt to go after something that would possibly cut them out of a huge chunk of the market (game rated adults only, and therefore no longer carried by the bulk of the retail chains, and therefore no longer easily accessible to the adults it is intended for), then it is to believe that they were trying to specifically get kids to play the game.

The video game industry is in it for the money. That's the bottom line; their bottom line. Johnny-Twelve-Year-Old does not readily have $50 to spend on a video game, so they are not the ones buying the games. Johhny's parents, on the other hand, do have $50 to spend on a video game, if they so choose. Clearly labelling the game as not for kids and marketting as not for kids is enough. It's not the government's place to do a parent's job for them, just because some parents can't be arsed to read the ratings and parent their own child.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (2, Interesting)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 8 years ago | (#13930855)

Anecdotal evidence (which is all I have) is that only a minority of parents exercise enforcement of age ratings. And children who are not allowed to buy adult games can still get hold of the games by borrowing them from a friend, playing them at a friend's house, etc.

Which brings us to another point which is that the parents should be paying attention what their children are playing, watching, and listening to. My manager at work has a 13 year old son who has a playstation 2 and an xbox. She keeps an eye on him, however, and after she got home from work one day she allowed her son to have a friend over.

As it turned out, his friend brought over GTA: Vice City. So his mother is walking around the house cleaning up and hears them say something about some "titties". I havent played the game, appearently there are strip clubs in it...but she took the game away and told the *other* kids parents, to keep HER sone from playing the game, and to make sure the other childs parents knew what was in it.

This is how its supposed to work. Its bad enough when parents by mature rated games for their kids without thought, its worse when they dont pay attention to what their children are playing or doing. My manager doesnt allow the consoles to babysit her kids and actively watches what they do when they play games, get online, watch tv and movies or listen to music, and if she doesnt approve of something *SHE* stops them from doing it.

Kids will always, always, always want to be entertained by content more mature than they should be enjoying. Violent games and movies, skin mags and music videos with dancing scantily-clad women, or music and tv with language they probably shouldnt be familiar with at such a young age. THIS IS NORMAL. Hell, I remember wanting to check out some playboys when i was 11, watch the predator when i was 7, and listen to music full of harsh language when i was 13.

Its still the parents job to make sure they approve of what their kid is doing, and to stop them when they dont. My parents didnt watch me, so I did most of what I wanted. When they complained, i pointed this out to them. Mom, you werent around to keep tabs on me, and shes not happy with the way i grew up. She gets to deal with it because she slacked-off as a mother. So will others, and no amount of bitching about ratings and what kids can or cant buy is going to change that parents have to be responsible and watch their kids *themselves*

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

Pxtl (151020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13932551)

I think this is partially a problem that the ESRB brougth on themselves - they have no distinction between pornography and adult material. No X vs NC-17. While it shouldn't matter (either way it requires an 18 year old to purchase) it does to the twitchy prudes. Whatever category hosts the porno games will be left off of store shelves in a blanket action.

Really, while I know that San Andreas isn't a kids' game, does it really belong in the same category as Battle Raper?

Re:I believe in self-regulation (2, Insightful)

Bastian (66383) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928928)

That makes me wonder - what would the film industry do if someone tried to pass a state law making it illegal for minors to watch, purchase, or rent R-rated movies.

At least where I am, plenty of retailers have a policy on this, but there is no actual law about it.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929545)

Are you talking about the ESRB or the ESA (Entertainment Software Association)? The ESRB is responsible for rating games and also vets advertizing for appropriateness, but the ESA as the video game industry policy organization I would figure to be responsible for these issues, like the ban on selling games to minors in California [theesa.com] .

Though I agree with you. The industry, while I think the ratings are accurate, seems incapable of keeping mature games out of the hands of minors.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

buffer-overflowed (588867) | more than 8 years ago | (#13930474)

Don't forget, self-regulation has given us Standards and Practices for network(and cable) television, the comic book code(which killed things such as tales from the crypt), the MPAA(which routinely causes things to be cut), etc., etc.

Self-regulation is oooohhh so much better than government regulation thus far.

Re:I believe in self-regulation (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#13931790)

Yes, you are one of those people who want the government to do everything for you right? Listen, they do a good job of self-regulation. I do not know many (if any) retailers that sell 'M' rated games to children. It is not the ESRB's fault or the fault of the retailers if kids wind up playing these games. It is the fault of their parents for not doing their job.

