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FTC Says More Regulation Needed For Games

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the only-in-crazytown dept.

149

simoniker writes "The FTC has testified in detail to Congress that, though the game industry has 'made progress' in regulating the marketing of violent video games, 'more needs to be done.' It also revealed that it's conducted undercover surveys into whether underage gamers can buy M-rated games. It also commented: that '...the Commission will continue to monitor closely developments in the area and will initiate actions, such as the case challenging the marketing of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, when appropriate.' Will we see the FTC stepping in more often in controversial cases regarding violent video games?"

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149 comments

ESRB? (5, Insightful)

Digital Vomit (891734) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541439)

What exactly was wrong with the ESRB ratings we had already? They gave an age category and described any potentially offensive content. It was perfect. What more could we need?

Re:ESRB? (2, Insightful)

meridiangod (940552) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541490)

I don't know if the problem is the ERSB so much as the ESRB's failure to let parents know that they exist and that they need their help enforcing their rating system. Why not run an ad campaign to let parents know about the issue?

Re:ESRB? (4, Insightful)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541597)

I don't know if the problem is the ERSB so much as the ESRB's failure to let parents know that they exist and that they need their help enforcing their rating system. Why not run an ad campaign to let parents know about the issue?
Oh, like the "Ok to Play?" campaign they've been running for years? Or the new Penny Arcade campaign they're starting?

Yeah, they're already on that. Anyways, I think it's the parents' responsibility to figure out that there's a rating system; the ESRB's job is not to find every single parent and explain. The MPAA doesn't advertise their rating system at all, and their ratings and content descripters are much less intuitive and detailed than the ESRB's, yet it's the ESRB that always gets bitched at. Fuck that shit. Parents just need to read the fucking label, it's not that hard.

Or (4, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542388)

How about actually play the games yourself and determine what is and isn't acceptable to you? That's what drives me up the wall is this assumption by some parents that they shouldn't have to investigate what their kids are doing. Ummm, yes you should, you are parents, that's part of the deal.

One of my coworkers has twin boys age 12 and a younger one age 7. All play videogames. They all have their own computers, they all have their own gameboays etc. None play any games that he hasn't first. He tries them, and decides if he finds them acceptable. He uses the ratings as a guideline, but the ultimate decision is what he feels is ok for his kids. After all, he understands their maturity level.

I don't see why that's such a big deal for some parents. Nobody is saying you need to be a gamer or spend all your time playing games, but you can spend 30-60 minutes playing a game to see if it's acceptable. Hell, for that matter you can start playing games, play them with your kids. No different than any other activity you might dow ith your kids. Never know, might even find it fun, games are actually designed with fun in mind.

I just do not see this as a big problem. As a parent you need to be highly invloved in your kids' lives. Yes, that means your social life will suffer, but that's kinda the deal. I think there needs to be more emphasis on good parenting, less on how society can try to Nerf-pad itself to make sure kids never encounter anything harmful.

Re:Or (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542510)

The parents bitching for game regulation seem like they could use some parents for themselves. Someone to say "No dear, a game named after a felony probably isn't the best choice for your 6-year-old" because obviously they don't have the braincells to put that together themselves.

I wish we could have tests for parenting.

Re:Or (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542945)

To quote Dilbert:

Luser: "Did we pass the parenting exam?"
Dogbert: "No, and you'll have to leave some body parts at the front counter."

Unfortunately barring a manditory but reversable steralization procedure, I see little that can be done to help the problem.

Though maybe this is an oppertunity to try. If your kid does something wrong and blames it on a videogame, we don't crack down on the manufacturer, instead we crack down on the parents. We make them go to a class that explains real simple shit like "Keep an eye on what your kids do in their free time." I don't know that it will help, but allegedly traffic school helps, so maybe there's something to it.

That or we elect Dogbert as our dictator.

Re:Or (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543277)

Imagine you have 3 kids. Overpopulation, whatever, but you've got 3. As a parent, your primary responsibility is to ensure that they survive and provide for them. So at least one of the two (two, if you're fortunate) will have to find some form of income to put food, clothes and shelter. Simply put, these children will likely have more freetime than you. Certainly the case for the average American household at least. You expect to somehow monitor everything they could possibly be exposed to without placing them inside a small cage?

I don't think it's strange for a parent to imagine such a rating system useful, if accurate. I think we can agree that after playing five minutes of GTA it's obvious what the M rating stood for, and that if your child is actively seeking to modify GTA for Hot Coffee, well, that kind of censorship is a losing battle. But like hell I'd sit through Xenosaga to determine whether it's appropriate for children (it's barely appropriate for human consumption). I think your approach might be akin to watching the first 10 minutes of a movie.

This is where the rating system is handy. The question is how effective the system is currently, what forces influence it, and whether the FTC is capable of implementing it better. Currently the ESRB's client is the game companies, rather than a direct relationship with consumers. I've no idea whether companies is better than taxpayers as clients.

Re:ESRB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15543489)

"The MPAA doesn't advertise their rating system at all,"

They sort of do a bit; when I worked at Loews we had several posters explaining the ratings systems. I may be wrong (this was quite a while ago) but I thought that the MPAA supplied us with those posters. I've also seen a few theatres produce their own posters explaining the ratings.

Prosser. (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541516)

Government: "Come off it, Mr Slashdotter," he said, "you can't win you know. You can't keep the Constitution in front of that bulldozer indefinitely."

Slashdotter: > What exactly was wrong with the ESRB ratings we had already? They gave an age category and described any potentially offensive content. It was perfect. What more could we need?

Government: What do you mean "what more could we need"? These are regulations! You've got to legislate regulations!

Some factual information for you. Have you any idea how much damage that bulldozer would suffer if I just let it roll straight over that Constitution of yours?"

Slashdotter: "How much?"

Government: "None at all."

