back to article Horror bestseller condemns videogame sales limit law

Horror writer Stephen King has dennounced moves to introduce a law that would ban the sale of violent videogames to kids. House Bill 1423, which is currently being considered in Massachusetts, states that any games depicting “violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community” should carry a …


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  1. Mike Crawshaw


    Wow. A high-profile "celebrity-type" (sorry Steven, but you are) wades into the fight, and says something sensible!!! STOP THE PRESS!!!

    Personally, I'm not a big fan of Mr King's writings - I find the novels usually start well, get me hooked, build up wonderfully - and then devolve into stock silliness. But that's just my opinion, and obviously - judging by his sales figures - I'm in the minority.

    Regardless, kudos for him for not only saying something sensible (this revision is pointless, guns cause more problems than games, parents should take responsibility for their kids) but for saying it in an environment where such opinions are somewhat less than popular (in most of the USA, publicly saying that guns should be more controlled is likely to get you the same treatment as stating that you prefer your boyfriends to be under the age of 14 whilst wearing a gimp mask).

    Nice one Mr King!

  2. Anonymous Coward


    Stephen King is talking out his arse!

    He expects:

    a) parents to take responsibility for their children!!!

    b) the government to pass-off a chance to have more regulation on free speech.

    Since when is it the parents responsibility to do anything other than blame everything other than themselves for the state of their kids. Well, now the parents can blame the government while the government erodes more human rights.

    [note to the idiots; I'm being sarcastic]

    How long before some human rights groups in China start kicking up a fuss about the removal of "fundamental human rights" of nations in the West?

  3. Jamie

    In the mirror

    I have had fights like this with my mother in-law on a regular basis. She seems to think that guns, music, games, books, comics, movies, tv are the problem. Look in the mirror. The reason the gov't is doing this is that they are afraid to admit that they have seriouslyl f'd up and cause the issue in the first place.

    Be responsible for your children and punish them as required.

    There is currently a 10 year old child in Alberta, Canada. Little fire bug started over 30 fires latest left a family homeless. Cannot be charged due to his age, and all the groups are wondering why is he doing this, what is the cause, we need to find out why. Simple some people are just bad. Some need help. Some need a swift kick in the a$$.

  4. Steve
    Thumb Up

    he's almost right

    He's correct that parents should take responsibility, but that doesn't mean that the bill they are considering is pointless.

    Here in the UK it's illegal to sell or let videos to people younger than the specified rating, why shouldn't the same apply to video games?

    Okay, it won't solve the problem on it's own, but it's certainly not going to hurt is it?

  5. Lickass McClippers


    You're not in a minority, I've been reading his books for years, and the chap has a chronic problem with completing a story. How often have I gotten to the end of one of his works, and thrown the damn thing across the room? Often enough. Like a crack-whore, I keep going back for more.

    I concur with the rest of your points though, as well as AC's sarky ones. It's unprecedented that someone of 'fame' says something remotely sensible...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Hardware angle

    What's the hardware angle on this Register Hardware story?

    "IT angle" icon because it's the closest...

  7. John Tuffen


    It *is* illegal in the UK to sell certain games to under-age customers. A swift search turned up this on 'OUT-LAW':

    "In contrast to the system in the US, in the UK video games that depict "gross violence", "sexual activity" or "techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences" must be classified under the British Board of Film Classification's (BBFC) film rating system under the Video Recordings Act of 1984. The Act provides that it is an offence to supply such a game to anyone below the age limit, punishable by a fine of up to £5000 or up to six months in prison. However, in the region of 90% of all titles released on to the market are exempt from this legal classification."

    Personally, as a parent, I don't see the problem with age-restrictions on certain content. But perhaps I'm in the minority

  8. Shakje

    He does finish stories...

    but doesn't cut the ends off all the cords and wrap it up in a nice little string ball. Barring a select few of his novels, his short stories are far better, doesn't mean that the rest of them aren't fun to read though :)

  9. Paul Talbot
    Thumb Down

    re: he's almost right

    Wrong. It won't work at all, and would actually make the games more popular for kids.

