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ESRB Our Last Defense Against Game Censorship? 246

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

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  • by gasmonso (929871) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:13PM (#15481638) Homepage

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

    http://psychicfreaks.com/ [psychicfreaks.com]
    • by TrekCycling (468080) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:18PM (#15481680) Homepage
      Here here. When are parents going to be held accountable? I propose a law that makes it mandatory for you to pass a competency exam before you can have children. If you fail, they might someday grow up, get drunk and drive in to the side of my wife's car. I guarantee you that scenario is 1000 times more likely than someone shooting me because they played GTA. Either way, WHERE ARE THE PARENTS in this equation? Don't they have some responsibility?
      • while I like your idea I don't believe we should take away someones ability to have children.

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

        That would certainly encourage parents to take a more active role in their children's lives. and if not the parents get jailed for something the kid does and hopefully the new foster parents do a better job.
        • I was joking, of course. And the above has been considered, even tried, I believe. It's a legal and ethical minefield, of course. Since sometimes kids are just bad. And then what should parents do? Chain them to a wall?

          In the end my bottom line is that having kids is a choice. No one puts a gun to your head and forces you to have kids. So once you make that choice you better damn well take it seriously. That means if you are overworked, find a way to work less. If that means cutting back on your consumerism
      • by SeaFox (739806) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:04PM (#15482082)
        WHERE ARE THE PARENTS in this equation? Don't they have some responsibility?

        Isn't it obvious? They were too frazzled by having to work such long hours to keep the family above water financially. Thanks to the slow rollback of workers rights and a landscape of low-paying jobs created by the governnment's sellout to big business and handling of the economy. They didn't have much choice that allowed them more time to be with their children.
        • by TrekCycling (468080) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:12PM (#15482165) Homepage
          #1 - I agree totally that PEOPLE (remember, us non-parents are people too) have supressed wages and are busier than we should be.

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

            How do you people misunderstand basic economics so badly? Who, exactly, is supressing your wages?
            • They aren't keeping up with inflation and I'm working more than my father had to. That's enough for me. Wages have been statistically stagnant for quite some time. Especially on the low end.

              Who is supressing wages? We all are. Everything has to be cheap. There's a cost to living in a Wal-Mart society.
              • Who is supressing wages? We all are. Everything has to be cheap. There's a cost to living in a Wal-Mart society.

                Well, exactly. Your father didn't have to deal with the same influx of new workers (especially at the bottom), and even less for your grandfater, and even less for your great-grandfather. In your great-grandfather's generation, he didn't compete against minorities, nor women. Those groups have all come into the working class, and at first qualified as "cheap labor". As education has improved, t
                • More to the point, there are places with better workers right. The french work 35 hours a week, and get (a legally enforced) 5 weeks of paid vacation a year or something like that. The price they pay is unemployment problems and very slow economic growth.

                  It all comes down to: do you want to live so you can work, or do you want to work so you can live? People in other countries would rather enjoy life instead of spending it all at work.

                  Unemployment is one thing, but economic "growth" is another. If you're
                  • Yeah, the parent post was just more of the same uninformed nonsense that you would expect these days. The immigrants are the problem (forgetting that other nations have more serious immigration and assimilation problems) and look at those crazy Europeans with their high unemployment and low productivity.

                    I like to enjoy life, thanks. Making a fair wage would be a bonus, but with tools like the one you responded to drinking the Kool-Aid, I suppose things will never change here in the US.
            • How do you people misunderstand basic economics so badly? Who, exactly, is supressing your wages?

              They've dropped some 30% since the 70s. who's suppressing them? Management. Why? Blame it on greed and the demands of wall street.

        • They were too frazzled by trying to afford the next gizmo, buying their big screen TV on credit, buying that new 2006 model car on a loan, etc etc. Our economy is only this bad because people let it become this way. Its not some evil corporation thing (Well not most of it anyways). If I make widgets and sell them for $6,000 when they cost me $150 to make, and people whip out the credit cards to buy them...damn right I'm gunna charge $6,000 for it. But if noone is willing to whip out the credit cards for
          • Excellent points but you are missing a bit of the government side of the equation. For one thing, people wouldn't have so many financial troubles if they weren't taxed so heavily (money stolen) to support programs which are unlawful (unconstitutional in the United States), not desired by the victims^Htaxpayers, economically inefficient because if they were efficient people would pay for them voluntarily, and immoral because the "services" are provided for stolen money rather than offered for voluntary purc

      • by doublem (118724) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:05PM (#15482090) Homepage Journal
        Hold on there buckaroo.

