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ESRB Our Last Defense Against Game Censorship?

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the don't-fail-us-now dept.

246

1up is running a piece looking at the ESRB, and its role in politics. They assert the organization may be gaming's last defense against politicians seeking to censor games to increase their own political capital. The article discusses the Hays Code governing movies, and the limits on speech the comic book industry placed on itself as the result of similar pressures. From the article: "Ultimately, the best way to prevent the demise of gaming is to make use of the democratic process. Despite what the Internet would like to believe, mere emails and forum posts don't have much clout. Rather, posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion -- the beliefs that they've been elected to represent."

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Are game ratings really so bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15481612)

I understand that censorship is a bad thing, and all that can be done needs to be done to prevent it. However when a publishing company is making a game and knows that sex and violence will get a MA rating put on their game it will force them to make higher quality games in order to pull the younger croud.

Re:Are game ratings really so bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15481678)

sex and violence will get a MA rating put on their game it will force them to make higher quality games in order to pull the younger croud. ... I don't quite understand what you're saying? MA games are low quality? High quality games have no sex and violence? MA games have to be really good to get kids to buy them despite the MA rating?

Re:Are game ratings really so bad? (2, Insightful)

GundamFan (848341) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482206)

I think the GPs point was (IANAMR) is that there are plenty of games (BMXXX for example) that exist only to cash in on the sex and violence market (this was especaly bad IMO on the xbox) and if the MA rating was not a badge of honor (like the Expicit Lyrics lable) then perhaps more time would be spent providing quality entertanment and not "breast jiggle".

On the other hand there are games that are inovative dispite (or because the commit fully to) violent or mature content... just like a good action or horror movie.

Senators and Fundimentalist will never openly like videogames (at least not for another 25 years) but that should not be an excuse to pass laws restricting there sale to adults.

Who is this esrb (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15481618)

I dont know them.. Don't like them or want them... what have they ever done for me?

Parent are 1st line of defense! (5, Insightful)

gasmonso (929871) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481638)

You can pass all the laws and restrictions you desire, but kids will find a way to purchase/play violent games. You can try cleaning up the games by passing laws, but if there is a demand, someone will fill it. It comes down to parents knowing what their kids are doing and educating them appropriately. My friends and I grew up in a time when Rambo and Arny were all the rage... violence was commonplace in the entertainment industry. We all grew up to be rather well adjusted... and thats because we were raised properly. Laws won't help... education will.

http://psychicfreaks.com/ [psychicfreaks.com]

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (3, Insightful)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481680)

Here here. When are parents going to be held accountable? I propose a law that makes it mandatory for you to pass a competency exam before you can have children. If you fail, they might someday grow up, get drunk and drive in to the side of my wife's car. I guarantee you that scenario is 1000 times more likely than someone shooting me because they played GTA. Either way, WHERE ARE THE PARENTS in this equation? Don't they have some responsibility?

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (0)

prichardson (603676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482028)

So what happens when a couple doesn't pass? What happens for unexpected pregnancies? Forced abortion?

How about racists on the board that decides if a person is competent and failing all the black people? Then we get into a eugenics situation. No matter how you slice it, the restriction of reproduction is a minefield of potential abuse and disaster.

What we really need is to change society's perception. We are extremely overpopulated, and large families are doing more long-term damage to our planet than you suspect. However, some people still feel obligated to have children.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482134)

I wasn't being serious. I was joking. I was trying to prove a point that at some point you just have to trust people to do the right thing. And when they don't you hold the correct party accountable. Not game makers. Not game sellers. But really bad parents (and there are a lot of them out there).

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

twistedsymphony (956982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482053)

while I like your idea I don't believe we should take away someones ability to have children.

If anything the parents should suffer the legal burden for their children up to age 18. Your stupid kid gets jail time for shooting someone in the face, guess who gets to go to jail if they're found guilty?

That would certainly encourage parents to take a more active role in their children's lives. and if not the parents get jailed for something the kid does and hopefully the new foster parents do a better job.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482203)

I was joking, of course. And the above has been considered, even tried, I believe. It's a legal and ethical minefield, of course. Since sometimes kids are just bad. And then what should parents do? Chain them to a wall?

In the end my bottom line is that having kids is a choice. No one puts a gun to your head and forces you to have kids. So once you make that choice you better damn well take it seriously. That means if you are overworked, find a way to work less. If that means cutting back on your consumerism, then do that. But by all means take care of your business. You've brought a human being into this world. A human being that could do great things or do terrible, awful things. It is absolutely your responsibility, no excuses, to raise that child well. And that can't be legislated. It's just something parents have to do.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (3, Insightful)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482082)

WHERE ARE THE PARENTS in this equation? Don't they have some responsibility?

Isn't it obvious? They were too frazzled by having to work such long hours to keep the family above water financially. Thanks to the slow rollback of workers rights and a landscape of low-paying jobs created by the governnment's sellout to big business and handling of the economy. They didn't have much choice that allowed them more time to be with their children.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (4, Insightful)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482165)

#1 - I agree totally that PEOPLE (remember, us non-parents are people too) have supressed wages and are busier than we should be.