Re:Prosser. (1)

rk (6314) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541932)

The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

Re:Prosser. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15542029)

You know, it's amazing. My brain recognized the quote before I read it. I know this because the little narration in my head* spoke with an English accent (I'm in Canada).

* I'm not weird, am I? Other people DO read quoted text to mental pseudo-sonic narration (I can't think of a better term for it)?

Re:Prosser. (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542455)

I'm not weird, am I? Other people DO read quoted text to mental pseudo-sonic narration (I can't think of a better term for it)?
The voices in my head read this [photobucket.com] with a Scottish accent, so no, you're not wierd. Oh wait, no, I'm wierd, so that must mean you're wierd too. Sorry. ;-)

Re:ESRB? (1)

lys1123 (461567) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541529)

The problem with the ESRB ratings is that it merely WARNS of potentially offensive content. The government "conducted undercover surveys into whether underage gamers can buy M-rated games" because they know they can't trust parents to make the right choices when it comes to deciding what games their kids should be playing. Hell, they know that most parents don't even know what games their kids are playing.

Personally, I don't know why they are going through all of this song and dance. We will all be much healthier and happier when our only videogame choices are good, wholesome Christian Games [boingboing.net]

Re:ESRB? (1, Insightful)

dasunt (249686) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541542)

What exactly was wrong with the ESRB ratings we had already? They gave an age category and described any potentially offensive content. It was perfect. What more could we need?

In this day and age, most children have an independent source of income that allows them to afford games, consoles+TVs/computers and a private unsupervised apartment to play them in.

As you can see, it is impossible for parents to dock allowances and take away games if they disagree with the content. The kids will go to their private apartments and play them.

Thus, we need our tax dollars wasted^Wspent to investigate and enforce this issue.

Re:ESRB? (1)

spune (715782) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542207)

Perhaps I'm aged at my eighteen years, but I am aware of absolutely no children under the age of 16 with a job or private source of income other than selling weed to their middle-school friends. Additionally, I am aware of absolutely no children, employed or not, with an apartment of their own. Furthermore, all gaming kids I have seen must hassle their (grand)parents to pony up the dollars for their new idolized game/game system. What phenomenon are you describing?

Obligatory Comic Book Guy (1)

mjtaylor24601 (820998) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543177)

Comic Book Guy: "Oh a sarcasm detector...that's a REAL useful invention!"

*** Sarcasm beeps wildly and detector explodes ****

Ok so perhaps in this case a sarcasm detector would have been useful.

Re:ESRB? (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541559)

Apparently we need to make it clear to parents how to tell when certain games are 'good' and certain ones are 'bad'. My idea for a solution to this is to have a database that catalogs ALL games based on their rating, and what they're rated for (y'know, 'cartoon violence', 'mild violence', etc.), so Parents can pre-select a series of things they don't want, and then recieve a 'whitelist' of games they know are good. Of course, there's no real way to tell the vendors at stores "Don't buy this game for my kid", but at minimum, parents buying these games should have to hear that the game contains such-and-such and KNOW WHAT THEY'RE BUYING. The problem is education, and the solution ain't government intervention.

Re:ESRB? (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541660)

Apparently we need to make it clear to parents how to tell when certain games are 'good' and certain ones are 'bad'. My idea for a solution to this is to have a database that catalogs ALL games based on their rating, and what they're rated for (y'know, 'cartoon violence', 'mild violence', etc.), so Parents can pre-select a series of things they don't want, and then recieve a 'whitelist' of games they know are good. Of course, there's no real way to tell the vendors at stores "Don't buy this game for my kid", but at minimum, parents buying these games should have to hear that the game contains such-and-such and KNOW WHAT THEY'RE BUYING. The problem is education, and the solution ain't government intervention.
The problem with this idea is that if a parent can't be bothered to look at little label on the front of the game while at the store to buy it anyway, I don't foresee that same parent going to the effort of going to a third party website or such to get a list of "ok" games and then check the list for the game. All the information in the world made available to someone doesn't do any good if they don't want to look at it and use it.

Re:ESRB? (1)

Rachel Lucid (964267) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541804)

As it currently is, though, all the 'T' or the 'M' is, is just a distinction. It doesn't go into any level of detail about what the game contains, and if you want this info you have to have one of the sales crew pull the game out for you. Certainly making it easier and allowing parents (or kids) to go ahead and set up a list of ratings preferences is a good start.

Of course, I feel games should only be regulated as much as books (i.e. personal media), and I never heard anyone claim that Harry Potter created any serial killers yet...

Re:ESRB? (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542121)

As it currently is, though, all the 'T' or the 'M' is, is just a distinction. It doesn't go into any level of detail about what the game contains, and if you want this info you have to have one of the sales crew pull the game out for you. Certainly making it easier and allowing parents (or kids) to go ahead and set up a list of ratings preferences is a good start. Of course, I feel games should only be regulated as much as books (i.e. personal media), and I never heard anyone claim that Harry Potter created any serial killers yet...
Ah, but they do provide some insight as to what earned the software that rating. It's on the back of the packaging as it causes the label to take up more space than just the bare rating label. http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp [esrb.org]

Re:ESRB? - addendum to my previous post (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542325)

All over the ESRB website there is also a searchable database, as you suggested, which tells the rating and content type. Like I said, the problem isn't lack of tools or information, it's lack of making use of it. The only thing I might agree that the ESRB could do better is make it clearer that these things exist. Their new campaign with penny arcade is a step in the right direction in that matter.

Re:ESRB? (1)

kesuki (321456) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541577)

What more could we need?

how about games that erase the minds of any player below the age restriction? of the game i mean, duh :)

sure would beat trying to police the stores.