    I remember growing up in the 80s. There were movies that ended up on the infamous "video nasties" list that became cult classics and much sought after for my age group. If you talked to people from countries where they weren't banned, most people hadn't heard of them or ignored them because many of them were rubbish.

    The same thing would happen with games. It's much better to stop trying to push through stupid laws like this that could only be the thin end of a large wedge (why stop at games? why not movies? books? music? why stop at just restricting childrens' access to certain material?), and instead funnel those resources into the real social issues that lie at the root of the problems with society today.

  10. John Macintyre
    Thumb Up


    god forbid parents actually take responsibility for themselves and their children, then they'd have to star suing themselves when their child gets hurt/goes to jail etc. Well.. if it was made to be that way in essex it would anyway....

  11. Spleen

    Re: Mike, Lickass

    Having read quite a few of Stephen King's books, the general rule is that the least supernatural silliness, the better the book. Unfortunately, he's a horror writer and most of his books have supernatural silliness in them.

    His short stories are much better than his novels, regardless of the silliness level.

    Oh yeah, topic. Well, obviously he's right. Millions agree with him. The world would be much better if we took back responsibility for our actions, blah blah blah, it doesn't make a jot of difference how many public figures repeat this stuff. If Christ himself returned and said unto us that videogames are OK, it wouldn't make a difference. (Even Christians have very little trouble ignoring teachings that conflict with their own prejudices, e.g. "love thy neighbour" and "materialism sucks").

  12. Nick Palmer


    The reason stories like that make the news is because they are the exception rather than the rule. Has it occurred to you that the kid might be mentally disordered? Pyromania and firestarting is frequently also associated with abuse.

    Good on SK, by the way; he's always struck me as a very sensible man :).

  13. Robert Grant

    I'm sorry...what?

    How is this an alternative to parents being responsible for their kids? It simply aids that end. I don't have kids, but if I do then I don't want them at the age of 12 to be able to walk into a shop and buy any game around. Dumping all the blame at the parents is just rubbish.

    Or are we expecting parents to constantly keep up with the increasingly transparent line between the adult world and their child(ren)'s world, and monitor ever-more esoteric and incomprehensible sources of inappropriate material? I'm no anti-smacking, tolerance-is-everything type, but at least give the parents a chance to bring their kids up the way they want them to without being scared that they aren't monitoring the /next/ thing that they're going to later be blamed for.

  14. alistair millington Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I agree with him,


    Sad thing is over here it's illegal to sell alcohol and my local off licence is crowded by drunken hoodie wearing teenagers most nights, so there is no point in a law, all it will do is make the high street brands ask for ID, It won't stop online purchasing etc.

    So what is the point.

    And for a country that relies on some stupid law allowing everyone to carry a gun, a dodgy video game is nothing and won't stop anything.

    Kudos for a big name to get involved, and one not directly involved. One can understand game writers, but he isn't directly involved, so is doing it on morals and principles.

    I know, an american that has no angle or alternate reasoning behind it.

  15. Sean Purdy
    Paris Hilton

    adult community

    > “violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community” should carry a legally enforced age restriction.

    Porn stars get to rate the games then?

    (Paris - she knows all about the "adult community")

  16. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
    Anonymous Coward


    A silly law & an imprudent one, but it is "undemocratic" only in that Stephen King approves of things that are "democratic" and he does not approve of this (proposed) law.

  17. Liam Johnson

    @parents to take responsibility for their children!!!

    Wow, this is getting as stupid as the “think of the children” brigade.

    What exactly is your issue with this? When you say “parents to take responsibility for their children” - are you saying that kids should be under 24/7 house arrest, never let out? Not even to school, since any problems the kids cause there are also the parents responsibility. I am sure you guys would have all been really happy to do 18 years in solitary just for being born.