#2 - I have seen many many many many parents very fixated on having all the trappings of being wealthy, while neglecting their children. We're talking about video games after all here. If parents are too busy to spend time with their kids and monitor what they're doing, then I would posit that they should work less and not worry about making sure the family has a plasma TV, multiple computers and all the latest video game systems. Try some books and tossing the football around maybe.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482284)

They were too frazzled by trying to afford the next gizmo, buying their big screen TV on credit, buying that new 2006 model car on a loan, etc etc. Our economy is only this bad because people let it become this way. Its not some evil corporation thing (Well not most of it anyways). If I make widgets and sell them for $6,000 when they cost me $150 to make, and people whip out the credit cards to buy them...damn right I'm gunna charge $6,000 for it. But if noone is willing to whip out the credit cards for big money purchases and just up their credit lines by making steady payments until doomsday...well...then I have to lower the price of my widget until people start buying it.

Prices of things will only go as high as the market will bear....unfortunately because everyone is so willing to spend on credit those prices stay artificially high. If people quit spending on credit and just being happy with what they have even if it is a few years old...we would all be in a much better situation. But hey...like that is ever gunna happen...next time you see an 19yr old kid driving a new 06 riced out with spinner rims...run up the math in your head on how much it cost...how much he likely makes...and the fact he will be paying on that car until he is 40 and then ask yourself why he has to work 12hrs a day until he is 40 to keep up with the 19% interest rate loan he signed for all of it.

Not in this country (4, Funny)

doublem (118724) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482090)

Hold on there buckaroo.

You're asking American parents to take responsibility for something?

What country are YOU from???

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482107)

When are parents going to be held accountable?

When lawyers and politicians stop having kids.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (0, Offtopic)

Curious Yellow 82 (863079) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482166)

When the fuck are you morons going to realise it's "hear hear", and not "here, here"?

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482288)

When the fuck are you morons going to realise it's "hear hear", and not "here, here"?
Another example of bad parenting?

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

ExPacis (973499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481710)

One has to wonder; in all the studides of kids who went on rampages or what have you, and found games like GTA (and the list goes on...) on their PCs -- how many found the boxes of the games and the install discs?

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (2, Informative)

Plugh (27537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481720)

Quoth gasmonso:
You can pass all the laws and restrictions you desire, but kids will find a way to purchase/play violent games.

So true. You know that, I know that, the problem is the legislators don't know that... and that is the immediate root of the problem.

This is a problem I and thousands of other have taken action to fix now. Not in some fantasy land, not in some unspecified future, but now!.

Come join us [freestateproject.org] ... or just give us a test drive [porcfest.com] .

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

eln (21727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482076)

The legislators do know that. The problem is the voters don't want to believe that, even though they also know it's true. They want to believe that there's an easy solution to the problem, and the legislators are more than happy to pander to that in exchange for votes.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (3, Informative)

Plugh (27537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482281)

OK.
Let's go ahead and about half the Legislature are the really bad, "nanny state" legislators think that passing laws really is the solution... and that the other half are simply willing to whore themselves and use fear tactics to get re-elected.

Either way, it makes a hell of a lot of sense for people in favor of PERSONAL CHOICE (or, if you prefer, "parental choice", when it comes to minors) to take control of the Legislature.

That's what we're doing here in New Hampshire [freestateproject.org] . The first of us "early-movers" are running this November. We also keep a detailed Report Card [nhliberty.org] of every member of the legislature, with a letter grade from "A" to "F", so we know which are the ones that already are pro-Freedom, and which are the bastard busybodies that need to be thrown out.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

Chosen Reject (842143) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482276)

So true. You know that, I know that, the problem is the legislators don't know that... and that is the immediate root of the problem.

The real immediate root of the problem is not that the legislators don't know that, because they do know that. They know a great deal in fact. The real problem is they don't care. [slashdot.org] Take a look at the last statement in the summary in that link. This will be in the news that the legislators saved the children and they will get more votes from the idiots. What won't be put in the news is the fact that later the ruling was overturned, that the tax money was wasted, that the courts were tied up with this garbage, that the legislators willfully tried to subvert the US Constitution, and that all along, they did it knowingly. That is the real problem.

I'm a parent... (5, Insightful)

QuaintRealist (905302) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481721)

of a 10 year old and a 7 year old. And you know, the rating system really does help to some degree. If a game is rated "M" I can turn it down. If it's rated "T" I know to look carefully before purchasing. If it's rated "E" I know that my 7 year old won't be shocked/disturbed, and so on. What I hate to see is putting restrictions on games based on the rating - give me (the parent) a heads up as to content, then let me decide, thanks.

Re:I'm a parent... (1)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481872)

That's already happening. The games that are causing the most outcry right now are GTA and the various mods to GTA and Oblivion. What parent is STUPID enough to think these are good games for their kids, unless their kids are mature enough to handle what may be thrown at them?

I too don't mind a rating system. I actually like it. I like it for movies. If a movie is R and it's a horror movie (I hate horror movies) there's a chance it's way too over the top for me. Whereas if it's PG-13 it may work. So even for an adult choosing for themselves ratings can sometimes be beneficial. But in the end the parents have to actually be involved. We don't need more laws. We need parents to start doing their frickin' job. Across the board. Childhood obesity, kids falling behind in school? Don't blame me. I don't have kids. Time to take a look at the parents who ask for tax cuts, then whine when schools are ill-funded. Time to take a look at the parents who let their kids drink soda all day long then wonder why their fat AND hyper. Time to put them on Ritalin....

