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The 'Truth in Videogame Rating' Act 131

Posted by Zonk
from the truth-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder dept.
The Escapist News Room reports on the introduction of the Truth in Videogame Ratings act to the floor of Congress. The act would require ratings boards to entirely complete the content of a videogame before applying a rating, and would involve the Government Accountability Office to oversee the ESRB's practices. This is a big change from the current system of developer disclosure. From the article: "Under the microscope would be the ESRB's effectiveness, the validity of peer review and advertisements targeted toward ages younger than a game's recommended audience. Less specific to the ESRB, the bill would also require research on 'the efficacy of a universal ratings system for visual content, including films, broadcast and cable TV, and video and computer games.' Game Politics notes that Co-Sponsors Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) are up for re-election this November along with Congressman Cliff Stearns."
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The 'Truth in Videogame Rating' Act

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  • hmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ZephyrXero (750822) <zephyrxero.yahoo@com> on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:39PM (#15862217) Homepage Journal
    I'm actually all for the ESRB actually being required to play the games they rate. I always thought it was silly for them to just watch an abreviated video of the game and then come up with a rating somehow. Although, on the negative side, this could easily raise the cost of getting your game rated.

    What I'm particularly worried about is this government agency "over seeing" the ratings... nothing good will come from that, at least not from our current government...
    • Re:hmmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hope Thelps (322083)
      I'm actually all for the ESRB actually being required to play the games they rate.

      By law? An act that forebids people from expressing an opinion - sorry but that's what a "rating" is - unless they've met the governments requirements? Whether you're for it or not, this whole thing is a disgraceful waste of tax revenues.
      • Re:hmmm.... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by bunions (970377)
        Insightful? Are you kidding?

        The ESRP exists to give an opinion of what the game should be rated. This rating carries with it the force of law. Yes, they should have to play through the entire fucking thing. I fail to see how this is anything but immediately obvious.
        • Re:hmmm.... (Score:2, Informative)

          by illspirit (957034)
          Erm, but, the ratings do not carry the force of law. Well, at least not until this law (and its companion bill or FEPA) gets passed.
        • Re:hmmm.... (Score:3, Informative)

          by Kesch (943326)
          This rating carries with it the force of law.


          Nope. MPAA and ESRB ratings are both voluntary which is not to say the don't carry some amount of weight since they are both accepted industry standards that are usually (although not because of any legal threat) enforced by the content distributors (Walmart and movie theatres in this example).
          • Re:hmmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Pxtl (151020)
            Which, imho, is the biggest reason that this whole thing is a fraud. The fact is that movies, games, comics, music, etc. are all competing for marketshare, and the teenagers are the biggest market for all of those industries. Legislating one market while ignoring others gives one an unfair advantage.

            Tell me, what is it that is so fundamentally different about games that their ratings must carry force of law, while movies do not? Movies are already rated less strictly than the comparable games. Consideri
            • Without considering the implications this law will have, the reason it has more "importance" than movies is its interactive features. You don't interact with movies and movies don't interacy with your input. GTA:SA as you use in your example is AO because of the graphic scenes that the user invoked. The difference is between watching blind violence and doing (virtually) blind violence.

              B.
              • Re:hmmm.... (Score:2, Informative)

                by Chosen Reject (842143)
                Now we know where you have been for the last year. Under a rock somewhere. GTA:SAs rating was NOT changed because of the violence. There was a mod that unlocked a pixelated sex scene between two consenting adults who happened to be both wearing clothes. Google hot coffee. Look it up on Wikipedia. But by golly, don't go around claiming that GTA:SA is AO because you can kill and slaughter and otherwise cause mayhem.
              • Except no one has ever demonstrated that this difference should matter. It's all theory: that maybe by playing a game where you do something you become more likely to actually do it. Of course, some people have decided that a theory that there might be link is reason enough to take action.

                The only evidence provided so far to support this theory is that many players become excited while playing violent videogames. Of course, this couldn't have anything to do with the fact that we play them because they're
                • I never said I agree with that theory but theory or not, that is why laws like this take on more "importance" (notice the quotation marks) to legislators. It is a perseption problem.

                  B.
        • Re:hmmm.... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by badasscat (563442) <basscadet75&yahoo,com> on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:39PM (#15863183)
          The ESRP exists to give an opinion of what the game should be rated. This rating carries with it the force of law.

