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back to article US State puts violent videogames under scrutiny

Legal bigwigs met in Massachusetts yesterday to discuss the possible introduction of a law to ban retailers from selling violent videogames to kids. No offical ruling has been given yet. However, the law, known as House Bill 1423, states games depicting “violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the …

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Hold the phone

They *aren't* already rated/enforced? Strewth. On the one hand, people like Jack Thompson are eejits, but even I as an avid gamer can see the need for age ratings on games.

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Anonymous Coward

Because there is nothing

more important for these people to be doing than making idiotic laws about video games clearly an issue of life and death importance. Violence, I tell myself over and over is not the answer, however some might just slip out if these and idiots like them don't get to work on the peoples business.

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One second

Perhaps they should stop handing out guns to anyone and his dog first, then worry about games.

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Don't think so...

Somehow I think if you went asked kids how they get hold of R-rated material, you will probably find it's elder siblings and parents either deliberately buying goods for minors or simply buying them and leaving them lying around.

This little tweak in the law will achieve nothing. Kids aren't stupid, well most aren't, they know there is a fair chance they will be turned down at most stores for being too young, but older brother won't be. So promise to clean the house for the next 2 years and buy me my birthday and Xmas present in one, will always work.

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@ Greg

In the EU it seems to have really been a battle between Government and industry for a while now over who should control ratings.

Governments don't seem to like taking recommendations from Industry (ESRB/PEGI/ELSPA) and use arguments such as stating that these are voluntary ratings, and industry have no set standards.

Industry appear to want an enforceable rating system to avoid the constant cries of 'violent games made my kid a killer', but don't really want Government to control it (possibly, fear of a restrictive system).

The UK system would be a good start, BBFC already rate movies and games, retailers know they're breaking the law selling 18 rated games to kids, parents can see an approved rating on games that they will already know from movies...the problem is then one of educating parents to monitor their kids appropriately and prosecuting retailers who break the law.

I'd much prefer that system than the current EU-spouting about 'banning all violent games from sale in the EU because kids might get hold of them', and it would make video games less of a soft target for the likes of Jack Thompson :)

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Stop

Author fails US knowledge test on censorship.

All 'obscene material' (pornography) is already covered by law regardless of media. This includes video games as welll as magazines and movies. There is no distinction, as far as I'm aware, to the source of the sexually explicit content.

However, all other ratings schemes are voluntary. By making a law targeting video game violence, you are singling out video games for special enforcement, which is hypocritical. Most retailers and theaters already impose their own voluntary age restriction base on ratings. Which is why many retailers refuse to stock AO games like Leisure Suit Larry.

If you are going to censor video games in such a manner, then it is only prudent to censor all material similarly, like movies and books. Which means no more Bible and Shakespeare for the kiddies.

At the end of the day kids require quite an financial backing to purchase video games. An child young enough to be 'damaged' by such 'immoral material', really shouldn't be able to acquire such a game without at least some level of parental awareness. But all too often parents and grandparents are the ones acquiring "Mature" rated games like GTA and Halo for their 13 year old boys. So a faux problem, really.

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Joke

Who decides?

I love the fact that the Americans will take 17yo's into their military but not let them play Leisure Suit Larry until 21...

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Which community

“violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community”

OK, *WHICH* adult community? The community of 65-year-olds, or the community of 18-year-olds? Which region? Which income level? People of different ages, localities, and income levels have different standards. That's the problem with laws like these -- they only reflect the opinions of the few lawmakers, not the opinions of the many citizens. And since most politicians are career politicians, they lost touch with the citizens years ago.

I'm 30, and I grew up playing violent video games, first on NES, then on the PC. I spent my teenage years playing Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, DOOM, DOOM II, etc. It could be argued that in their day, those games were very violent. And yet I've never so much as hit anyone. I find it hard to believe that I'm abnormal in that regard.