Let's look at the game rating system in the same light as the movie rating system. We have the 'AO' games. These arguably cover NC-17 which is a movies most dreaded rating because you just knocked out a lot of people who would otherwise not go see it. You also have the 'M' which more or less the 'R' of movie industry fame. Very, very few games ever get tabbed 'AO' and very few actually get 'M' ratings. If you take a peak at game sales the best selling games fall into the 'T' and lower category. So they are typically no worse then PG-13 movies, a rating only added after complaints about Temple of Doom and Gremlins, the first PG-13 movie being "Red Dawn" and the only reason anyone will ever remember that horrid movie, but I digress.

The point is this game violence issue is blown WAY out of proportion, and many parents didn't seem to mind their kids playing GTA until the 'Hot Coffee' BS. There is a line from South Park about this that basically says parent's don't care about violence when they have sex issues to worry about. Especially here in the good ol' US of A this is VERY TRUE. What is worse is that parents expect the government to protect their kids! Parents would rather hide behind a big rock and say keep that evil video game, movie, pornograph, etc. away from my child.

Inevitably parents shirk all responsibility because they do not want to have to worry about raising their children. Every generation has found something new to complain about. Almost 50 years ago is was rock and roll being 'devil music'. Now we have Rap taking its place. Anyone who has ever worked for a government will tell you why you don't want them regulating anything. The simple fact of the matter of it is they do a horrible job of regulating themselves.

Listen, whether the regulation is done by an independent group, like the movie industry, or by the government, like alcohol, there are still people who will beat the system. A kid who wants to see an 'R' rated movie can get another adult to take them, or wait for it to be out on DVD and use the same scenario. Trust me, I went to college and know for a fact that underaged drinking happens, and in high school is was underaged smoking. When someone really wants something, they will get it and blaming the industry and sticking the government into a place it does not belong is wrong. This is the same reason I hate government instituted smoking bans, because they have no place enforcing ideas and beliefs for any reason on private business and industry.

It all boils down to.. (0, Flamebait)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928032)

Because parents have the right to make up their own minds about what's appropriate for their kids.

Jack Thompson would say that the kids who got shot at Columbine weren't raised by shit parents, the kids who did the shooting were.

Hillary Clinton would say it takes a village to raise a child.

Do parents really have the right to decide what is appropriate for their kids? Is it ok if they decide alcohol consumption, drug use, pornography or physical abuse are appropriate? Where's the line between what is "up to parents" and what is prohibited by society for all children?

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

Frenchy_2001 (659163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928273)

Do parents really have the right to decide what is appropriate for their kids? Is it ok if they decide alcohol consumption, drug use, pornography or physical abuse are appropriate? Where's the line between what is "up to parents" and what is prohibited by society for all children?

Yes, all of this is up to the parents, which is why any adult (society consider only adults to be parents) can buy those things and offer them to its child. The sale of those articles to minors is restricted, but what parents offer to their children is up to them.

In that same logic, i would not oppose a law that would enforce the ESRB ratings. The ratings themselves are great, a lot more detailed that the movie ones and so far, they have been quite exact (even for GTA: SA. What part of Strong sexual content is not clear to those people?).

Re:It all boils down to.. (0, Offtopic)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928307)

Yeah, I think the next presidental election is going to be very interesting. The number one issue in the US is bad parenting. If your kid kills my kid it's your fault right? The parents in today's society want their government to protect them from other parents. Those of us who don't have kids are just caught up in the whirlwind.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928454)

and jack thompson is a twat so what of it?

the kids who shot up columbine did it because they were fucked up kids not because they played video games. if violent video games caused kids to be killers there would be a rise in homicide rates among young teens at school, but there is no such rise linkable to the invention and wide-spread appeal of video games

Re:It all boils down to.. (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928494)

and jack thompson is a twat so what of it?

He has more impact on the Hill than you do, that's what.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928534)

because rap music and rock and roll are illegal now? shit i must have missed it jack thompson is as much a joke in D.C. as he is to the rest of us

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 8 years ago | (#13932136)


He has more impact on the Hill than you do, that's what.


And that impact is in jeopardy. As you know, The National Institute on Media and the Family has distanced themselves [livejournal.com] from Jack Thompson.

When he also attempted to attack Penny Arcade, readers sided with the Comic Strip instantly because of their much more professional persona (because they tactically controlled their use of profanity and insults much more than you-know-who.) The general reply was a suprising quantity of letters citing very specific violations of the Florida code of conduct, the removal of the e-mail addressees on you-know-what, and the closure of both JT's e-mail addresses.