Re:ESRB? (1, Insightful)

digidave (259925) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541580)

The only thing wrong with ESRB ratings is that kids can still purchase M-rated games. Everybody already knows about movie ratings and theatres usually won't let underage kids into an R-rated movie. With games, it's completely different. Very few stores have anything more than casual enforcement of the ratings. If one store turns a kid down, that kid will just go to the next store and buy it there, so the first store would have lost business for essentially no reason at all.

I think the ESRB should have the power to pull M-rated games from the shelf of a retailer who sells them to kids. That way there would be a business reason to enforce the ratings.

Maybe that's what the FTC means when it says the game industry has not regulated itself very well.

Re:ESRB? (3, Insightful)

onecheapgeek (964280) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541847)

Disallowing children of certain ages to not access R-rated movies is voluntary. The same SHOULD be the case for video games.

Re:ESRB? (3, Insightful)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541920)

What about the power to fine business that sell R rated movies to kids?

Which, by the way, is a much larger problem than games.

Re:ESRB? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542344)

What about the power to fine business that sell R rated movies to kids?

Or unrated director's cut versions of R-rated movies? And movies regularly carry extra content that is unrated! Who knows what might be found in there! Perhaps a naked boobie on a PG movie, or a penis on an R movie!

Or do they expect V-chips and parental locks on DVD players to deal with that? But don't all the modern consoles already support their own parental controls?

Re:ESRB? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542176)

I think the ESRB should have the power to pull M-rated games from the shelf of a retailer who sells them to kids.

Meet the new VGAA, same as the old MPAA?

Re:ESRB? (2, Insightful)

jferris (908786) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541610)

I would assume that what else is needed would be enforcement. Ratings are one thing, but what do they ultimately mean if they are nothing more than a label on a box.

Today's society has changed. Teen and pre-teen children have larger amounts of finances than I did when I was a child. Television (and video games) and cash have become a steady replacement for babysitters, and often parents do not take an interest in what there child is doing.

The problem is still, ultimately, a parenting issue. It is in everyone's best interest to protect a child and have their parents be the decision maker. Enforcement wouldn't be a big brother approach, like some believe, but more a safety net. If a person, as a parent, would allow their kid to play a game that has been deemed age inappropriate, so be it. The parent would be the one to make the purchase. I just don't get what is so wrong with that.

Times change, and people tend to not accept it. When I was a kid, I remember going to the local store to pick up a pack of cigarettes for my mother. I was probably about nine, and the store was two hundred feet from the house. The act was innocent, and it was easy for the shopkeeper to know that (usually by a call-ahead from my mother). Of course, I am sure that there are a lot more nine year olds that would smoke the same pack of cigarettes in today's society, so enforcement of laws already on the book became more dominant.

Without something to enforce, then, the ratings system is - ultimately - pointless. Not because they don't get it right (most of the time), but because there is no substantial motivation for a proprietor to enforce them. Parents seem to be disinterested, removing any chance for a general honesty system to work.

Re:ESRB? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15541957)

Parents seem to be disinterested, removing any chance for a general honesty system to work.

This is the part that I don't get. How is it that they can be simultaneously disinterested and ultra-concerned about what their kids are doing or playing so much that they're demanding regulation? Do they suddenly have an epiphany, wake up, and realise that their pre-teen is playing a game that they disapprove of?

I somehow think the issue lies more in their kids' actions being lower on their priority lists than what they're having for dinner that night, as well as general laziness. To them, why should they watch what games their kids are buying or playing when they can demand that someone else do it for them...allowing them to focus on "more important things".

I fear for the future, not because of the kids or the games they play, but rather the lack of any real parenting going on in their homes.

Re:ESRB? (1)

XenoRyet (824514) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542243)

This is the part that I don't get. How is it that they can be simultaneously disinterested and ultra-concerned about what their kids are doing or playing so much that they're demanding regulation? Do they suddenly have an epiphany, wake up, and realise that their pre-teen is playing a game that they disapprove of?

It's different groups doing the caring. One group is ultra-concerned that another group is dissinterested, and damnit they are going to do their best to make that group interested.

Meanwhile, the largest group, those of us in the middle who pay attention to our own kids, but are willing to let other people raise their kids however they like, have to put up with extra legislation that, while probably not actualy harmful, is unnessisary.

Re:ESRB? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542394)

They aren't afraid of what their kids are playing but rather what the other kids are playing and what those games will make those kids to do their kids, so they want to enforce their parenting rules on all the other parents' children by way of government. That it means they won't have to do their parenting themselves anymore is just a bonus.

Re:ESRB? (1)

jferris (908786) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542950)

This is the part that I don't get. How is it that they can be simultaneously disinterested and ultra-concerned about what their kids are doing or playing so much that they're demanding regulation? Do they suddenly have an epiphany, wake up, and realise that their pre-teen is playing a game that they disapprove of?

By the nature of your question, the "ultra-concerned" would be more likely to be a vocal minority. A disinterested party is likely not going to vocalize the fact that they don't care. I didn't mean to imply that there is only one type of parent, so my apologies if that is how I came through on that.

I fear for the future, not because of the kids or the games they play, but rather the lack of any real parenting going on in their homes.

I agree, wholeheartedly. The games issue only comes up because it is a symptom of the problem, and not the problem itself.

Re:ESRB? (1)

alshithead (981606) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541864)

Nothing is wrong with the ESRB ratings. The FTC's beef should be with either the retailers or the parents or both.

Re:ESRB? (1)

BigCheese (47608) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542145)

It's an election year and a lot of parents don't understand video games.

It makes it look like the government is doing something to protect children.

Re:ESRB? (1)

toddbloom7 (928961) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542297)

Will the government step in and regulate the sale of music albums next? I mean, I've been buying albums labeled "explicit content" for years.

ESRB works just like it should; I can tell if any "objectional" content is in the game, and I can make an informed decision whether or not to purchase it (for me or my child). I've never had a problem with this before.. but I guess it wouldn't be an election year without some sort of "think of the child" issue.