AAHHHHHHHGGGG. Top the madness. Parents, do you frickin' job.

Re:I'm a parent... (2, Interesting)

ChicagoDave (644806) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482065)

I disagree with this assessment. I purchased Shrek II for my girls because it had the "E" rating. The game is _entirely_ based on the concept of bashing men in the head. This is violent behavoir I wish not to teach my kids. I would have expected the rating to be T at least or have a synopsys of what the game play is like. "Shek bashes his enemies while..." would have properly sent me away from the game. But of course ratings are about sales and there's no way a Shrek II game was going to get anything but an "E" rating.

You raise a good point (2, Insightful)

QuaintRealist (905302) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482100)

I've had a similar problem myself. Still, I don't think that this means that a rating system isn't useful or valid, just that we both would like the games to be rated accurately. After all, with no rating system, you'd probably have bought the Shrek II game, with the same result.

Re:I'm a parent... (1)

WolfZombie (918513) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482249)

If the rating system isn't good enough for you, try reading some reviews on it before buying it. If something like that concerns you, ask a knowledgable sales associate about the actual gameplay. Worst case scenario is rent the game before you buy it and try it out before your kids get a hold of it. The ratings are designed to give a general idea of what is in the game. Laws don't need to be in place for good old common sense and simple research. Life is about making decisions based on your knowledge. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong, that is part of life. If you are looking for people to make the decisions for you that is laziness.

Re:I'm a parent... (0, Troll)

ShaneThePain (929627) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482277)

You're a hippy.
I'm really sick of all these anti-violence flower power fags.
Violence is necessary to maintain sanity. Without Violence, your kids will NOT be well adjusted.

Embrace violence. It's OK.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481777)

If selling games with mature content becomes too tough to do because of potential legal liability, publishers will stop publishing those kinds of games. We're not just talking about changing the availability of this stuff, we're talking the potential for the stuff to be legislated out of the realm of practicality.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481968)

Passing stupid unenforceable laws always works..Just look at how wonderfully well Prohibition worked in the US.. Not a single person drank during Prohibition, and there was certainly no crime created because of it....

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482081)

And the Constitution ought to be our last.

KFG

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482122)

Fuck that! I for one will just pirate them 'till I turn 18.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

mmalove (919245) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482152)

Yes, but censorship will affect the production of video games the way it already affects the production of movies. There is good and bad to this. On the good side, developers may consider making a fun concept presentable to a wider audience by striping out some scenes/graphics that overall don't affect gameplay. On the bad side, said scenes can - when done right - create the horrific environment that is the craved experience of the gamer. There would be no system shock or doom 3 without the corpses of the main character's former colleagues littering the ship, slowly forming a picture of the horror that had taken place. And unfortunately, in today's world of retail, the only way to sell a game big is to convince distributors of its potential - ie, a wide audience.

Re:Parent are 1st line of defense! (1)

Gno (970625) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482232)

I agree as well! The rating does nothing. I mean nothing. Unless the parents look at it make a decision. They can pass all the laws they want. PC freeware outnumber console by atleast 100 to 1 There's no ratings for that. If the kids can't buy thier voilence then the'll simply just download it. Beacuse the parents don't know or don't care what's going on.

Sometimes seems the opposite (4, Insightful)

IAmSwiftness (980193) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481639)

Sometimes it seems to me to be just the opposite -- that the ESRB is a tool for politicians to censor games and make them out to be evil. Have there been any laws on the state or federal level enforced that regulate ESRB ratings, such as laws that say that you MUST be 17 to buy an M-rated game, or are those things all voluntary compliance?

Re:Sometimes seems the opposite (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481904)

It's voluntary, although there have been attempts at laws.

It is unconstitutional to use a third party rating system, it violates due process. And for perspective, movies are all voluntary (barring pornographic)

Re:Sometimes seems the opposite (1)

DevanJedi (892762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481923)

They are voluntary, I believe, the same way the movie ratings are voluntary.

Re:Sometimes seems the opposite (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482396)

In many places, however, it is ILLEGAL for a theater to let under 18 kids into an R rated movie. The theater can be FINED for doing this. So, it is not voluntary.

Re:Sometimes seems the opposite (1)

Pojodojo (930080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482275)

It seems to me Derek that you think the ratings apply more to the Retaliers of the games then the Parents of the purchasers. The main problem with all of these arguments seem to be that we are either putting all the responsibility in the hands of the Parents, or in the hands of the Retailers. The system that seems to be in place now is putting responsibility in the hands of the both, and throughout my childhood it seemed to work perfectly. I've tried to buy an M rated game when underage, and when they declined, I just asked my Parents, and when they approved, we went and bought it. What is so wrong with this system?

We need to send a message (4, Insightful)

Eric Damron (553630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481645)

Perhaps the best thing we can do is to send a clear message that we do not approve of trivial issues being used as political tools when there are real serious issues that haven't been addressed.

The best way to do that is to identify the politicians that use these tactics and then vote the bums out of office.

Re:We need to send a message (1)

stubear (130454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481709)

ummm, that would be all of them. I'm all for cleaning house but I'm guessing the extremes needed are not going to happen, especially since we'd have to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the political whoring that has been corrupting our system for decades.

Only decades? (1)

shigelojoe (590080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481947)

Political whoring has been corrupting the system for at least a century or two (power corrupts, after all); it's only since Watergate and the Vietnam War that we've had reason to scrutinize our public officials more closely.