There's also the fact that he is attempting to write a law similar to those that got stuck down. When it does, it just shows that policitians are wasting money on laws that quickly get struck down (especially since minors can just as easily pirate the game.)

Besides, Market self-regulation can work fine: Microsoft Windows Vista is including an operating system featre that can restrict access to games based on ESRB ratings (along with a closer finetuning.)

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928533)

Jack Thompson would say that the kids who got shot at Columbine weren't raised by shit parents, the kids who did the shooting were.

These are the kids who they say trained on Doom, right?

Doom [imdb.com] (the game) was released in 1993.
The ESRB [esrb.org] was founded in 1994.

Columbine happened in 1999, but has it been determined whether Harris (18) or Klebold (17) acquired the game, if he bought it, it was bought for him by a parent, or if it was pirated?

Until that is determined, I don't want to hear anything about ESRB self-regulation failures in the context of Columbine, because you're going to be hard pressed to find grounds for it to have been rated AO.

BTW, Doom's content ratings: USA: M (T for Game Boy Advance version) and UK: 15. You know what? Everyone can just STFU about Doom and Columbine from now on.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928642)

No-one argues that the kids who shot up Columbine were fucked up, and that their parents were responsible for raising such fucked up kids. Violent video games were just one contributing factor in the creation of these little monsters. What parents are calling for in the US is government regulation to ensure kids get "raised right". They want kids who get raised with an attitude that violence is ok in society to be taken away from their parents. They want this to protect their children. I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying that's where it is going.

Re:It all boils down to.. (2, Insightful)

Starsmore (788910) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928776)

They want kids who get raised with an attitude that violence is ok in society to be taken away from their parents.

I was just under the impression that they didn't want any sort of violent anything produced. Ever.

A child raised (raised meaning 'brought up by their parents') to believe that violence is ok, and then being taken away from said parents is worlds apart from 'stopping video game makers from creating a video game with any sort of violence'. I'm all for the first one; if a parent can't raise their kid, take the kid away. But I'm against the second part; don't take away the video games just because one kid was raised wrong and went psychotic, and happened to play the game.

Jack Thompson and his ilk have the second one as their goal. Not the first.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928863)

No, they don't. They want the games kept out of the hands of children. They don't give a shit about whether or not adults want to play the games. But like everything in our society, parents fuck it up. The number of people in our society who are actually qualified to raise children is minimal. Generally that's not a big deal, as a fucked up kid is more of an annoyance than a burden on society, but when kids start killing other kids, the parents of the slain want the parents of the killers to be held responsible. So long as parents have the right to raise their kids any way they see fit some parents will continue to raise monsters. I don't think it is too extreme to suggest that parents should be prohibited from raising their children in certain ways. Quite a number of things are considered "abuse" and to suggest that exposing your children to hyperviolent interactive media is also abuse is hardly a stretch.

Of course, I don't have kids (thank God) so I'm more than willing to trade the rights of parents to maintain my own right to buy violent video games.

Re:It all boils down to.. (2, Informative)

Starsmore (788910) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928924)

I'll agree with you there. If a parent is raising a bad kid, then by all means, take the kid away. But you don't do that by using blackmail and litigation and lobbying to basically stigmatize an entire industry. Which is what Jack Thompson and his ilk or doing.

You are right. They don't give a shit whether or not adults want to play the games; they feel that the games are an affront to their god, and should not be created, period, end of story.

A parent raising a kid the wrong way, and developers making violent video games are two exclusive actions; take away the violent video games, and you'll still have parents raising their kids the wrong way.

And as for the 'parents of the slain wanting the parents of the killers to be held responsible', did anyone actually try sueing the parents of those two kids from Columbine? I remember the parents of the victims going after Smith & Wesson (the guns), id (Doom), Sony (Playstation), the Wachoski siblings (Matrix- that's why they wore the trenchcoats!), Anne Rice (Moody vampire stuff, she has to be involved!), and the makers of Sharpee markers (black markers! They wrote in their notebooks with black markers!), but nothing about going after the parents who ignored their obviously mentally unstable children (or the jocks that made their lives living hell, or the school that let it happen, for that matter)...

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928961)

they feel that the games are an affront to their god, and should not be created, period, end of story.

Where do you get this stuff from?

or the jocks that made their lives living hell,

That was my initial reaction, but it's the easy way out. They didn't just kill jocks, they killed anyone they could.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

Starsmore (788910) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929108)

Where do you get this stuff from?