Senseless lawmaking from politicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15543344)

Politicians have to solve problems. When less than 1 in a million teenagers has a problem, and a lawyer screams to the media every day about it, it's a problem that a politician can use to make political points.

Because some parents can't supervise their kids, and because these kids can't understand reality, they make it tough for the rest of the people in this country. We can't possibly have a kid see something violent in a video game and be influenced by it. Never mind that they can buy books and watch movies and see just as much, if not MORE violence.
 
Video games are the problem, and politicians have the answer.
 
It's clear to politicians and Jack Thompson that we need to KEEP creating laws until this problem is stopped. Never mind "active parenting." Parents are not to blame. Never mind books, movies, or TV. Never mind commercial advertising of violence in every medium possible. Video games are the problem. Creating laws legislating video games is the ONLY way to solve this problem. Politicians (and Jack Thompson) are going to see this thing through.

I think I'd like to see Jack Thompson hang out with kids who have parents who are addicted to crack, crystal meth, or alcohol. Let's have Jack spend 40 hours a week with these kids. And maybe THEN he'll be able to tell that there are a LOT worse problems in this world than video games.

Jack Thompson is a 1 dimensional idiot.

Finally (4, Funny)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541447)

I mean, it's about time they did something about these horrible video games! I mean, they've already fixed all the other problems in the world like... the war in Iraq, FEMA handling the New Orleans relief, stopping Iran from producing nukes, world-hunger, huge corporate scandals, huge governmental scandals (that Rove guy was totally innocent, he was framed by the evil liberal media... even though the huge conservative corporations own almost all the media outlets). THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

Re:Finally (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541523)

Maybe we should think of the children first.

Re:Finally (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542649)

Maybe we should think of the children first.
Well, ok, but let's think of the children still living in rotting-away housing in New Orleans, the children going to falling apart schools while politicians are embezzling money away from the states, the children dying of hunger, etc, etc, BEFORE we worry about the children who might buy an M rated video game.

Re:Finally (2, Informative)

Yst (936212) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542289)

Quoth the article,

Lydia Parnes, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection...

Quoth the poster,

they've already fixed all the other problems in the world like... the war in Iraq, FEMA handling the New Orleans relief, stopping Iran from producing nukes, world-hunger, huge corporate scandals, huge governmental scandals

So are we to understand that the Congressional Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection should redefine its mandate as being focused on urban disaster relief, foreign intervention, corporate law and governmental oversight, while abandoning any prior objectives, merely because those stated objectives aren't as grand in scale of moral import as others we can point to if we try?

I'm bloody sick of this sort of argument. The FTC may be despicable at times, but this is not an argument which serves in any way to illustrate that point. The existence of 'bigger fish to fry' in government policy does not imply that all branches, committees and appointees within the system should, ideally, cease to operate or perform their duties the moment an issue of the day completely irrelevant to their role but of greater general import arises.

Re:Finally (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543395)

OK, how about the FTC crack down on 'Customer retention' policies that seek to prevent you from cancelling service, bait-and-switch rebate scams, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam and spam, the proliferation of advertising on every nonporous surface in the country (let's get some help protecting kids from THAT!), prescription drug advertising, redlining, extended warranties, and all the other consumer fucking going on in this country?

In other words (2, Insightful)

the computer guy nex (916959) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541459)

"The ESRB is completely useless."

Government involvement probably isn't the answer, and this hopefully is just one step towards another independant system.

Regulation on videogames is only needed... (4, Insightful)

DaSenator (915940) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541475)

...because parents these days don't want to be responsible for their kids. We just need to off all of the stupid parents who let little 5 year old Timmy play GTA.*

*Hyperbole alert.

Seriously though, it is (and should) ultimately be up to the parent to decide what their kid (read: under 18 years old in the US) can play. Even thats a bit arbitrary, as I was sixteen when I was playing Counter Strike, a 'M' rated game. Its more of the fact that I knew it was a game, and knew that it was not real. Six year old Timmy is more than likely unable to properly make the distinction.

Re:Regulation on videogames is only needed... (5, Funny)

trix7117 (835907) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541509)

That post must have taken a while to write. Little Timmy had a birthday halfway through.

Re:Regulation on videogames is only needed... (0, Offtopic)

DaSenator (915940) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541718)

Your comment alone in my mind would be worth a +3 for funny; having just realised it myself...

Re:Regulation on videogames is only needed... (2, Funny)

Mr.Surly (253217) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541861)

You know, when I was six, I loved watching Wile E. Coyote. Despite my age, I never had an urge to strap large springs on my feet and jump off a cliff. I knew it was ridiculous.

Re:Regulation on videogames is only needed... (1)

ArmoredOne (977961) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542341)

Same here. I grew up on Looney Tunes, where there was nothing but violence. However, I grew up perfectly normal (sort of). Could it be possible that children need to be exposed to some violence to satisfy the primal urges of our brains?

Re:Regulation on videogames is only needed... (1)

sseaman (931799) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542840)

Yet another example of how teenagers have few rights in the United States. Psychologists are quite far from coming to a consensus on how the content of video games influences adolescent behavior or mental health, yet American legislators act as if they have conclusive proof.

Shouldn't a 14 year old be able to decide if he or she is ready to play a violent game?

And while they're at it (1)

databank (165049) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541480)

When are they going to start regulating the sex in advertising, the violence in the news, and the evil thoughts that only the Shadow Knows...

Oh wait....

More regulation by parents (2, Insightful)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541485)

I would like to see more regulation by parents. I think it's good to have a rating system like this, but it only works if parents are involved. Parents need to monitor what their children are watching, playing, and doing on the Internet. Of course, this assumes that parents have an idea of what is appropriate.