Re:We need to send a message (1)

a803redman (870583) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482051)

Real serious issues are both too complicated and too boring for the average person to understand. If I can't understand it, how the hell can I care about it. Its much easier to take complicated issues on faith. Less time thinking more time watching American Idol and maybe eating pudding.... uummm

Re:We need to send a message (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482226)

Perhaps the best thing we can do is to send a clear message that we do not approve of trivial issues being used as political tools when there are real serious issues that haven't been addressed. The best way to do that is to identify the politicians that use these tactics and then vote the bums out of office.

Rockstar touched a raw nerve in both the inner city and the suburbs. Gamers who didn't see the crack-up coming were politically deaf, dumb, and blind. Which is not the formula for winning an election.

email not effective? (3, Funny)

dilvish_the_damned (167205) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481654)

mere emails and forum posts don't have much clout. Rather, posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion

Maybe so, but we can send a whole lot more emails than letters. If we send a whole lot of em' they are sure to read our opinions!

Gotta go delete my spam now. Tell the senator I said 'hi' for me.

Re:email not effective? (1, Insightful)

stubear (130454) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481766)

No, they're sure to ignore them that much faster. If you're faced with thousands of e-mails all seemingly complaining about the same things, knowing that it took little effort to write them, would read them?

Re:email not effective? (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481803)

If you're faced with thousands of e-mails all seemingly complaining about the same things, knowing that it took little effort to write them, would read them?

Would if it were my job to determine what people are complaining about, yes. And that happens to be the job of every elected representative (yes, most have staffers to do the actual reading and then receive only a summary of the complaints).

Re:email not effective? (1)

TheGreek (2403) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482109)

That paper letter you mail to your Senator or Congressman takes about three weeks to arrive in his or her office.

Next Day courier service will arrive in the office two or three days after you send it.

Re:email not effective? (1)

elliotCarte (703667) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482024)



Despite what the Internet would like to believe, mere emails and forum posts don't have much clout.

In other news: The Internet is capable of both liking and believing. Emails and forum posts (as opposed to those who write them) gain potential to have clout.
Nice.

Re:email not effective? (1)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482398)

Yeah, I'm sick of this notion that letters to politicians must be written on actual paper. I've never seen any actual evidence that it really helps (unless of course the paper has a picture of Mr. Franklin). While I'm sure it was once true, I'm beginning to wonder if it's becoming an old wives' tale, irrelevant to the current political climate where it's not possible for average citizens to convince any politicians of anything.

GDC '06, E3 '07 (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481660)

The ESRB ratings system was our last, best hope for freedom of speech. It failed. But in the year of the Terra war it became something greater: our last, best hope... for anything worth playing. The year is 2006. The place: GDC '06.

(It was the year of Jack Thompson. It was the year of elections. The year we brought back the booth babes that were ours. It was the year of sequels. The year of great justice. The year of suckage. And the year of pwnage. It was a new age. It was the end of Madden sequels. It was the year everything changed. The year is 2007: the place, E3 '07.)

Re:GDC '06, E3 '07 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15481931)

i dont get it
why is that funny?

Re:GDC '06, E3 '07 (1)

Dash-o-Salt (724026) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482212)

Because it's a parody of the opening introduction for Babylon 5:

Commander Jeffrey David Sinclair: It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last, best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5.

Quoted from IMDB [imdb.com] .

Re:GDC '06, E3 '07 (1)

plsander (30907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482234)

Look up the opening sequence to 'Babylon 5' ---

Re:GDC '06, E3 '07 (1)

Bob of Dole (453013) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482313)

You sir, win the internets.
Now where are mod points when I need them?

The year of suckage (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482368)

How about the decade of suckage??? Damned few good movies, music, or TV so far this century.

We do have two wars (not counting "on terra") and a government by, for, and of the multinational corporations, possible the worst congress, senate, and president in history, and... has anything been invented yet this century? Sure, lots of stuff has been patented but how much was actually invented?

I guess they don't call it the "naughts" for naught.

(MRC="nuisance", as in "mcgrew is a nuisance")

Democracy is more of a problem than a solution (2, Insightful)

Duodecimal (938540) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481662)

The entire these laws get passed in the first place is because of politicians looking for votes.

Re:Democracy is more of a problem than a solution (1)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481888)

Exactly. You can't pander well by holding the following press conference.

"I'm not passing any legislation today to label candy. I'm not passing any legislation today to label video games. Today I'm begging parents to take the time to do their jobs. That is all."

on the contrary (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15481679)

"...posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion -- the beliefs that they've been elected to represent."

Actually, the best method to get their attention is to throw money and free trips [startribune.com] at them.

Re:on the contrary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482271)

What about the Video Game Voters Network [videogamevoters.org] ?

Paging the CryptKeeper to this thread.. (1)

Channard (693317) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481689)

.. because this smacks of the whole EC Horror Comics furore years back. And did anything change for good? Did it hell. Gory and violence in comics is still going today.

Re:Paging the CryptKeeper to this thread.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15481732)

Feel free to Read The Fucking Article before you post.

A "blue frog" for democracy? (2, Interesting)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481692)

Something silly and/or weird just came to my mind.