Go read some of Jack's diatribe against the video game industry. If you listen to him, he's on a mission personally given to him by his god to go erradicate all the sinners in the video game industry. He's just the pointman and most vocal one of them, but from reading interviews with the rest of the anti-Video-Games people, it's pretty much the same sentiment: They are personally appalled at what these games are, so these games should not exist. It's not 'they shouldn't be allowed into the hands of children,' its not 'they should be regulated,' it's 'they should not be made.' Yeah, everyone throws up the 'think of the children!' argument, but that's just to further their cause.

That was my initial reaction, but it's the easy way out. They didn't just kill jocks, they killed anyone they could.

I read the interviews with the people that knew those two. They might have shot everyone they could get a bullet into, including themselves, but they were tormented in school by the jocks & the rest of the 'ruling body' of high school.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929166)

Man, just about everything taken from those interviews has been discredited. The whole "Trenchcoat Mafia" thing was wrong. The whole "Marlin Manson" thing was wrong. The anti-depressant warning issued by the FDA was wrong. As for being tormented by jocks, duh, that's what jocks are for. It's a fucked up part of US highschool society, but it's been that way for decades.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

Bastian (66383) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929349)

And, of course, we all know that things that have been around for decades never drive people off the handle. Only new forms of torment really bother people.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

xSauronx (608805) | more than 8 years ago | (#13931066)

There are already laws in a number of states in regards to alcohol consumption, drugs use, viewing of pornography and physical abuse. It seems a line is already being drawn, doesnt it? Not, of course, that *having* the laws means they will be applied all the time, or even that it makes a big difference in someones behavior in every case just because it's illegal.

I looked at porn when I was a kid, i have an aversion to drugs and excessive amounts of alcohol, and would probbly never hurt anyone unless they attacked me first. In fact id certainly never hurt anyone except in self-defense.

My parents brought me up to look low on drugs and heavy alcohol use (a glass of wine or a drink in the evenings is another thing entirely) and I decided on my own that violence is a terrible thing. But i played many violent games and have seen many violent movies; i was brought up to know the difference between reality and fiction, so the violence ive seen hasnt affected me. Yeah, i looked at porn. Youd be hard put to find a boy that didnt, and I dont feel that its ever affected me negatively, but it was techincally illegal.

So, a line is drawn in some places already. You should have known that, why ask the question the way you did? Whats important is your first question. Yes, parents have the right to decide whats appropriate for their kids, but if what they or their children do is illegal, they'll get caught at some point and have to face the law. Otherwise, if its not illegal, its probably fair game.

Some parents wouldnt agree with how you were raised, some wouldnt agree with how I was raised. Tough, our parents had a right to do it how they wished and this is how we turned out. Alcohol, drug and physical abuse hurt other people, thats why its illegal, thats why its wrong. Pornography is arguable by some, i suppose, but i consider it on another level from the above entirely. Society shouldnt have a say in what my kids watch, listen to, or play if its possible for it all to be taken in without hurting anyone.

I listened to outrageous music, watched television and movies with sexual overtones, and played alot of violent games. Im not a bad guy, have never hurt anyone, abused any substances, or been to jail for anything. I turned out ok, and so will my 2 kids, because *im* going to watch them and be responsible for them.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

PGC (880972) | more than 8 years ago | (#13931138)

yes. That is WHY they are the parents. It's in their job description.

Re:It all boils down to.. (1)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 8 years ago | (#13941534)

When it really comes down to it, what the hell are we really arguing over here? GTA: San Andreas and the "Hot Coffee" right? Well, you know what, changing a game's rating from Mature to Adult Only might have detered a few sales, sure. But does anyone on earth think there is such a big difference between a 17 year old and an 18 year old. It makes no sense to me at all. First of all, you are talking about one year of age difference and only a very subtle change in content difference. Say we had made San Andreas adult-only, okay, what the hell difference in society would that have made at all? Doesn't matter how old these kids are the parents will usually buy them the games and let them play them anyway. So why don't you just get at the real target? As far as Columbine goes, both people involved were old enough to buy Doom, a very unrealistic game about killing demons that is no more graphic than any PG-13 "let's kill all the aliens" movie. I'm tired of weak arguments always coming to the forefront of the media.

Thinly Veiled (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928067)

Showing the movie ratings as an example of successful self regulation probably isn't the best argument to give a guy who blamed an R rated film (Basketball Diaries) for the murderous behavior of a 14 year old murderer.