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

        What country are YOU from???
        • America, more than just a few years ago. Personal responsability existed in this country as recently as the 1980s. :)
          • America, more than just a few years ago. Personal responsability existed in this country as recently as the 1980s.

            Welcome to the new millennium. Personal responsibility is gone, and isn't coming back any time soon.
      • When are parents going to be held accountable?

        When lawyers and politicians stop having kids.

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

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

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

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

      • The legislators do know that. The problem is the voters don't want to believe that, even though they also know it's true. They want to believe that there's an easy solution to the problem, and the legislators are more than happy to pander to that in exchange for votes.
        • by Plugh (27537) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:25PM (#15482281) Homepage
          OK.
          Let's go ahead and about half the Legislature are the really bad, "nanny state" legislators think that passing laws really is the solution... and that the other half are simply willing to whore themselves and use fear tactics to get re-elected.

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

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

    • I'm a parent... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by QuaintRealist (905302) * <quaintrealist@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:24PM (#15481721) Homepage Journal
      of a 10 year old and a 7 year old. And you know, the rating system really does help to some degree. If a game is rated "M" I can turn it down. If it's rated "T" I know to look carefully before purchasing. If it's rated "E" I know that my 7 year old won't be shocked/disturbed, and so on. What I hate to see is putting restrictions on games based on the rating - give me (the parent) a heads up as to content, then let me decide, thanks.
      • That's already happening. The games that are causing the most outcry right now are GTA and the various mods to GTA and Oblivion. What parent is STUPID enough to think these are good games for their kids, unless their kids are mature enough to handle what may be thrown at them?

        I too don't mind a rating system. I actually like it. I like it for movies. If a movie is R and it's a horror movie (I hate horror movies) there's a chance it's way too over the top for me. Whereas if it's PG-13 it may work. So even fo
      • Re:I'm a parent... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ChicagoDave (644806)
        I disagree with this assessment. I purchased Shrek II for my girls because it had the "E" rating. The game is _entirely_ based on the concept of bashing men in the head. This is violent behavoir I wish not to teach my kids. I would have expected the rating to be T at least or have a synopsys of what the game play is like. "Shek bashes his enemies while..." would have properly sent me away from the game. But of course ratings are about sales and there's no way a Shrek II game was going to get anything but
        • I've had a similar problem myself. Still, I don't think that this means that a rating system isn't useful or valid, just that we both would like the games to be rated accurately. After all, with no rating system, you'd probably have bought the Shrek II game, with the same result.
        • If you read the content tags next to the E rating on the back of the box, you'll note that Shrek II was rated E, with tags for "Comic Mischief, Violence". If you don't want games involving violence, don't buy games with the Violence tag.
          • I think "E" should inherently exclude all games that contain what I would deem "regular and consistant violence as a part of the strategy of the game". An example of something I would forgive is in Mario Party 7, which has the occasional cartoon of Donkey Kong jumping on you and flattening you if you lose a mini-game. But none of the game play in Mario Party 7 is violent in nature.

            But to one of the other replies I agree...as the parent it's is my responsibility. I have no wish to see any law restrict the
            • This underlines the reason why rating systems cannot ever work. What you want for your kids is not what a bible thumper wants, which is not what hippies want, which is not what... ad nausium.

              The only purpose ratings serve is to let censorship in the backdoor, via retailers who won't sell things beyond a certain rating.
      • I mostly agree. I'm just concerned about the idea that the manufacturers would be forced to give some official heads up about the content. What might bother you might not bother me, and vice-versa. In the age of Google, I feel like these warnings are pretty redundant. If I truly care about my children, I'll take it upon myself to bear the cost of knowing about the game before allowing my children to play it. I don't think that a manufacturer of a game intended for an adult audience should have to bear

      • by SEAL (88488) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @06:52PM (#15484126)
        The problem is that the retail market for games has turned into a handful of brick&mortar outlets. Those would be the main one: Wal-Mart, and a few "minor" ones: Best Buy, etc.

        Rather than letting parents observe the ratings and decide what to buy, these retailers *won't carry* games with AO ratings, and sometimes won't carry certain games with M ratings. But as a game developer in such a homogenized retail market, you can't hope to turn a profit if your game doesn't get shelf space in Wal-Mart.