How about a complaint automating plug-in for your e-mail program which presents you with the latest bills proposed (sorted by importance) And helps you submit a complaint by helping you with the text (like, "copy / paste text into your e-mail program"), and with the responsible people's email addresses in the "To:".

Or perhaps it could be much easier. A democracy mailing list or something, but the point is that the greatest obstacle for people to complaining is to find out WHO to write to. Definitely a program with a database of politicians' emails and what bills they proposed / approved, would be a great help for our democracy in the 21st century.

Gamers Rights action group? (2, Informative)

DevanJedi (892762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481963)

Major politica action groups like truemajority.org already do this. They send you an email saying this is the issue (e.g. net neutrality) and this is the text of the message we would like you to send to your congressman and these are the people you should send it to. If you go to their page, you only have to click 'Send' to send it via email. Since the site knows your information, it will automatically craft the email and send it to the relevant politicians on your behalf. Maybe we can put together a similar action group for "gamers' rights".

EFF has an RSS feed (2, Informative)

Mr. Sketch (111112) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482048)

On the EFF Action Page [eff.org] You can subscribe to an RSS feed of all the latest bill/issues before congress that affect our digital rights. Things like the broadcast flag, NSA wiretaps, e-voting, etc. Each individual action page has a form letter you can send your representative or senator to show your opposition or support.

not enough (4, Interesting)

delirium of disorder (701392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481718)

Ultimately, the best way to prevent the demise of gaming is to make use of the democratic process. ... posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion

Civil disobedience and other forms of direct action are better ways of getting what we want then begging some old ignorant politicians to be nice to us. We should be defying the law and using all means necessary to demonstrate that information cannot be controlled. If stores won't sell a game to you, then you should pirate it. If law enforcement tries to track down online game distribution, we must devise and implement anonymity networks. If you are an independent game developer, you should not submit your game to the ESRB for rating. You can distribute it as shareware to bypass corporate big box store censorship. This would probably generate enough controversy that if the game was decent at all, it would be quite profitable. Consumers should boycott ESRB rated games, Tipper sticker music, and MPAA rated film. There already is a great independent music and movie industry that often does not rate its content, why not extend this to video games?

My proposal (4, Funny)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481722)

Lately, with all of this censorship by the FCC, reporters being arrested because they won't reveal thier sources, and now this talk of congress censoring video games, I propose a constitutional ammendment that will protect my freedom to say what I want to. The text of this fictional amendment (which doesn't exist because this stuff wouldn't even be considered if it did) would read something like:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Once this one is up, we'll work out one with regards to them arresting people indefinately without a trial....

Re:My proposal (1)

IPFreely (47576) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482068)

That's way to hard to do, and most unlikely anyway.

Maybe we can just get all video games classified as firearms. After all, it's a lot easier to buy firearms than video games. And they could NEVER take them away from us.

Re:My proposal (1)

Elvis Parsley (939954) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482169)

Why do you hate America?



Hang on...

ESRB v. MPAA (2, Insightful)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481745)

The MPAA film ratings bureau is made up of representatives of the actual film industry to decide what is okay for films aimed at whom, in order to avoid government-regulated censorship. In that respect (minus all the other political lobbying and bullshit it's into) it's not that far off from the ESRB.

So, what are the laws on the books regarding adult-rated movies? If indeed it's illegal to let an unescorted child into an R film (and not just voluntary industry policy) why not adopt something similar and legally enforce the ESRB ratings on games? The alternative is for the ESRB to give way to a government censorship system of some kind, and if that happens games will have taken a huge step backward that films took forward generations ago.

Re:ESRB v. MPAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15481924)

So, what are the laws on the books regarding adult-rated movies? If indeed it's illegal to let an unescorted child into an R film (and not just voluntary industry policy) why not adopt something similar and legally enforce the ESRB ratings on games?

A movie doesn't have to be rated by the MPAA in order to be shown legally in a theater in the US. The whole "not allowing minors into movies >PG" thing is something the movie theaters do voluntarily in order to avoid government regulation.

Re:ESRB v. MPAA (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481949)

There are no federal laws (and AFAIK, no state either) that enforce MPAA ratings. They're voluntarily enforced by theathers and retailers.

Re:ESRB v. MPAA (1)

DevanJedi (892762) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481980)

While it may be illegal to show a child psychologically damaging content, there is no law regarding MPAA ratings. They are the industry self-policing itself so that the nanny government does not get involved.

Shift the focus (2, Interesting)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481746)

Every time I hear one of the incidents of a kid getting an inappropriately-rated game, I notice that the kid didn't just go buy the game on his own. Almost always, a parent or some other adult authorized under all these proposed laws bought the game for the kid. I think the defense needed isn't more ratings. When a politician brings up the issue, someone stand up and name names and point out that the parent bought the game, then ask the politician flat-out what they're going to do about parents who buy their children these games and when are they going to start doing it. Cite their own example case back at them, and make them answer how their proposals are going to address the problem of parents doing the buying. If they try to weasel out, bring them back on point by noting that it was their example that involved the parent doing the buying, so why can't they address their own example?

Re:Shift the focus (2, Insightful)

TrekCycling (468080) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481908)

I've literally been at stores and watched parents debate with the store employee about the game being okay for their kids. And not in the way you might think. The employee was 100% of the time saying "that's not a very good idea, that's not for kids, try this instead" and the parent wouldn't listen. So what good does the label do when you even have a store employee warning the parent. Clearly some parents are too stupid to do their job.