Re:More regulation by parents (1)

s31523 (926314) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541965)

Very true. Why is it so hard for parents to play the game or watch (since some parents are videgame challenged) their kid play a game and then take it away or talk over the game with their child. I am a parent and do this with my kids and plan on doing it more as they get older.

Gotta love those free market Republicans... (0, Redundant)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541567)

... oh wait ...

Re:Gotta love those free market Republicans... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15541982)

free market republicans? i hate to tell you this, but 2 of the most active people currently fighting for video game censorship are Lieberman and Hillary Clinton. there are republicans too, but it's sure not a one-party thing. video game censorship is quite bi-partisan.

Bureaucracy.... (4, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541584)

Investigator speaking to bureaucrat: Does more need to be done?

Bureuacrat: Yes, more needs to be done. And I need more resources with which to do it.

The exact topic du jour matters not one bit.

The primary motivation of any bureaucracy is to extend its dominion and claim more needs to be done.

A surprising number of organizations, many of the quite large, are basically moving along with this motivation and nothing more. I don't care to get flamed so I won't name names, but there's a lot of 'em.

So... I actually read the article (5, Funny)

faloi (738831) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541641)

The FTC essentially says that game manufacturers need to actually tell the ESRB about the content in their games, and that retailers shouldn't sell "M" rated games to underage kids. Aside from this being Slashdot, is there anything truly unreasonable in those requests?

Yeah, I know I'm also choosing to believe that the FTC wouldn't step in with some wide ranging rules allowing the ATF to become the ATGF. Although visions of moderately trained ATGF agents conducting a SWAT style raid on a LAN party do make me smirk. "Damn, those are good speakers! That really sounded like a flash-bang!"

Re:So... I actually read the article (1)

sqlrob (173498) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541946)

It's not universal to all media.

It's not Constitutional.

So yes, it's unreasonable.

Re:So... I actually read the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15543105)

"It's not universal to all media."

CD's / DVD's / theatres...

"It's not Constitutional."

Prove it.

Re:So... I actually read the article (1)

Prog_Burner (663126) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542186)

Flash-bang? All you'd really need to do is turn on the lights or open the blinds at a LAN party....argh...natural light!

Re:So... I actually read the article (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542201)

Is saying that the devs should provide more info bad in itself? Nope. Is suggesting that maybe retailers shouldn't sell M games to minors bad in itself? Nope. Is making those things law bad? Yep. The second is most definitely censorship. The first, well, I'm not sure there's anything illegal going on there but it is setting games apart from books, movies, magazines, etc as if they are more dangerous somehow, which is bad and incorrect whatever the legality. Also, keep in mind that the FTC doesn't appear to actually comprehend how video games or digital content works, based on their decisions to force games to an M rating (which is highly questionable imo) based on content that, while coded somewhere in the game, was not coded to actually be shown or viewed and required a third party modification to do so. This is akin to me drawing boobs on the newspaper and then claiming it's pornographic because the woman had boobs under shirt and the newspaper did not remove them. Do you really want those people determining what is and isn't appropriate content?

Re:So... I actually read the article (1)

faloi (738831) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542314)

Also, keep in mind that the FTC doesn't appear to actually comprehend how video games or digital content works, based on their decisions to force games to an M rating (which is highly questionable imo) based on content that, while coded somewhere in the game, was not coded to actually be shown or viewed and required a third party modification to do so

But as I understand it the FTC didn't force the rating to an M. Public outcry caused the ESRB to modify their rating. Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic. I read the article more like a "You know, the industry is doing ok, but there's room for improvement" than a "We want to assume power over games!" I'm relatively sure movies had the same sorts of problems when they started getting more and more explicit, and the government managed to stay out of their way. Granted, actors donate a lot more to political campaigns than do game producers...

Re:So... I actually read the article (1)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542474)

I read the article more like a "You know, the industry is doing ok, but there's room for improvement" than a "We want to assume power over games!"
While that does seem to be the case, I don't see why the FTC is involved at all or doing any monitoring of this sort of thing if they have no intention of intervening if they decide the ESRB isn't doing a good enough job. Maybe I'm just a little too paranoid and untrusting... I don't know.

Re:So... I actually read the article (1)

faloi (738831) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542669)

While that does seem to be the case, I don't see why the FTC is involved at all or doing any monitoring of this sort of thing if they have no intention of intervening if they decide the ESRB isn't doing a good enough job. Maybe I'm just a little too paranoid and untrusting... I don't know.

As I've admitted, I may a little too optimistic on this front. Which is an unusual turn for me. My point of view is that video game censorship has become a neat political talking point. People on both sides of the aisle are all about "protecting our childrenz!!!111" as long as they don't have to do anything substantive. The FTC, like all other government agencies, needs truckloads of funding to keep things going. So they're piggy-backing onto the current "easy" hot-button issue of the day, getting some visability to various panels, and basically making it impossible for anybody to slash their funding. If you do, it's practically a vote for immorality and turning children into horrible, horrible beings.

Essentially, I view this as a dog and pony show for the FTC. They said what they wanted to say about how the First Ammendment makes it tough to regulate, and how the industry is currently doing a decent job. If anything else is going to happen, it's going to be through Congress and probably involve a Supreme Court fight. Which is probably a bit too far for the issue of today. Again, I imagine movies went through the same sort of thing at one point. And I remember watching Tipper Gore talk about the evils of music. Nothing too bad came from all that.

Re:So... I actually read the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15543299)

I do generally agree with your post, not much to "worry about", but I wanted to expand upon a couple of points...

"My point of view is that video game censorship has become a neat political talking point."

Regulation does not equal censorship, I don't like that people, in general confuse the idea of true censorship with warning labels or even regulation. Look at past history...warning stickers on music, DVD's, the movie ratings system, etc. these are all there voluntarily to avoid true government regulation and don't constitute censorship in the least. The FTC doesn't really want to regulate the industry (they don't have the capacity to do so, they would rather be off doing other things), if that were the case, it would have done it a long time ago and would have done so to these other industries.
Take a look at the quote from one of the reps. "...it becomes even more incumbent upon industry to enforce and enhance its self-regulatory guidelines governing marketing". Notice the self-regulatory word.