          Ummm.

          First, it's the ESRB. I could excuse this as a simple typo but for the second sentence above, where you clearly demonstrate that you do not even know what the ESRB is.

          The ESRB is a voluntary ratings and regulatory organization set up by the games industry itself. It carries no force of law, nor is it beholden to any governmental agency. Therefore, requiring the board to play through all the games it rates to completion would likely do one thing: force it out of business. This is not an agency you can dictate to regarding their operations. It is a private organization.

          Yes, they should have to play through the entire fucking thing. I fail to see how this is anything but immediately obvious.

          GTA Vice City, to pick but one example, was more than 100 hours long if you played the "entire" thing through (including side missions). Multiply that by the number of games that come out every week and you tell me how many people would need to be on the ESRB payroll.

          You're basically talking about creating a new and massive government bureacracy for one thing - to rate video games. This is how you want your tax dollars spent? Because the ESRB is not going to spend this money, nor do they have to.
        • um no the rating does not carry any weight other than it is some groups opinion.
        • So essentially, if you work for the ESRB, you believe it should be a crime to suck at Q4.

          I totally need a job at the ESRB. Finally I could mean it when I say, "Sorry honey, I can't go to the store with you.. I really have to finish up some work."
      • No, I didn't mean by law.... which I figured could be inferred from the next sentence: "What I'm particularly worried about is this government agency "over seeing" the ratings..."
    • I fully agree with not liking the idea of the government over seeing what I can play.. because you know that if the game shows the current leaders in a bad light it will get a Adult rating and there for not be sold by a lot of stores..

      it just gives them another way of controlling and manipulating our lives and what we experience..

      I am getting sick of it.. the shit that we see them do physical pains me.. I hope others realize how screwed we are....
      • "the efficacy of a universal ratings system for visual content, including films, broadcast and cable TV, and video and computer games"

        "Including", huh? I wonder what other visual content they want to put under their universal ratings that they didn't explicitly list?

        I can imagine there are some in the government who'd like to regulate what styles of clothing can be worn in public or rating books for their content and themes.

        I have two copies of the novelization of the movie "WarGames". One of them, appare
    • I don't see how MMOs will get rated though. Are they going to spend 400 hours powerlevelling in FFXI to get to max level so they can see all the raid instances?
    • I'm actually all for the ESRB actually being required to play the games they rate

      While I don't think that people actually check the rating other then parents, I do believe that the ratings should at least be accurate. If they don't play the entire game, they miss out on a lot of things that would change the rating. I am sure that parents would be upset if they bought their children a game rated T and it contains brief nudity that the raters missed, or other things intended for an adult audience.

    • Re:hmmm.... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Alamoth (927972)
      I think there needs to be a compromise between the current system of watching movies of the game and the proposed system of having the ESRB play games in their entirety. I know, I know, heaven forbid anyone propose a compromise instead of just forcing one extreme or the other.

      Why can't the gaming companies suggest a rating for their game (within reason)? When Nintendo puts out a new Mario game or EA puts out the next Madden game, they have a very good idea of what the rating on the game is. There is prec
  • by dorath (939402)
    The act would require ratings boards to entirely complete the content of a videogame before applying a rating
    There's a lot of content in then new-fangled massively multiplayer games, and they seem to be updated with new content quite often. Maybe we'll see some ESRB guild tags.
  • by Volante3192 (953645) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:43PM (#15862252)
    ...with Hot Coffee, something that's hidden like Aardwolf in Wolf3d.

    While this would likely help in theory; the MPAA doesn't give ratings without watching the film, I doubt many people on the ESRB ratings board have much real video game experience. How many of them could master the controls on Halo or Metroid Prime?

    Are they expected to just complete it? Or complete it with 100% scores?

    Sadly, these people are just in charge of regulating things. They don't have to know anything about it.
    • Are they expected to just complete it? Or complete it with 100% scores?

      Every possible combination in chess games. Should take them a while ;)
    • by Tsiangkun (746511) on Monday August 07, 2006 @07:12PM (#15862414) Homepage
      It seems completely unreasonable to expect them to complete the game, let alone 100% the game.

      We can't even get our government to read the complete text of the bills on which they are voting !

      Maybe we should ask the government for that piece of legislation first.