        So developers and publishers target the Teen-rating, rather than risk losing shelf space. This places an artificial limit on creative content (whether you agree with violence or not, the limit is there). Is it censorship in First Amendment terms? No. Does it still chill an entire market segment? Yes. Blame the stupid American public, or the politicians, or the ESRB, but a conservative minority is getting its way in the U.S. once again.
    • If selling games with mature content becomes too tough to do because of potential legal liability, publishers will stop publishing those kinds of games. We're not just talking about changing the availability of this stuff, we're talking the potential for the stuff to be legislated out of the realm of practicality.
    • I can be reasonably confident that my 14 year old son is going to have put in some effort to see an R rated film that I haven't approved. I have no such confidence regarding MA rated games. Theaters consistently check ID or refuse entry to those that appear underage. Parental controls on video devices are not easy to bypass. Proper network configuration and logging restrict or at least monitor access via Internet.

      My son does chores for his allowance. He mows lawns and does odd jobs in the neighborhood for m
  • by IAmSwiftness (980193) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:13PM (#15481639)
    Sometimes it seems to me to be just the opposite -- that the ESRB is a tool for politicians to censor games and make them out to be evil. Have there been any laws on the state or federal level enforced that regulate ESRB ratings, such as laws that say that you MUST be 17 to buy an M-rated game, or are those things all voluntary compliance?
  • by Eric Damron (553630) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:14PM (#15481645)
    Perhaps the best thing we can do is to send a clear message that we do not approve of trivial issues being used as political tools when there are real serious issues that haven't been addressed.

    The best way to do that is to identify the politicians that use these tactics and then vote the bums out of office.
    • ummm, that would be all of them. I'm all for cleaning house but I'm guessing the extremes needed are not going to happen, especially since we'd have to rewrite the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the political whoring that has been corrupting our system for decades.
    • Perhaps the best thing we can do is to send a clear message that we do not approve of trivial issues being used as political tools when there are real serious issues that haven't been addressed. The best way to do that is to identify the politicians that use these tactics and then vote the bums out of office.

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

  • by dilvish_the_damned (167205) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:14PM (#15481654) Journal
    mere emails and forum posts don't have much clout. Rather, posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion

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

    Gotta go delete my spam now. Tell the senator I said 'hi' for me.
    • by stubear (130454)
      No, they're sure to ignore them that much faster. If you're faced with thousands of e-mails all seemingly complaining about the same things, knowing that it took little effort to write them, would read them?
      • If you're faced with thousands of e-mails all seemingly complaining about the same things, knowing that it took little effort to write them, would read them?

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

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

        Next Day courier service will arrive in the office two or three days after you send it.
    • Yeah, I'm sick of this notion that letters to politicians must be written on actual paper. I've never seen any actual evidence that it really helps (unless of course the paper has a picture of Mr. Franklin). While I'm sure it was once true, I'm beginning to wonder if it's becoming an old wives' tale, irrelevant to the current political climate where it's not possible for average citizens to convince any politicians of anything.
  • by Tackhead (54550) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:16PM (#15481660)
    The ESRB ratings system was our last, best hope for freedom of speech. It failed. But in the year of the Terra war it became something greater: our last, best hope... for anything worth playing. The year is 2006. The place: GDC '06.

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

  • The entire these laws get passed in the first place is because of politicians looking for votes.
    • Exactly. You can't pander well by holding the following press conference.

      "I'm not passing any legislation today to label candy. I'm not passing any legislation today to label video games. Today I'm begging parents to take the time to do their jobs. That is all."
    • Democracy is more of a problem than a solution. The entire these laws get passed in the first place is because of politicians looking for votes.

      Heh. Talk about your all-time stretches. It would be so much better if our politicians just didn't have to get votes, at all... if they just had their position for life.. maybe pass their position on to their kids. That sounds alot better. Then maybe we can mix in some serfs, a couple of joust matches, and throw in a dark-ages or two, for fun. I'm starting to see
  • on the contrary (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:17PM (#15481679)
    "...posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion -- the beliefs that they've been elected to represent."