    It is not considered a good idea to keep you kids locked up. It is not good for making them into nice adults. In the real world, parents tend to try and give their children some freedom. This is usually a balance between the “think of the children” morons and the “I blame the parents” morons. Intelligent people in the middle tend to expect a decent society to help its new members along. In other words, not to start pushing drugs, alcohol, weapons and porn on them as soon as they leave the door. True, kids will get hold of this stuff, but the point is to make it difficult. The point is to show that the whole of society agrees that this stuff is “adult only”, and not just the stuffy old parents. Or are you saying that society does not agree that there is any such thing as adults-only material - In which case the parents are wrong to restrict access in the first place.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: @parents to take responsibility for their children!!!

    I would actually say that there is no such thing as adult-only material. And this is exactly why parents should be the ones to restrict their children's access to it, because they should know whether it is suitable for their children or not.

  19. Matt Thornton

    guns (and videogames) don't kill people

    I thought everyone knew it was the rappers?

    It's pretty clear that either way, the proposed legislation won't make a difference. Kids are still going to want to wander around a city blowing sh1t up GTA stylee. This reminds me of when Patricia Hewitt said she wanted a massive increase in the cost of alcopops, to stop kids drinking them ( - the fact that the gov's coffers bulge nicely as a result as the indiscriminant tax was enforced was not mentioned... whilst neatly ignoring the actual problem altogether.

    (I've grown tired of SK's warblings. His latest stuff like Lisey's Story and The Cell were really tiresome. Few people know, however, that he wrote The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Not to mention other classics like Carrie and The Shining all of which were relatively short. It's just a shame he seems to have lost that knack of writing good fiction and is just churning out 700 page borefests.)

  20. Mike Crawshaw

    @ Liam & Robert

    I think the point here is more than there is already an age-guidance system in the USA, like there is here. In both countries, these are voluntary rather than litigated. In the USA, currently, games can be rated "AO" - ie suitable for Adults Only, in the same way that a games can be rated here as "18" (though in some states, AO means 21+).

    Many of us are saying "why introduce yet another piece of legislation to rule something that's currently working as well as the legislation will" - here in England regards the BBFC adding their rating to the existing one (so that parents aren't "confused" by the existing "18" badge, apparently...) and in America to replace the existing recommendations with another one, enforcable by law.

    In both cases, kids shouldn't be getting hold of games they're not old enough to play, as things stand at the moment. OK, here a retailer is not allowed by law to sell it, whilst in America it's not actually illegal to sell an AO game to a minor, but most stores won't do it (if they even stock them - Wal Mart etc won't stock most AO games).

    What we see in practice, is the retailer saying "no" to the kid, then the kid gets the parent/other adult to buy it for them. I've witnessed it dozens of times, and on one occasion the parent threatened the sales clerk for refusing to sell his 12-ish son the latest 18-rated FPS.

    What we mean when we say "parents should take responsibility" is not "lock them in their room until they're 18", but "take interest in the games they're playing, the movies they're watching, restrict access to inappropriate material, don't leave them surfing/playing watching whatever they like, and don't buy them "Chainsaw Warrior IV: The Zombie Revenge (18)" when they're 9yo, just to shut them up whining about it. What we're saying is not "don't let them do anything", but "take some responsibility for what they are doing".

    A new piece of legislation will not make the games more difficult for children to get hold of in general - they'll get them from parents who don't give a shit, or friends etc. So what's the point in a new and expensive piece of legislation that will do nothing but make the look like they are doing something when they're patently not?


  21. Anonymous Coward

    Why does...

    everyone assume that "taking responsibility" for children means "locking them up"? That's even dumber than assuming that every bit of violence a child sees will make the commit violence:

    "Or are we expecting parents to constantly keep up with the increasingly transparent line between the adult world and their child(ren)'s world, and monitor ever-more esoteric and incomprehensible sources of inappropriate material?"

    Yes, we are. In return for the tax breaks, tolerance of faecal matter, tolerance of constant inane goo-ing and gushing, tolerance of noise pollution... and all the other things we non-breeders give to parents, Yes. Yes, yes yes I expect a hell of a lot from them.

    I expect parents - who after all, constantly rabbit on about the joy and the greatness and how it fulfills their life and bla bla bla - to spend most of their time with their kids, educating them, shaping their attitudes and generally sacrificing their lives for them.

    Rather than what most do, which is plod about with a tired expression from DVD player to Games Console to bed to school.