End

Of

Story

Great plan (4, Insightful)

Silent sound (960334) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481772)

"Listen! We can keep them from taking away our freedoms if we just give them up willingly!"

Like "voluntary" film and comics codes of the past, the ESRB isn't a defense against game censorship. It's an instrument of game censorship. As the article says, it isn't nearly as bad an instrument of censorship as the film and comics codes of old. It remains an instrument of censorship nonetheless. Twice now perfectly normal and worthwhile games have gotten effectively banned from sale in the U.S. not because the games were particularly obscene-- they weren't, both paled before something like BMX XXX or God of War-- but because the games manaaged to inspire pressure groups to complain, and the ESRB caved like a house of cards and rerated them as AO after they had already been available some time. In theory the difference between M and AO is the difference between "sell to 17 year olds" and "sell to 18 year olds", but in practice the difference is the difference between "For sale" and "Not for sale".

And unlike attempts by legislators to ban video games they disapprove of-- attempts which all have so far eventually gotten overturned in the courts, because this nation has constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression-- when the ESRB gets something banned by rating it AO, it stays banned, because industry associations are allowed to censor expression as much as they want. As a legal, adult paying customer it is far, far more difficult to get around the ESRB's "voluntary" censorship than it is to get around the legal censorship of runaway legislators.

The defense against game censorship should be through the democratic process. This country is ours just as much as anyone elses; the democratic process belongs to gamers as much as it belongs to parents who think Wal-Mart should be responsible for parenting instead of them. One of the functions of a healthy democracy is to protect the minority from a tyranny of the majority. We need to start ensuring our democracy functions in a healthy manner.

In the meantime, if the ESRB is going to be any kind of defense against game censorship, it needs to start acting like it. So far it is serving as an instrument of the pressure groups working for game censorship far more than it is serving as a deterrent from governmental censorship. In fact, not only is the ESRB failing to serve as a check on runaway legislators-- by now it is actually providing a stepping-stone for those same legislators. Hillary Clinton's latest attempt at a video games law [wikipedia.org] actually uses the ESRB ratings, in mandating ESRB enforcement by law. I can't help but wonder how all those people will feel who touted the ESRB as an "alternative" to censorship law, once [if] the ESRB becomes the censorship law?

Re:Great plan (1, Troll)

DanHibiki (961690) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481974)

"the best deffence is a quick surrender" -French millitary code

Re:Great plan (1)

trak0r (839081) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481996)

"Well, put. There should be an ethical law against using the law in this way. Like, we need have a default thinking built into our society that has ethical road blocks built in for idiotic notions such as censorship." - trak0r

Re:Great plan (1)

AnyoneEB (574727) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482320)

You are perfectly free to, as a consumer, boycott any stores which do not sell AO rated games and let the companies know the reason why you are not buying from them. (I assume you would have no trouble buying said games from online retailers.)

About that old technology (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481895)

posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion.

Are you sure about this. Last I heard, and after the anthrax scares, paper mail isn't even delivered to your representatives any longer. Perhaps faxs are better.

I would be more inclined to say that (1)

sanermind (512885) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481906)


The supreme court is the last defense against violations of the first amendment.
Voluntary censorship doesn't entirely help things necessarily. When the 'mature' designation is something that won't be carried by mainstream stores, inevitable market enforced censorship tends to set in as game developers often would tend to feel a profit-motive to limit themselves to the 'acceptible' criteria to ensure wide distribution... thus, subtly censoring much of what is produced.

Why is game rating so bad? (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481932)

Everytime this topic comes up on slashdot (or elsewhere) there's this outlash that I just don't understand. I'm 31 and and have a 7 month old son. I play games, I'm sure my son will as well. I'm all for free speach and against censorship, but I'm very much for accurate game ratings and laws that prevent underage CHILDREN from buying adult material.

I was restricted from watching R rated movies, or buying magazines off the top rack. If my parents decided it was okay, they could take me to the movie, or purchase the magazine for me. Why should it be different because its a video game? When my son decides he wants the latest version of GTA or whatever the latest game is, if its been rated M, or R, or something with content judged to be for adults, I want to be the one making the decision, not some minimum wage on commission teenage working that the outlet store.

Sure, as a parent its my responsibility to know what my kids are watching, playing, etc. However, realistically, I can't be watching him 24/7. No store should be able to sell my underage child what amounts to graphic violence, sex, drug use, content without my say so.

This isn't censorship. If only those 17 and up (or whatever the age is) can purchase a game rated M, the game isn't censored or pulled from the shelves by the government. If a particular retailer chooses not to sell it, that's their choice. Its not like games like GTA won't be produced anymore because Walmart won't carry it.

Re:Why is game rating so bad? (1)

Pichu0102 (916292) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482130)

The problem is, it would end up like buying other things that require ID. People will look at you, and they'll judge you if they see you buying an M rated videogame. You decide not to buy it because you'd rather not have to show your ID and admit to buying a game that the community looks down on.
If not that, then there's a chance after they pass this, that people who buy vilent games would get put on a government watch list. You know, just in case they're terrorists in training.
It's a chilling effect, plain and simple.

Re:Why is game rating so bad? (1)

Nos. (179609) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482186)

So, what your saying is, people who are ashamed of buying these things don't want to show their ID. First, I don't think that's a valid argument against such a law. Second, you can always buy it online.