The FTC stepped in because this became a "hot-button" issue:

1. Complaints that vendors were not co-operating with the voluntary system.
2. The whole GTA fiasco that really "tainted" the perception of the reliability of the ratings sytstem. (i.e. if publishers aren't honest about content, how are the ratings accurate?)

We definately need more regulation (2)

Screwy1138 (976897) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541724)

Regulation is good, we need more. We certainly don't have enough. Without regulation, people learn responsibility, and the evil market forces have their way with the economy. Regulation helps us spend our excess tax money, and allows us to avoid tackling really hard issues that will make people all mad.

Re:We definately need more regulation (1)

hasbeard (982620) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542153)

Of course I recognize the use of irony in your statements, and I agree to some extent. Government regulation can indeed encourage lack of responsibility, waste tax money, and impair market forces that could ordinarily take care of problems without any ham fisted intervention. However, at a certain level, some regulation is useful. Would you want to drive on highways without speed limits or traffic laws? Would you want to eat in restaurants without health inspections? I think if government regulation does have a value, it is in helping parents protect their children from harmful influences. Parents should do what they can to help their children by giving them the supervision they need. The government can help parents by providing regulations that forbid store owners from selling games to children which they shouldn't have access to.

Re:We definately need more regulation (1)

Screwy1138 (976897) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542309)

Of course... no sarcastic statements should be taken to be blanket statements. I'm not an anarchist, I believe the government has several duties that I happily pay taxes and desire services for.

I do not believe that prohibiting a store owner from selling a video game to minors is one of those services. I'd rather my tax money not be spent on such a thing. Here is why... the minor cannot easily consume the content without parental consent, given acceptable levels of parental responsibility.

This is different than pornography, where the minor can read through the magazine before riding their bike home, or alchohol, where it could be consumed on the spot. A video game is not so easily consumed.

Of course there are ways the minor could view/play the game before the parent should reasonably be aware the minor has purchased the game (one might ask why the minor has $50 anyway, but I'll leave that as a non issue). In this case, I will raise the threat x risk = vulnerability formula. The odds of the minor being able to view the game before the parent is aware of the purchase, times the damage caused to the minor for viewing it, is the 'value' that I'm concerned with. In my opinion, it's a low enough value I do not want my tax money spent on debating, enacting, and enforcing such regulation.

I'm a new parent, so maybe I'm still a bit idealistic, but this is how I feel.

Re:We definately need more regulation (1)

rainman_bc (735332) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543102)

We certainly don't have enough

I figure you were being sarcastic.

Thing is, sometimes personal responsibility affects others, and unfortunately that's where we need regulation. Take for example drunk driving. If the only victim was the drunk person, we can be sure society wouldn't give a rat's ass. But the thing is, the innocent bystanders are the victims.

Unfortunately, this is also true with irresponsible parents - the ones that don't bother getting involved. They let their kids be exposed to all kinds of violence, and while true that jimmy and timmy might be raised right and know better and can distinguish between game and reallity, billy does not, and if billy shoots jimmy and timmy, it could have been prevented with a bit more regulation.

Sad but true, there's too many crappy parents out there.

Re:We definately need more regulation (1)

downwithpeople (982809) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543503)

I understand you're being facetious, but I just wanted to interject because psuedo-censorship really bothers me.

The problem with media regulation is this: it imposes the views of the majority on a minority populace; thus limiting the number of differing viewpoints in a society, creating conformity. Comformity leads to apathy, and apathy leads to more regulation. Kind of a vicious cycle, eh? Also, once something becomes 'regulated' it becomes very difficult to unregulate it if the law is too stringent. Let's have some faith, for once, in the intelligence of our fellow man and not in the bureaucracy of the government.

BBFC (2, Informative)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541725)

The UK's BBFC system works well Independant from the government and from studios, non profit organisation that receives it's funding from review fees. It ratings for individual titles aren't influenced by media or public pressure but for its overal guidelines it surveys the public to see what they think is acceptable. Bascially if someone goes "who thought XXXX was a film suitable for 12 and unders?!?!" the BBFC can essentially say "you did".

Re:BBFC (2, Informative)

Indefinite, Ephemera (970817) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542369)

Just to clarify the parent: the BBFC [bbfc.co.uk] classifies games insofar as it's required to as the designated authority for the Video Recordings Act, and so only the 15+ and above ratings are required. (For games in general there's PEGI [pegi.info] .) For films there's a wider set of classifications; the BBFC's role in the film industry predates its legislative functions. I don't know how much flexibility the Video Recordings Act offers to reflect public opinion in practice, but I suspect it's less than the Board enjoys in its non-statutory role.

Waste of Money (1)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 7 years ago | (#15541757)

Games and policies do not exist in a vacuum. Minors of any sort can view "Mature" content (and worse) freely on the internet. Content blockers don't and can never work. Minors regularly see "Mature" content on standard TV. Minors regularly see "Mature" content in theatres, where the ratings system is a complete joke. Minors regularly hear "Mature" content in music which has stickers for explicit lyrics (which only drives sales to minors).

Lawmakers would be better off spending the time and money on education, or counseling for troubled minors, or law enforcement targetting physical/sexual abuse of minors... something that isn't a guaranteed failure.

Ratings isn't what is really wanted... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15541824)

Call me paranoid, but I think what is *really* wanted is censorship of games. Lets see: people want legislative action, the games are already rated, and parents don't review their child's video game purchases.

of course, it's difficult to actually prohibit this from happening (preventing people from even making games like GTA and such), but, that's really what those who are complaining really want.