    Actually, the best method to get their attention is to throw money and free trips [startribune.com] at them.
  • .. because this smacks of the whole EC Horror Comics furore years back. And did anything change for good? Did it hell. Gory and violence in comics is still going today.
    • .. because this smacks of the whole EC Horror Comics furore years back. And did anything change for good? Did it hell. Gory and violence in comics is still going today

      There were three strikes against the pre-code comic book industry:

      It was rapidly losing older readers to the cheap paperback novel. Mickey Spillane.
      The crime and horror comics intended to compete in this new "adult" market were distributed through the same channels and off the same racks as Scrooge McDuck.
      The product itself was eminently

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

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

    Or perhaps it could be much easier. A democracy mailing list or something, but the point is that the greatest obstacle for people to complaining is to find out WHO to write to. Definitely a program with a database of politicians' emails and what bills they proposed / approved, would be a great help for our democracy in the 21st century.
    • Major politica action groups like truemajority.org already do this. They send you an email saying this is the issue (e.g. net neutrality) and this is the text of the message we would like you to send to your congressman and these are the people you should send it to. If you go to their page, you only have to click 'Send' to send it via email. Since the site knows your information, it will automatically craft the email and send it to the relevant politicians on your behalf. Maybe we can put together a simil
    • EFF has an RSS feed (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mr. Sketch (111112)
      On the EFF Action Page [eff.org] You can subscribe to an RSS feed of all the latest bill/issues before congress that affect our digital rights. Things like the broadcast flag, NSA wiretaps, e-voting, etc. Each individual action page has a form letter you can send your representative or senator to show your opposition or support.
  • not enough (Score:5, Interesting)

    by delirium of disorder (701392) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:23PM (#15481718) Homepage Journal
    Ultimately, the best way to prevent the demise of gaming is to make use of the democratic process. ... posted letters to representatives (written on actual paper) are the best way to let politicians know your opinion

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

      Watch this man in a suit [youtube.com] tackle the same issue over censorship in music, and realise it is the same circus from the entertainment branch of big business.
  • My proposal (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lord_Slepnir (585350) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:24PM (#15481722) Journal
    Lately, with all of this censorship by the FCC, reporters being arrested because they won't reveal thier sources, and now this talk of congress censoring video games, I propose a constitutional ammendment that will protect my freedom to say what I want to. The text of this fictional amendment (which doesn't exist because this stuff wouldn't even be considered if it did) would read something like:

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

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

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

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

    • It's times like these that I wish there were another moderation type [since Funny obviously doesn't describe it accurately]:

      Tragic
  • ESRB v. MPAA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:26PM (#15481745) Homepage Journal
    The MPAA film ratings bureau is made up of representatives of the actual film industry to decide what is okay for films aimed at whom, in order to avoid government-regulated censorship. In that respect (minus all the other political lobbying and bullshit it's into) it's not that far off from the ESRB.

    So, what are the laws on the books regarding adult-rated movies? If indeed it's illegal to let an unescorted child into an R film (and not just voluntary industry policy) why not adopt something similar and legally enforce the ESRB ratings on games? The alternative is for the ESRB to give way to a government censorship system of some kind, and if that happens games will have taken a huge step backward that films took forward generations ago.
    • There are no federal laws (and AFAIK, no state either) that enforce MPAA ratings. They're voluntarily enforced by theathers and retailers.

    • While it may be illegal to show a child psychologically damaging content, there is no law regarding MPAA ratings. They are the industry self-policing itself so that the nanny government does not get involved.
  • Shift the focus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:26PM (#15481746) Homepage

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

    • Re:Shift the focus (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TrekCycling (468080)
      I've literally been at stores and watched parents debate with the store employee about the game being okay for their kids. And not in the way you might think. The employee was 100% of the time saying "that's not a very good idea, that's not for kids, try this instead" and the parent wouldn't listen. So what good does the label do when you even have a store employee warning the parent. Clearly some parents are too stupid to do their job.

      End

      Of

      Story
      • I've overheard several parent->clerk conversations at my local video game store as the clerk begins describing the gameplay in God of War or GTA or somesuch game. The parent often looks befuddled, "well, it can't be all that realistic violence right?" I feel like plugging in the game and showing how it looks when Kratos bashes a woman's head off the ground a few times, or burns a soldier alive as he screams for mercy ...

        (Watch the "making of" featurette on the disc ... "We were trying to make a game an
  • Great plan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Silent sound (960334) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:29PM (#15481772)
    "Listen! We can keep them from taking away our freedoms if we just give them up willingly!"

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

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

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

    In the meantime, if the ESRB is going to be any kind of defense against game censorship, it needs to start acting like it. So far it is serving as an instrument of the pressure groups working for game censorship far more than it is serving as a deterrent from governmental censorship. In fact, not only is the ESRB failing to serve as a check on runaway legislators-- by now it is actually providing a stepping-stone for those same legislators. Hillary Clinton's latest attempt at a video games law [wikipedia.org] actually uses the ESRB ratings, in mandating ESRB enforcement by law. I can't help but wonder how all those people will feel who touted the ESRB as an "alternative" to censorship law, once [if] the ESRB becomes the censorship law?
    • You are perfectly free to, as a consumer, boycott any stores which do not sell AO rated games and let the companies know the reason why you are not buying from them. (I assume you would have no trouble buying said games from online retailers.)
    • Sir or Madam, you are correct!