Re:Thinly Veiled (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928086)

Heh, really? I would have thought The Bascketball Diaries would have encouraged suicide, not murder. Most depressing film ever.

ESA != MPAA (0, Offtopic)

soniCron88 (870042) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928257)

They don't believe that an industry can regulate itself, even though there are plenty of examples of successful regulatory bodies out there, including the film business.
The MPAA isn't operated by members of the movie industry. The ESA is, however, and thus isn't a reliably unbiased entity. Would you trust the drug companies to run the FDA? I wouldn't.

Re:ESA != MPAA (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928472)

the MPAA IS run by members of the industry

MPAA isn't a good arguement to use (1, Troll)

The Analog Kid (565327) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928266)

You can hide content in a game, you can't hide footage on a reel.

Re:MPAA isn't a good arguement to use (1)

Sinryc (834433) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928399)

Unless you get someone to mod it, and then someone(rockstar) screams HAX!!! and then goes"Oh yea, we WERE working on that..." And then were all fucked.

Re:MPAA isn't a good arguement to use (1)

Txiasaeia (581598) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928403)

Um, Fight Club?

Re:MPAA isn't a good arguement to use (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928796)

Ya know how they made Quentin Tarantino put a filter over the sword fighting scenes in Kill Bill? If he had refused he would not have received an R rating and couldn't show it in cinemas. If someone was to use a color restoration algorithm to restore those scenes to their bloody glory, and distribute them over the internet I think that would be pretty similar to "unlocking" hidden content in a video game.

Suppose Buena Vista Home Entertainment were to get wind of this and, instead of immediately sicking the lawyers onto these people who are unlawfully distributing scenes from their movie, they were to go ask Tarantino what he wanted to do. I wouldn't be surprised if Tarantino told them to do nothing, would you? So is anyone responsible for this unregulated content? What if the reason why Tarantino said it was ok was because of the financial gain he gets from people buying his film to play the mod?

Re:MPAA isn't a good arguement to use (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929581)

Or you could get the uncensored Japanese release [cdjapan.co.jp] of Kill Bill, which would be a near-perfect analogy to the video games industry. Incidentally, grey market importers of often bloodier Japanese release video games have been around for decades. No one's gone apeshit yet.

(no hidden referrer links, just trying to link to a corroborating site.)

Re:MPAA isn't a good arguement to use (1)

Hard_Rock_2 (804967) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929558)

There was actually a disney movie(cant remember the name) that someone managed to tamper with and add porngographic content into, which shipped. The hidden content was displayed in the backgroung only very briefly during one of the scenes.

Re:MPAA isn't a good arguement to use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13933604)

That would be The Rescuers, and it was a picture of a nude woman.

Regulate Sales As Well As Content Creation (3, Insightful)

GaryPatterson (852699) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928429)

Part of the problem seems to be that sales are pretty much unregulated, so any kid can go into a shop and buy anything.

The game creation industry might do everything right, put warnings on the labels and carefully ensure that their game doesn't exceed the rating they want to put on it, but if the sales staff at the local shop hand out copies of Doom III to ten-year-olds, then the rating system is completely in vain.

There should be a crackdown on the sales of games to minors too young to meet the rating age requirements. Enforcing that system at the point of sale would do a lot to help strengthen the image of the gaming industry.

Also, a strong rating system at point of sale means that if little Timmy goes off the rails because he played Quake 47 too much, then the parents can be asked who bought the game for him. If he can't have bought it, then...

And the content creation industry itself could do a lot to avoid being targeted. The hidden content revealed by the Hot Coffee mod was a truly stupid thing to do in many ways. If it's not part of the game, don't ship the content. Shipping sexual content in a video game, even hidden away and requiring a mod to uncover, will raise an army of parents screaming "think of the children" faster than Jack Thompson claims harassment when someone criticises him.

The industry has an image that it needs to protect. A bad image means that at some point it will be regulated from outside. If you don't mind that so much, imagine Hilary Clinton and Jack Thompson appointing a board to regulate game content. That's a worst-case scenario, but it's all about public perception.

Re:Regulate Sales As Well As Content Creation (2, Insightful)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13928934)

I don't believe sales to minors is the problem. Where are these kids getting the 60, 70, 80 dollars to buy a video game anyways?

When I was 12 I sure as fuck didn't have $80 to blow on a game whenever it suited my fancy.