Reminds me of my grandmother, growing up. Seeing HBO for the first time, and being the good Southern Baptist she was, she and her friends wrote HBO and the local papers to protest what is being shown. From the looks of things, she wasn't successful. ;)

2-tiered system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15542017)

14 and under
15 and over

Games need a little postage paid form letter addressed to the White House, packaged in the game itself.

  fewer female players and developers (free markets suck, so does consumer choice)
  many of the folk fighting so hard for censorship view and use media as peer influence (and britany spears product lines) rather then entertainment.
  a primary goal is to pressure stores like Walmart and it's code of ethics into not carrying 'triple XXX' products.

GTA was attacked for it's violence (against women) with the excuse of sexual content.

Adult men play games more then any other demographic (by double+).
Pre-school gamers are far less likely to develop attention dysfunction when compared to their tv counterparts (it's like 95% for).
Gamers who are parents (and males), spend 700% more time with their children

Games are more like tv and books then drugs, the similarities end at the same place food and good entertainment end.

Hell of a political partnership, feminists facists and abolitionists

do we really need more 'morality police' ? (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542168)

really?

can't people just police their OWN behavior?

why is america becoming SUCH an nanny-state??

rock and roll was supposed to 'corrupt the youth' back in the 50's. didn't happen.

why do they think video games are any different?

(they also tried this with comic books. sigh. the morality police just never give up, do they?)

Re:do we really need more 'morality police' ? (2, Insightful)

Rifter13 (773076) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542400)

#1) The ESRB notice is relatively large on the package.
#2) The ESRB notice is FAR superior to the moving rating system... since it tells you why a movie got the rating it received.
#3) It's the PARENT'S job to oversee what their kids do, not the government, not the gameshop.

The government has been legislating for over 200 years... do we NEED any more freaking laws?!

Re:do we really need more 'morality police' ? (1)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543223)

Rock and roll did corrupt the youth in the '50s - ever hear of the '60s?

That said, the ESRB seems sufficient to me.

sigh (1)

sgt scrub (869860) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542241)

Unless the game industry can produce games that turn children into flaming christian zealots the current pile of shit representing themselves as our government will fuck with the state of games. The same is true with prose, movies, and music.

The problem is not the ESRB... (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542397)

the problem is retailers. You see, the MPAA and movie theaters (who have their own large collective organization, reached an agreement when it came to the ratings system we have in place. Not only is the ESRB pretty one-sided, it is only the game industry making an effort, the retail outlets are not organized like many theaters are. And the only reason most large retailers will not sell R-rated movies to minors is because they would have a slew of parents protesting or some other BS from some lobby group or something.

Smaller companies care a bit less. There are stores in this country that will sell a movie that is R-rated to a minor and won't give it a second thought. Just like there are stores who will sell alcohol or tobacco to minors. There a game stores that do the same thing with M-rated games. The problem IS NOT the ESRB, but the problem is the retailers, who care more about putting money in their pocket and will do it so long as they are getting away with it.

Now, I am not for laws that many states are proprosing, though these laws are going after retailers, who are the weak link in this chain. I believe the real solution is to have a meeting of the minds, where stores that sell these games come to the agreement with the ESRB that they will not sell these games to minors...through in some clause about the gaming industry pulling material, or some BS.

It may not be the perfect solution and sure it has work arounds, but so does any system. A kid who wants to drink or smoke just convinces the guy going into the store to buy it for him instead. Really, I do not want the FTC or any other federal agency involved in this.

Re:The problem is not the ESRB... (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543100)

Not only is the ESRB pretty one-sided, it is only the game industry making an effort, the retail outlets are not organized like many theaters are.
Not organized? Most game stores are owned by one company (Gamestop), so they don't need to have a collective organization, and they work closely with the ESRB (notice how their stores and magazine are covered with ESRB ads?) and have very clear policies against selling M games to minors. 90% of the games not sold by a Gamesop store are sold by an equally large or larger company (Wal-Mart, Blockbuster, Amazon) that also sells DVDs so they're used to complying with ratings.

The problem isn't retailers, it's parents. I used to work at a Gamestop, and while I never saw my coworkers sell an M rated game to a minor, almost every day I had to try to explain to a parent that they probably shouldn't buy an M rated game for their kid. Despite my pleadings, the vast majority of times they would say "Oh, he'll just play it at his friend's house anyways" or brush me off with something equally stupid.

Oh, and the laws wouldn't punish the retailers; they'd punish the poor bastard working for $6 an hour and probably doesn't make the amount of the fine in a month. They also don't follow the ESRB, they give out some vague guildlines in confusing legalspeak, technically expecting each individual retail clerk to act as the ESRB and figure out what a game should be rated, and if they guess wrong hope they can afford the fines. Now, I'm sure that's not how they were intended or would probably work in reality (as in, if you follow the ESRB you should be fine), but laws should be written to reflect how they are intended to be practiced, yet none of the proposed game legislation has done that. That's because they can't write laws based on what an independent organization does *and may stop or change at any time*, so the only laws they can make are either vague and stupid or would involve making a new ESRB-like committee in the government, taking on the role of rating all the games itself, and that's just going way to far.

The situation with games should not be changed by law, it should be changed by people learning that games are not all for children. Which, given that the current generation of new parents grew up with games, and more and more adults are gaming, I see that just naturally happening, no panic and radical solutions necessary. Of course, the democrats want something to rant about, and I guess this is the best they could find.

Re:The problem is not the ESRB... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15543465)

"The problem isn't retailers, it's parents."

No, it's both...from the article:

"Forty-two percent of the secret shoppers who attempted to buy an M-rated video game without a parent were able to purchase one."

42% IS a problem.

DVD (2, Insightful)

kalayq (827594) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542411)

What is the difference between DVDs and Games in this respect? If you look at them, both mediums have a wide variety of genres, content and they both have Non mandated and self governed rating systems for parents. What is the difference here?