    Should I not expect more than this?

    A message to parents: if you find children confusing, incomprehensible, shocking or unnerving then... don't have one!

    If you cannot keep tabs on your child, nor can you find some way to strike deals with them about behaviour and appropriate subject material... then you're not cut out for it, face it.

    If you find it a massive chore to keep up with and understand the world of your kids then... hang out with people your own age who you do understand, and don't have children!

    I for one am truly sick to death of the moral high ground that parents claim for "raising" their kids, when all they actually do is plonk them in front of a TV set, stuff meals into them and hand them off to babysitters/teachers/whoever.

    Raising kids is unbelievably hard. But I don't respect a majority of parents I see around me because they're NOT raising their kids.

    As far as I'm concerned yes, you should kiss your life goodbye for 20 years. And if you're not prepared to do that then:



    Honestly, this world is ruined by people who marry cos they want a party, and then have kids because they need the attention.

  22. system


    So, parents are supposed to take responsibility for their children while retailers are supposed to take no responsibility for themselves?

    The only reason to rage against a legally enforceable age restriction is because you want the right to sell 18 rated games to 5 year olds and then pass off all responsiblity for that action to the parents.

    If you really believe that retailers would never do that just for a profit (yeah right) then they have no need of a legal right to do whatever they want with age rated games.

    If this is a pointless law, why not just drop all age restrictions on alcohol, cigarettes and sex while you're at it? If you have trouble selling the idea that paedophilia is caused by a lack of parental responsibility, you can always just change the subject to gun control as above.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the only two stephen king books worth reading

    Are Danse Macabre and hearts in atlantis

  24. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down

    Its the parents, stupid!

    Similar to the motto that got Clinton to beat Bush.

    It isn't that the games need enforced ratings, its that parents are *buying* these games even if the rating suggests otherwise. Remember the granny who bought the "Hot Coffee-hackable" GTA and then complained about the game being unsuitable for a minor?? At least my dad knew what kind of games he was buying me when I was 14-ish. Even when I was 4, so I really got into "violent games" somewhere during my teen years, instead of age 4.

    Point is, even if you enforce ratings on videogames, the parents are the ones buying the games. Parents who don't check on their kids will buy whatever the kid asks without checking, unless the title's blatantly obvious, say, "Peter the Pimp and the Crack-Whore Orgy" or something like that; and even then some parents will buy even that.

    Same parents must also think all cartoons are for children, and let them watch "Happy Tree Friends"...

  25. David

    @ AC

    I agree wholeheartedly. My wife and I are trying to have a child, and I firmly believe that if my kids want a video game / movie / cd, etc, I should be there with them when they go shopping. It's my responsibility to make sure they don't get anything questionable, and IF THEY DO, make sure they're mature enough to understand that whatever the media (meaning the game, etc) is "promoting" is NOT something they can do in public. If they buy GTA 12 (or whatever), they need to know that they can't take a gun or a baseball bat and randomly hit people in the real world.

    It's not the state's job nor the retailer's job to make sure my children understand that. It's mine alone as the parent. If my kid gets a gun and kills (or breaks ANY law) someone before they've reached the "age of reason" (18 in the states), then I've failed them as a parent. If they do it after they're an adult, I've still failed them, but they're outside my control.

    My father was a cop until I was 5, and a firefighter up until the day he died after that. I've never been arrested, nor have I even had a parking ticket. I believe it's because of my father's influence on my life that I've been on the right track so to speak. That's not to say I didn't do stupid things; I've been suspended from school, and threatened with expulsion because I was playing with the network in high school. But I never knowingly broke a law. AND my father and I used to play Doom co-op on our home network. That's one of the best memories I have of my late father.

    All this law will do is further the "nanny state", giving parents the opportunity to dodge even more of their responsibility and pawning it off on the state. If parents don't step up and do what they SHOULD be doing, then they shouldn't have had the kid in the first place. Laws will never replace a parent, no matter how hard some jackass congresscritter or state senator try to do so.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    "patently" offensive...