And frankly, after I my department store [Zellers, like Walmart only Canadian, less evil, etc] aapron to sell towels and home electronic bullshit I think I was old enough to play GTA [though the cool GTAs were not out yet at that time...].

I encountered more grief from parents yelling about shortages of Zelda64 that was tramatizing then some fucking pow pow in a video game. I mean think about it. A fully grown adult parent was yelling at me [I was 16 yrs old at the time] about a video game that was on sale not being in the store.

That's ok. Work experience good. But playing some game in the safety of my house is a negative influence...

So basically you want to stop 12 yr olds from getting their mitts on video games they shouldn't have? Stop giving them so much money to spend however they please.

And if your 16 yr old kid can't take cartoon violence ... you failed as a parent.

Tom

Re:Regulate Sales As Well As Content Creation (1)

GaryPatterson (852699) | more than 8 years ago | (#13935844)

Tom, I don't give 12 year olds any money. For some reason parents tend to get a little nervous when I hang around the schoolyard, giving money to kids.

You missed my point. I know that video games aren't nearly as harmful as they're portrayed, but the image they have is pretty poor outside of gamers themselves. Making the industry *look* better is important right now, even if the changes are only cosmetic. The "think of the children" lobby is pretty strong, and antagonising them will only hurt the game industry.

Re:Regulate Sales As Well As Content Creation (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 8 years ago | (#13937138)

This goes through cycles though. The kids who are being deprived of cool shit will turn into adults seeking coolshit then they will open it up for their kids. What do you think the 60s were about? :-)

The basics of it is that video games represent our frustrations. So many things in life are annoying "just because". You get income tax, then the bank dabs on it to deposit [e.g. teller fees] then you buy things and pay tax, then you have to tip the fucking waiter [where's my tip when I write a line of code?] then you have to pay bank fees at the end of the month, 11% interest on the visa etc...

People are inherently pissed off. Being able to run over hookers in a mob car is a good way to vent ;-)

So the real people to blame are the capitalist "do anything to make money" asshats that ruin society because they're afraid if they had to be USEFUL [e.g. make something you can use in your day to day life] they'd fucking starve to death so they wrap themselves in layers of safety net "beauraucracy".

And no I can't spell... :-(

Tom

Re:Regulate Sales As Well As Content Creation (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 8 years ago | (#13930620)

You know, I might be fine with local and state government (hell, maybe even the feds) passing a law that would fine stores for selling M-rated games to kids. The problem I have is that "they" want to decide what is "bad".

The California law, as far as I can tell, doesn't even tell me who "they" are. Nor does it clearly tell me how "they" will judge the content. Can I have "them" judge the content before I release the game? Or do I just release the game and hope that "they" don't find the violence too hard for kids?

ESRB may not be perfect, but they've done a really good job most of the time. It is also a system that is easy to work with. The rules and ratings are clear for developers, publishers, sales, and consumer. Why can't we use a tool we have?

Re:Regulate Sales As Well As Content Creation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13931067)

Worst is, Hilary Clinton calls herself a liberal.

Re:Regulate Sales As Well As Content Creation (1)

danpsmith (922127) | more than 8 years ago | (#13941668)

Part of the problem seems to be that sales are pretty much unregulated, so any kid can go into a shop and buy anything.
Yeah but the polar extreme of that is that it becomes that you can't go into a shop as a young looking adult and buy ANYTHING without a photo ID. At 22-years-old I can potentially be carded for buying a carton of eggs, a can of spraypaint, a lighter, matches, a DVD, a CD with curses, a movie ticket, and countless other crap. These people need to keep better track of their kids, stop offering a 12-year-old the freedom to cruise around the mall with your credit cards and his shopping buddies. This is how bureacracy gets created. First you make a law that everyone has to card for something, then nobody does it anyway because they are lazy employees and frankly don't give a crap. So then you have to set up a governmental agency in order to make sure they are enforcing this law and now you have an army full of idiots whose job it is to make sure they get carded for a pack of cigarettes. And the fact remains that kids still find eggs, in the fridge... Spray paint in the garage... The DVDs from their mom's blockbuster bag, the CDs from the Internet, sneak into an R-rated while paying for a PG-13, and etc. So all you are doing is alienating the paying customers you have who just wanted an omelette and has what society would judge as a young looking face. It's getting to the point where I am on the verge of pulling out photo ID for every transaction and I'm about sick of it.

Hostility (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13928460)

Where is all of this hostility coming from?