I'm still, and probably always will be, troubled with the hypocrisy of it all. Why is violence in video games so bad, but violence in movies is considered good? And don't try to give me the line of "it's a murder simulation". No, it isn't. Manipulating a fictional, pixelated character to stab another fictional, pixelated character on a display device using a keyboard, mouse, or game controller is not nearly the same as picking up a knife and physically stabbing another person. In Max Payne, I love throwing molotov cocktails on the enemies and watching them burn, but there's no way I could do that in real life. Then why can I do it in a video game? Because my brain understands that it's not real. Anybody who cannot differentiate between reality and fiction/fantasy is mentally ill, and enacting random laws regarding video games (or movies, for that matter) won't help that individual. These laws are like DRM -- the only people they'll affect are the law-abiding people who don't have a problem to begin with

And do I even need to bring up the story (a few years ago, I believe) of the grandmother who bought a rated-M game for her grandson? She knew it was rated M, and she still bought it for him. Then, shock, she found him playing it and it was violent, so she sued the game publisher. No laws would have prevented such stupidity.

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Sounds fair enough

I See no problem with this - I like the UK System that games ratings are treated the same as video ratings, and are legally enforcable.

Essentialy, this is what Jack Tompson wants - just with the crazyness dial turned up to 10, and the sensationlist dial cranked up to 11.

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So then 7 years olds should be able to buy Playboy

Ok, not sure about other countries but in this country you cannot buy a Playboy or other porn until you are 18. What I don't understand is how they can pass a law restricting sex, that somehow doesn't violate a person's right to free expression yet enacting exactly the same type of laws for the same basic moral reasons against video game violence, now that is unconstitutional.

It seems to me, either kids shouldn't be able to buy MA-17 or AO games, OR they should be allowed to by Playboy. Either both are unconstitutional restrictions, or both are reasonable.

Can someone explain the difference to me?

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yeah...

So at 18 you can sign up or be drafted and take a bullet for your country in some god-forsaken desert...but you can't rent a car or drink a beer after a long day's work. How much sense does that make?

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In the Army, people watch you 24-7.

Y'know, it's not like they put you in the Army and then just let you run around loose. They're well aware of the potential hazards of armed young men running around loose, and go to some effort to keep that from happening.

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heh

Wait a second, the hearing was yesterday? The day when every lawmaker and reporter in the state was focused on the hearings about potentially legalizing gambling and introducing casinos to Massachusetts?

Wow, hard to be more buried in the news cycle than that.

Truth be told, nobody but Menino, a few dumbass state reps, and the ever-shrinking right-wing hack Boston Herald newspaper give two shits about this issue.

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Good on them

Makes sense to me. I don't care if it's singling out games when no laws apply to DVDs, etc... They really should have enforceable ratings on games.

We've had enforceable ratings on games here in Australia for years. it doesn't stop 12 year old kids raving about GTA (heck, some will tell you how cool the Hot Coffee mod is)... but it at least makes them ask someone older to get it for them. If mummy wants to give 8 year old Billy a game with an 18+ sticker and a name like Ultra Bloodbath 3: The River of Corpses (hopefully there isn't such a game), then no law will stop it happening.

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@Tim Bates

Australia is a really good example of why such censorship ultimately fails. As you confess, it doesn't stop kids from getting the games. It also has the tendency of restricting access to some games from adults who should otherwise be allowed to make their own minds up about the matter. Similar to the Manhunt 2 mess in the UK.

Worst of all it encourages the sort of crap games Manhunt 2 apparently is because it is free publicity for such a poorly made game.

Additionally singling out games is rather myopic. There really shouldn't be any distinction between media. If violence is damaging then it is damaging is all forms. The same mirror neurons are firing when you do a task as when you watch someone else do it.

I would really like to see some evidence that children are buying all these mature games on their own, anyway. I would wager by in large, these games are almost universally already purchased by adults for children to begin with. Any such law would clearly not impact this much if so.

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