I'm not saying you'd have to swipe your ID card, or the clerk would be writing down your driver's license number. Its just a proof of age thing. There is no need to record what ID was used.

Re:Why is game rating so bad? (1)

beef curtains (792692) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482310)

Sure, as a parent its my responsibility to know what my kids are watching, playing, etc. However, realistically, I can't be watching him 24/7.

That you can't control what your kid does when your back is turned is completely reasonable - while you're sleeping or at work, your kid could break into your (hypothetical) Playboy stash, or play your rated-M games. Kids have been getting into stuff they shouldn't be getting into while their parents were away since the dawn of time.

However, in this scenario the fact remains that YOU brought these non-kid-friendly items into your home. How do you deal with this: good, ol' fashioned PARENTING. Teach your kids right from wrong. Explain to them why porn & violence are not appropriate for them, and discipline them accordingly.

I'm not saying you don't do this, but it's glaringly obvious that a huge number of parents in this country are too lazy to put in the effort, and expect the government to pick up their slack.

No store should be able to sell my underage child what amounts to graphic violence, sex, drug use, content without my say so.

Why should the store care what your kid buys? You're the one that gave him $75 and dumped him off at the mall.

Plus, if you actually teach your kid what's allowed & expected of him (i.e. "You are not to buy anything rated higher than 'T' under ANY circumstances, because those games are not appropriate for you"), and follow through by checking what he bought, then there's no reason for the "minimum wage on commission" employee to even come into the picture.

Let me pre-emptively answer a couple questions: No, I don't have kids, and no, I don't think parenting is easy. However, my parents practiced the very parenting I mentioned in the above paragraphs, and as a result, I did not see R-rated movies until I was 15 (when my parents decided I was mature enough for them, and would be watching with them), and didn't purchase violent video games until I was 17 and paid for them myself.

Oh, and I have yet to rape, torture or kill anyone...so I guess it's safe to say that I turned out alright.

Re:Why is game rating so bad? (2, Interesting)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482391)

"Its not like games like GTA won't be produced anymore because Walmart won't carry it."

Actually it is. Big game producers need to have the biggest market for their goods. If a content author from a big game producer goes to management and says: "we can add this mature content, but it will severely restrict where we can sell the game", will that affect management's decision on what should be included in the contenc? Of course it will, and of course it should.

That said, the ESRB system is currently working as it should. Whether it is used properly in the purchase decision is up to the buyer (aka parent if applicable) and the retailer. Walmart chooses not to carry AO games. Good, it's exercising its right as a private entity to make decisions about what demographic it wants to appeal to. It chooses 'family friendly', it gets 'family friendly', and game producers have to take this into account. Those things are called 'business decisions'. If Walmart's clout means that producers take a big hit by going AO, that is also a business decision. Deal with it. Take your dollars elsewhere if that's what it means, 'cause that's the only language Walmart understands.

Now, regarding a previous comment mentioning that Hot Coffee and Oblivion represent a broken ESRB system, I beg to differ. The ESRB is supposed to represent the content in the game. If the content is on the disk, it is accessible. Difficulty in access does not render it inaccessible, and outside the scope of the ESRB. Hot coffee was a developer blunder (removing access to the content but not the content itself), and Take Two got appropriately burned on that blunder. Failure to disclose to the ESRB review full information about your content leaves you open to getting burned. If graphic user controlled sexual content bumps from M to AO, then there you go. Discovery = bump. If Oblivion has boob baring models, and nudity bumps from T to M, then it should be bumped, and it was. The content is what is rated, not the 'default game storyline'. All content is assumed to be accessible to the only moderatly tech-savvy individual.

The rating process is working, to the best of it's ability. Those two games represent the added difficulty in rating games vs movies. A movie can be completely screened (as in each and every frame on the DVD) in a reasonable amount of time, and a firm rating determined accordingly. (has a movie rating ever been changed after the fact?) Games have so much content, this same level of vigilence becomes difficult. From the ESRB on Oblivion: "The board cross-examined the tape Bethesda submitted with video taken from the final release of the game...determined that the developer understated the detail and intensity of the blood and gore... the ESRB said publishers are required 'to disclose locked-out content during the rating process if it is pertinent to a rating,' and that Bethesda failed to do so. ". Bethesda did a poor job disclosing everything in the game, and now they're getting burned. Publishers will get more careful about the ESRB review, and this should stop happening.

The rating system does what it's supposed to do. Now, I think the ratings are stupid (17 vz 18 for M vs AO), but that's semantics. If a PG DVD had a graphic sex scene that couldn't be accessed from the menu, but anyone with a DVD-ROM or the right DVD player could get to it, that publisher should get burned and the DVD re-rated. No different with games. And publishers need to keep the market in mind when it comes to content.

Censorship is a bit harsh of a term (1)

stlhawkeye (868951) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481958)

I haven't seen a lot of mainstream politicians calling for the government to censor games. That is, disallow them from being published or alter their content. Not even that Jack Thompson idiot has called for that. Only that games be properly labeled for content and not marketed or sold to children if their content is inappropriate for kids. This is no more than what we demand of the tobacco companies. And they're great role models for how to run a responsible business. Right?

ESRB Our Last Defense Against Game Censorship? (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481965)

DRM, our last defence against information control?