You must have played games when you were a kid.

She couldn't say the truth (1)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 8 years ago | (#13929464)

People who claim the ratings are bad are a vocal, idiotic minority. Most of the time critics can't even get it through their fucking skulls that the games they find such a terrible influence on children are almost always rated 'M', and NEVER MEANT FOR CHILDREN IN THE FIRST PLACE. This is obvious to anyone who has made an even cursory examination of the facts, yet remains mysteriously absent from mainstream public debate. Usually pointing this out results in a shifting ground fallacy attack, then claiming that these games are "advertised to kids". Uh, but we were talking about the ratings...

Re:She couldn't say the truth (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 8 years ago | (#13930971)

Usually pointing this out results in a shifting ground fallacy attack, then claiming that these games are "advertised to kids". Uh, but we were talking about the ratings...

The talk now is about criminalizing the sale of 'M' rated games to kids.

That opens the door to a debate about the marketing of these games and the integrity of the ratings system, in much the same way as the design and placement of tobacco adds brings into question whether the industry is undercutting the warning labels printed on packs of cigarettes.

Re:She couldn't say the truth (1)

Sigma 7 (266129) | more than 8 years ago | (#13932414)

Most of the time critics can't even get it through their fucking skulls that the games they find such a terrible influence on children are almost always rated 'M', and NEVER MEANT FOR CHILDREN IN THE FIRST PLACE.


That is correct. However, the difference between the 'M' and 'T' ratings is generally considered to be the quantity of red pixels - this is the actual problem why the ESRB doesn't have a great reputation among players. As an example, compare Star Trek: Elite Forces to Operation Flashpoint. One has a 'T', while the other has an 'M'. They are both First Person Shooters. One has blood, the other does not (a.k.a. Red Pixel Syndrome.) The 'T' game inolves shooting a larger number of bad guys. This has produces a few jokes where a person in a cut-scene gets a nose bleed, suddenly causing the game to become Mature (although we both know that probably isn't the primary indicator of the rating..)

There's also a wide age gap between 'M' and 'T' followed by a tiny one from 'M' to 'AO'. Even though there is a valid and significant distinction between the two highest ratings, a quick glance makes things look like it's a single year difference. After reading comments, I do know the intended difference between the two, but it is still something that is used as ammunition. This is one case where I sugest changing 'M' from 17+ to 16+, but that might dramatically reduce its impact.

The rating system may be working fine, but there are rating combinations that product these problems. Most likely, ESRB needs to product a more mature system that prevents these inconsistancies from arising in the future - until then, ESRB won't look like the best rating system.

why are parents so good at... (1)

Loco3KGT (141999) | more than 8 years ago | (#13931798)

Figuring out how many piece puzzles, board games, etc, are appropriate for their child to play but can't for the life of them see that "M" rating on the copy of GTA they bought for their 12 year old?

Blows my mind.

Question (2, Insightful)

ifwm (687373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13932442)

If parents don't care enough to monitor their kids activities, and allow them to buy/play inappropriate games, how is it that these same parents can then scream bloody murder about said games?

You don't get to have it both ways, mom. If your kid is playing an inappropriate game, ask yourself what you did to prevent it. It should be something better than "I expected the manufacturer..." if you want to have any credibility.

The ESRB is trying to do something that parents are too lazy to do for themsleves. Why are tese lazy parents being allowed to shirk their responsibility? And what lessons are they teaching their kids as a result?

Re:Question (1)

ect5150 (700619) | more than 8 years ago | (#13933335)

The ESRB is trying to do something that parents are too lazy to do for themsleves.

At least be fair to the situation. When it is a movie, you (as a parent) can actually view the movie ahead of time if you wished. But the rating system on movies serves the purpose in this scenario of allowing the parents to make the decision based on the rating. Not because all parents are lazy.

For a game, the expectation is somewhat the same. The issue is that most parents probably don't realize there is a rating on half of the games, because there never was when when they were kids playing games (for the younger parents playing Atari 2600 and whatnot).

The other side of it is the problem at the point of sale. Its not enforced, but in the theatre, it often (sometimes) is enforced.

I think the solution to the problem is to make the information about the ratings more salient to the general public. Most of the time, when you see a commercial/trailer for a movie, you see the rating every time, often with a voice over at the end stating "Rated R," or "This film not yet rated" ... I don't always see the same thing for video games. Instead, a lot of the commercials had the funny voice saying "Playstation..." ... or back in the day, the fellow was yelling "SEGA!" at the end instead of some message stating what a suitable audience would be.