Games have been around for a short while compared to movies. Movies in the beginning went through the whole "they are evil and will corrupt our children" phase already. Been there, done that. Games haven't finished with it and it looks like they still have a ways to go. In the public's (or maybe I should say politician's) eyes, games are still seen as primarily for children. This has made it easier to let children buy any game they want. People still think child+game=ok. The last point I want to make is that the people who work at stores that sell games are not told (usually) to match the ESRB rating to the customer. If they aren't somehow motivated to do this, then they probably don't give a shit. I know people who got in trouble when they had summer jobs at a BestBuy and sold R moves to 11 year olds. I doubt they would have had the same thing happen if it was a M rated game. These are my opinions. I am not an expert, so please don't treat it as if I were.

I do agree with the assertion that it is ultimately up to the parent in these matters. If they choose to not pay attention to their children's game playing habits, they shouldn't have the right to complain. Also how do kids get the money to buy games these days. I don't remember having $50 laying around when I was 9.

If only the gov't forced RFID tags for ALL . . . (1)

ysaric (665140) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542449)


If the government forced everyone to have an RFID tag implanted, then you could be readily identified by scanners so everyone can tell what information has been deemed "good" or "appropriate" for you as determined by the government. Have the FCC/FTC take over "voluntary" ratings programs and voila!

Make the parents responsible (2, Interesting)

Sierpinski (266120) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542494)

Do I Play GTA: San Andreas?
    Hell yes.
Would I let my child buy and play a game like GTA: San Andreas?
    Hell no.
Who should be responsible if my child is able to purchase and play GTA: San Andreas?
    Me (the parent).

Its too easy for parents to blame others for not raising or supervising their children properly. Let the school teach them Sex Education. Let the FTC to lobby to Congress to prevent the sales of violent video games to children. Too bad they don't do the same with religion, or else we might have a few more open-minded people running this place in the next few decades.

Tangent aside, the parents should ultimately be the ones responsible for what their child does. That's the way it is in other areas now. If my child goes out and buys a video game and plays it in my house without me knowing, there is a serious issue there. Maybe they can hide it for a day, but I care about my children to get involved with what they are doing. I care enough to want to protect them from violence until they are old enough to handle it. I play violent video games, but I never do it with or in front of my children. If they want to play something with me, I break out Sim City 4 or something like that.

I'm not saying there shouldn't be a law against the sale of rated M games to minors. I think there should be restrictions on that the same way that a 15 year old cannot get into a rated R movie without a guardian, or into a NC-17 movie at all. What I am saying is that the parents need to stop relying on other people to decide what is best for their children. One day you might realize that all that stuff that they taught your child isn't the best for them, or you. Too late Mom and Dad, you already screwed it up by then.

Re:Make the parents responsible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15542844)

"I think there should be restrictions on that the same way that a 15 year old cannot get into a rated R movie without a guardian, or into a NC-17 movie at all."

getting into an R or M rated movie is just as easy as talking to the windows, finding out what side the R or M movie is playing and then buying a ticket for another movie on the same side then walking into the movie you really want to see.

That what i did when i wanted to see a movie when i was a kid.

Re:Make the parents responsible (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543140)

I'm not saying there shouldn't be a law against the sale of rated M games to minors. I think there should be restrictions on that the same way that a 15 year old cannot get into a rated R movie without a guardian, or into a NC-17 movie at all
There aren't any laws saying that 15 year olds can't see an NC-17 movie. The movie theatres self-regulate. I don't think it has to be different for game stores.

Did you know you could buy stuff on the internet?? (2, Interesting)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 7 years ago | (#15542940)

I posted about this on my blog earlier today. The article from the Washington Times, "Lawmakers slam FTC for video game actions [washingtontimes.com] contains the following quote:
Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Illinois Democrat and ranking member of the subcommittee, criticized Wal-Mart for the ease with which consumers under age 17 can buy explicit games on its Web site simply by checking a box certifying they are the proper age.

"That age verification is a joke," in an era when 13-year-olds can be issued credit cards and other children have access to their parents' cards, she said.
Wow, I know that if I were under 18 and had a credit card that the first thing I would buy online would be violent videogames. Because we all know that there isn't any pornography online or anything or even places where you could buy things you could use to commit real violent acts if you wanted to. Besides videogames the internet is all rainbows and puppies...

Such statements indicate that Rep Schakowsky is either totally clueless and incompetent or just fear mongering and will say anything to look "pro-family" and not at all concerned with real problems.

Re:Did you know you could buy stuff on the interne (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15543232)

Another stupid IL politician. I had never heard of her before today. I guess I need to look into this further. I don't remember ever seeing her name on any ballot. I guess after a bit of research I have another letter to write.

I really, really hate politics, but with how screwed up things are getting I now have to get involved. I hate that. I have already looked to see what I qualify to run for and nothing is coming up this year in my area. I really don't want to become a politician, but I guess I will have to look into running for an office and see what I can do to enlighten some of these people.

Even just running for office might open the eyes of a few people. Gotta start with a few and see if it will spread.

Quit wasting time! (1)

Sj0 (472011) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543245)

Doesn't congress have some little Iraqi kids to maim and slaughter?

The dichotomy is sickening. These nanny-state loving goons can all go to hell, as far as I'm concerned, and they will.

Translation: (1)

Acy James Stapp (1005) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543353)

"Government Says More Government Needed"

Simple evolution folks. Any government that didn't try to amass power would die out and be replaced with one which does.

GTA bashing - feh (1)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | more than 7 years ago | (#15543506)

I love the concept of further ad reviews for GTA. Not once did I recall an ad for this game that started with:

"HEY KIDS! Now you can beat the snot out of hoes - right in your own living room!
Be the first on your block to collect all the pimps and drug dealers you can get in YOUR gang's territory!
Got catch-em ALL!"

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