Two words (1)

saboola (655522) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481971)

Night Trap [wikipedia.org]

now you've done it... (3, Funny)

sk8dork (842313) | more than 8 years ago | (#15481979)

Despite what the Internet would like to believe, mere emails and forum posts don't have much clout.
you've gone and hurt the Internet's feelings.

The "Democratic Process" won't stop censorship! (2, Insightful)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482029)

Duh... Freedom of Speech and free expression trumps any sort of democratic process, because democracy cannot exist in the absence of free speech. Our basic human rights are not negotable with a mob.

The only way to fight censorship is civil disobedience to censorship laws. The only way to fight censorship is to blatently violate laws that are created to regulate speech. We need to recognize that any government that controls speech is not democratic, and has no moral authority over us.

We don't have to convince anyone, not Congress, not "The People", not anyone, of our right to absolute free expression. We simply need to learn how to resist forms of control that the government will try to put on expression.

Wrong, wrong, wrong! (4, Informative)

lax-goalie (730970) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482047)

"Rather, posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion -- the beliefs that they've been elected to represent."

This is just plain wrong. Due to the anthrax scare a few years ago, posted letters to Congress get shipped to a warehouse in Maryland, where they wait three or four months to be irradiated. Only then do they end up going to Capitol Hill. By then, most of them are so out of date that the issues referenced have come and gone. Letters are the WORST way to communicate with your Representative or Senator.

The best ways to let "politicians know your opinion" are: 1) Fax, 2) Phone call or personal visit to the closest regional office (the staffer there can get stuff directly to the appropriate person, especially if you've taken time to develop a relationship with the staffer), 3) Phone call to the appropriate staff person in the DC office.

Or, you can go one better, and set up a meeting. They're really not that hard for constituents to get, especially if you have the regional office staffer set it up. (Although you'll generally get only about 15 min or so...) If flying to DC is overkill, pretty much the whole Congress sets aside time to visit each of their regional office during breaks from Washington. Bonus tip: Congress starts "summer break" on Friday, so if you've got something to say, now's a good time to ask for a meeting.

Re:Wrong, wrong, wrong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15482161)

I live in Maryland and had no idea. I want to try this now! :D

The whole premise of the argument (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482106)

Is that parents don't have control of what games their kids play, or what they watch, etc.

So they think that government can step in by making everything safe for America. Yeah, right. What it really comes down to is that when parents are each working two jobs to support themselves and their spawn, they don't have the time to argue with the kid about what's appropriate for their age level, and what isn't.

I hate how we try to deflect the real issues. You can put a dress and lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig.

Penny Arcade and the ESRB Categories (2, Informative)

moranar (632206) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482126)

I submitted about the Penny Arcade efforts with the ESRB [penny-arcade.com] a few days ago, but the story was rejected. Enjoy.

Basically, the PA guys are working with the ESRB, drawing and trying to revamp the ESRB categories to make them clearer to everyone. It looks like a nice effort.

Time... (3, Insightful)

16K Ram Pack (690082) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482159)

The thing is that Hilary Clinton will be a member of the last group that were not exposed to video games in their youth.

To her and her elders, video games are like Rock and Roll was to her parents generation. Likely to corrupt and bring down society. The UK now has a prime minister who is open and proud about the fact that he played in a band in his youth. Thirty years ago, that would counted against him.

The balance of those who are OK with video games will tip slowly away from those who are against. Give it 10 or 15 years and the issue will no longer be an issue.

Biased Article (1)

jhouserizer (616566) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482214)

...defense against politicians seeking to censor games to increase their own political capital Not that I agree with the censorship, but has anyone thought that maybe, just maybe, one or two of the politicians are trying to censor the games because they actually believe the content to be harmful? Surely it's not helping the battle to pigeon-hole all of the politicians into one simple, cynically categorized group?

Forget ESRB, let the government do it (1)

Raznad (147471) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482245)

I am all for government taking over the rating of games. Because government is easily corrupted and slow and does a poor job at regulation. It's funny when it comes to censorship people think the government suddenly turns all professional and will do such a great job at it.

Once the government takes over, the industry can work slowly to subvert it, just like the congress. I think the ESRB will actually be stricter than what the government can cookup since there is no court process to challenge it. Whereas a government agency can be sued on constitutional ground for censorship, there is no recourse for an ESRB rating. ESRB uses the fear of government censorship to stay in power, and politicians use the threat of censorship to gain political capital.

Why not get rid of all that by just letting the government do its usual crappy job.

I love how they.. (1)

agentdunken (912306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482312)

I love it how they attack video games for being sexual or violent yet they don't go after tv or the movies that have WAY MORE sex and violence in it. Ugh stupid hillary clinton.

Ratings systems suck (1)

QuestorTapes (663783) | more than 8 years ago | (#15482383)

Have to push back here. The problems with ratings systems (TV, Movies, and Video Games), have -always- been made worse by the unwillingness of the industries to provide -full disclosure-.

The ratings tags (X/R/PG-13/PG/G and TVMA/TV14/TVPG and TVG) were created by the industries. Parents groups and other groups wanted explicit labeling according to meaningful critera: is explicit sex shown? Explicit violence? How many deaths? Etc, etc.

In each case, the industry wanted to weasel through, so -they- chose criteria that put sex and violence in the same category, and tried to come up with "age-appropriate" guidelines.

Full disclosure is good.
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