Re:Question (1)

ifwm (687373) | more than 8 years ago | (#13933989)

"But the rating system on movies serves the purpose in this scenario of allowing the parents to make the decision based on the rating. Not because all parents are lazy."

Yeah, um, no. This is bullshit, and you know it.

The current movie rating system is a group of individuals using their subjective opinions as a standard. It IS NOT IN ANY WAY a useful tool for measuring the content of a movie. The fact that you were fooled into thinking otherwise shows it does a damned good job of clouding the truth.

As a parent, (listen closely, you're going to hate this, but that's because it's true) if your chld is playing a game you haven't vetted PERSONALLY, YOU ARE NOT DOING YOUR JOB AS A PARENT. That's it. NO parsing, NO negotiation, NO BULLSHIT EXCUSES.

You DO NOT get to make a stupid excuse when you're failing your kids. You DO NOT get to blame others if you haven't done what you were supposed to first. You DO NOT get to hire an asshat lawyer and sue because your kid played a game with content you're unhappy with. That's bad parenting, and accepting it like you have is why we're in this mess.

Re:Question (1)

Jacius (701825) | more than 8 years ago | (#13952299)

This is the result, and an indication, of a socialist attitude prevalent throughout the world.

Namely, the idea that "Other people are responsible for knowing what themes I do and do not approve of my child being exposed to, and for acting to enforce my will, even if it will cost everybody extra taxes to enforce the violent video games ban to minors."

Another prevalent idea: "Other people are responsible for my actions, and for preventing me from being exposed to any games which might give me the idea of shooting someone, even if it will cost them legitimate sales to moral citizens."

Both of those ideas are special cases of this idea: "Because individuals are irrelevant next to 'society,' no individual is capable of making his own decisions or for furthering his own purpose; he can only act as one small gear in the machine of 'society.' Therefore, I cannot be responsible for thinking or acting for myself; instead 'society' (i.e. everybody else except me) must think and act for me."

Such an idea is, of course, a fundamental premise of socialism (including both fascism and communism).

The fallacy is that 'society' is nothing more than a set of individuals, and as such has no special rights or powers to do anything itself. The 'will' of 'society' is only the will of its most vocal members. As such, socialism is yet another mechanism for subjugating the sheep to the wolves.

Returning to parents: because some parents believe that they are powerless to prevent their children from buying games they do not approve of, their only course of action is to cry out for 'society' to do it for them. And yet, by giving 'society' the responsibility of protecting their children, they give up the chance to make sure, through their own action, that their children are properly protected.

At this point in history, they have reason to expect that 'society' should look after their children; after all, 'society' will provide the parents with food and shelter even if they don't work (via welfare checks, for example), so why shouldn't 'society' babysit their children, too? You say that 'society' doesn't have any money itself, that welfare checks are actually money confiscated from other individuals? Don't be absurd, everybody knows that individuals are powerless to think, act, or make money for themselves!

A little from Column A, a little from Column B (1)

jclast (888957) | more than 8 years ago | (#13932789)

It seems like the middle ground would be the best solution here.

Enforce the ratings as they are now. Not 17 yet? Then you can't buy GTA:SA without your parent/guardian there. If they decide you can handle it, they can buy it and give it to you (just like anything else). It's up to parents to decide what's right for their children.

This goes for all retail outlets, and money isn't always an issue. My imaginary child might not have $50 to blow on a game all the time, but you can buy Manhunt used for $12. It's not unreasonable to think that a 14 year old would have enough money for a $12 game. It's not just Best Buy and Fry's that need to enforce the ratings, second-hand shops need to play by the same rules.

Ratings are ratings; it doesn't matter how old the game is or if it's fallen out of the public eye. A parent can buy a used game for their kid just as easily as they can buy a new one.

Oh, yes! Self-reg works! (1)

Zhe Mappel (607548) | more than 8 years ago | (#13938406)

Works for The Man, that is.

If the names Enron, Arthur Andersen, Global Crossing and Morgan Stanley don't mean anything to you, get over to Wikipedia and learn about self-regulation in action.

Of course, if you live in California and have ever paid an energy bill, then you know a little something already about allowing capitalists to govern themselves.

As for the ESRB: who could possibly take it seriously? It's just a PR front to hold off those who get queasy over the idea of children playing mass murder simulators. Stuffy types, bug off--American kids love mass murder.

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