      My I add my rant? Thank you.

      ---

      Gabe, of Penny Arcade [penny-arcade.com], mentioned [penny-arcade.com] recently that Penny Arcade is designing an ad campaign for the Entertainment Software Rating Board [esrb.org]. He explains:

      Regardless of what they think about the ESRB I've never met anyone who doesn't agree that a rating system is important. No one wants little kids playing games designed for adults. The ESRB isn't perfect but it's all we've got and we as gamers can either bitch about it or try and help.

      OK, I'll bite. Gabe h

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

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


  • The supreme court is the last defense against violations of the first amendment.
    Voluntary censorship doesn't entirely help things necessarily. When the 'mature' designation is something that won't be carried by mainstream stores, inevitable market enforced censorship tends to set in as game developers often would tend to feel a profit-motive to limit themselves to the 'acceptible' criteria to ensure wide distribution... thus, subtly censoring much of what is produced.
  • I haven't seen a lot of mainstream politicians calling for the government to censor games. That is, disallow them from being published or alter their content. Not even that Jack Thompson idiot has called for that. Only that games be properly labeled for content and not marketed or sold to children if their content is inappropriate for kids. This is no more than what we demand of the tobacco companies. And they're great role models for how to run a responsible business. Right?
  • DRM, our last defence against information control?
  • by sk8dork (842313) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:53PM (#15481979) Homepage
    Despite what the Internet would like to believe, mere emails and forum posts don't have much clout.
    you've gone and hurt the Internet's feelings.
  • by RexRhino (769423) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @01:58PM (#15482029)
    Duh... Freedom of Speech and free expression trumps any sort of democratic process, because democracy cannot exist in the absence of free speech. Our basic human rights are not negotable with a mob.

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

    We don't have to convince anyone, not Congress, not "The People", not anyone, of our right to absolute free expression. We simply need to learn how to resist forms of control that the government will try to put on expression.
  • Wrong, wrong, wrong! (Score:5, Informative)

    by lax-goalie (730970) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:00PM (#15482047)

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I hate how we try to deflect the real issues. You can put a dress and lipstick on a pig, but it's s
  • by moranar (632206) on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:09PM (#15482126) Homepage Journal
    I submitted about the Penny Arcade efforts with the ESRB [penny-arcade.com] a few days ago, but the story was rejected. Enjoy.

    Basically, the PA guys are working with the ESRB, drawing and trying to revamp the ESRB categories to make them clearer to everyone. It looks like a nice effort.
  • Time... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 16K Ram Pack (690082) <tim.almond@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Tuesday June 06, 2006 @02:11PM (#15482159) Homepage
    The thing is that Hilary Clinton will be a member of the last group that were not exposed to video games in their youth.

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

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

  • ...defense against politicians seeking to censor games to increase their own political capital Not that I agree with the censorship, but has anyone thought that maybe, just maybe, one or two of the politicians are trying to censor the games because they actually believe the content to be harmful? Surely it's not helping the battle to pigeon-hole all of the politicians into one simple, cynically categorized group?
  • Have to push back here. The problems with ratings systems (TV, Movies, and Video Games), have -always- been made worse by the unwillingness of the industries to provide -full disclosure-.

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

    In each case, the industry wanted to weasel through, so -they- chose crite
  • yes, do it! censor all the violent games... soon you'll see that the only effects will be:
    - the same games will be produced in foreign countries
    - that'll cost jobs in america
    - less taxes from game-studios (moving abroad or going bankrupt)
    - less taxes through sales in stores
    - people still get the games illegally

    that's the only effect the game-censorship in germany had... less jobs, less money for the country, no effect on society
    it wouldn't even have an effect IF people couldn't get violent games a
  • Gaminggroove blogs an opinion [gaminggroove.com]. Contact your Congressdouche and tell them to step off, biotch.
  • The Hays code doesn't censor [reference.com] movies, it assigns them a rating. Within reason (i.e. no child porn), producers remain free to create whatever content they choose. They do so, however, with the understanding that certain content will not be viewable by children under a certain age.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the "gamer crowd" completely discards the idea that maybe, just maybe, children shouldn't have access to all video game content and that maybe, just maybe, the industry should attempt to facilitate

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