    ... is a highly subjective term. Personally I find that Christian shoot-em-up "Left Behind: Eternal Forces" to be patently offensive, since it incites religious zealots to murder innocent nonbelievers, but somehow I expect the courts in the USA would decide that /that/ kind of murdering is entirely harmless inoffensive fun, since it's done in the name of the "correct" religion.

  27. Rodrigo Rollan

    @ Robert Grant

    I know it might be quite a shock to many people but: if you have kids you are responsible for their lives untill they can make sensible decisions by themselves. In that spirit, If you don´t have the strenght to do so, DO'T HAVE KIDS ! But don´t expect the world to solve your kids problems. Don´t blame it on games, music, movies, magazines, books, etc. because they have and will always be available. EDUCATE THEM. Again, if you can´t do the time, don´t commit the crime !

  28. kain preacher Silver badge

    @alistair millington

    And for a country that relies on some stupid law allowing everyone to carry a gun

    You mean carry the gun in a locked container and in the trunk of car right. Oh that right the US is the wild wild west were every one can carry guns out in the open silly me. Well some better tell the cops that. Try caring a gun out in the open in California.

    If you going to bash us on own guns, at least take the time to learn the laws instead of spouting of random US hating BS

  29. Chris
    Paris Hilton

    @Daniel B.

    Please drop me a note when "Peter the Pimp and the Crack-Whore Orgy" comes out as it sounds like the type of game I'd have an interest in playing.

    Paris, cus she'd look like an amateur compared to a real crack-whore.

  30. Mad Hacker

    Either legalize Porn for Kids, or illegalize violent movies/video games

    I don't understand the double standard.

    Denying kids porn is democratic (at least no one questions whether that law should be removed) but denying them violent movies and video games is undemocratic?

    Seems if we censor one thing for young people, we should censor the other.

  31. Orclev

    @Mad Hacker

    I'd go with repealing the anti-porn laws. It's the parents right to judge what's best for their kids, and the parents responsibility for the actions of those kids. If little Johny goes on a killing spree, guess what, it's the parents fault. That being said, some people are really off their rocker and need medical and psychiatric attention, but the nanny state and anti-accountability climate that's prevailed as of late is seriously hindering the treatment of these individuals.

  32. This post has been deleted by its author

  33. Anonymous Coward

    Why society allows access to violence and not sexual content

    The seemingly arbitrary decision to allow youth access to violence is because the U.S. (i.e., Exxon, Shell, etc.) needs access to willing cannon fodder (teens who feel immortal and heroic).

    The seemingly arbitrary decision to deny youth access to pornography is because capitalists similiarly need labourers and consumers. Those who self-gratify more frequently are less motivated to work and to buy.... oh, and they are less likely to knock a girl up to create the next generation of willing cannon fodder.

    Somewhere between 10 and 50 years from now, the capitalists will have destroyed enough of the world to make such issues a moot point.

  34. Liam Johnson


    >> Why does…everyone assume that "taking responsibility" for children means "locking them up"?

    Because that is exactly what you are asking for. If the parents have to take _full_ responsibility, then that is the only way to do it.

    The reality is that everybody in a society needs to take some level of responsibility, otherwise we just end up with a bunch of self centered assholes complaining that everything is someone else’s problem. (oh..., wait)

    @Mike Crawshaw

    I generally agree, but the rabid cries of “blame it on the parents” finally got to me.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Good Point.

    The King has spoken.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Imagine the age restriction on porn was removed:

    Parent: "Why should I stop my 9 year old child from looking at porn? It's perfectly legal and he seems to like it."

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Meh, whatever

    Making the sale of copied games illegal ? Wow, thats going to make a lot of difference to all the kids out there that download all their games....

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Go King

    He's is absolutely right. Why should the government waste tax payers money doing a job the parent's should be doing. They thought they were responsible enough to pull of their cloths, they should be responsible enough to handle their kids. If a parent can't handle their children then why did they have em.

    The government has to stop trying to ban this and ban that. Selling smokes to children under the age of 18 is banned. How well did that bill do. How much money is gone into that and still you see all theses kids smoking.

    GO KING!!!!!!!!!!!!

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