      Dear Congress Citter

                Please make it treason to undermine the credibility of our nation by voting
                on a bill without having read and comprehended the complete text first.

      Thx,
      Jim


      And then the guy has the balls to continue with a statement on ratings which mislead the buyer as to the game content.
      Patriot Act, Protection of Marriage Act, Operation Enduring Freedom, etc etc etc.
    • The videogames rating board is made up of random people selected from different groups. They are no allowed to work within the industry. They tend to be people from a diverse group so that they can get a good cross-section of responses and ratings.
    • Aardwolf is still accessable in-game if you solve a long and difficult pushwall maze, whereas hot coffee requires hacking to access.
  • by Crussy (954015) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:43PM (#15862256)
    Many games are rated M for mature to begin with and nearly nobody follows that rule. Parents will do what they're going to do anyway, and most of the time it will be buying children these games, just like they watch rated R movies with them. So where's the problem? If a parent deems his child mature enough to watch a certain movie or play a certain game, that is their call. The babysitting that the government is doing is becoming unrealistic. Enough of this "but think about the children" We've thought about the children, parents everyday think about their children and they are the ones best to judge who gets to play what. When it all comes down to it, whether a game is 14+ or 15+ or 14.75+ will not matter, only what the parent thinks at the time of the purchase.

    There are much more pressing issues in our country than these childish laws.
    • by Incoherent07 (695470) on Monday August 07, 2006 @07:05PM (#15862376)
      See, you've got it all wrong. If we blame the parents, they won't vote for us in November, because they think we're insulting their ability to raise their children. But if we shift the blame to others, then all the parents can feel good about how we're protecting their children, and continue to ignore the ratings as before. After all, video gamers themselves are predominantly young, which means either they can't or won't vote, so we're free to alienate them for political gain. As such, blaming the ESRB and the evil gaming lobby trying to corrupt our children is entirely the right course of action.

      In other words, I agree completely with everything you said, but you make a problematic assumption that logic even applies here.
      • After all, video gamers themselves are predominantly young, which means either they can't or won't vote, so we're free to alienate them for political gain

        Apparently the average gamer is in his (don't know if stats for female gamers are different) early 30's [theesa.com], well able to have a vote?
    • Parents will do what they're going to do anyway, and most of the time it will be buying children these games, just like they watch rated R movies with them.

      Well, good so, isn't that exactly the point? By forbidding minors to buy certain games themself, you force them to involve their parents or at least another grown up, sounds like a perfectly good reason for making ESRB mandatory. The only throuble I see with mandatory enforment of ratings is what happens with all the freeware games, do they need a ratin

    • What problem? What problem?

      That damned First Amendment, that's what problem.

      KFG
    • No no, most games are rated M for 'manure', and nearly everyone follows that.
    • When it all comes down to it, whether a game is 14+ or 15+ or 14.75+ will not matter, only what the parent thinks at the time of the purchase.

      Well, bingo, which is why most such ratings, ESRB included, also tell you what to expect in the game. That's why you see not only a "T" rating, but also stuff like "violence" or "sexual themese" on the box. So the parent can form his/her own idea whether it's ok for his/her 12 year old or not. Maybe some don't mind the violence in some contexts. (E.g., my parents tho

    • Many games are rated M for mature to begin with and nearly nobody follows that rule.

      Well, I believe what they are targetting by saying that they need to require this are things with "undisclosed" content, such as "nudity" in Oblivion bumping it from a T to an M and the hot coffee stuff bumping GTA from an M to an AO. Of course, what these jackasses are failing to realize is that under normal gameplay as designed by the developers, which is what the ESRB would be viewing, these things never would have been

  • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:44PM (#15862262)
    > Co-Sponsors Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)

    Bolded for emphasis.

    Republicans want to censor video games because they're afraid of boobies. Democrats want to censor video games because they're afraid of guns.

    All citizens accomplish when they switch their vote between the Elephant and Jackass wings of the Party is ensure that a different set of freedoms is eliminated for the children, because if it saves just one life...

    • by CosmeticLobotamy (155360) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:53PM (#15862312)
      Jim Matheson and Mike McIntyre want to censor video games. So vote out Jim Matheson and Mike McIntyre. Quit voting for or against groups and maybe we could get some decent individuals.
      • You seem to be under the impression that there are actually decent individuals running for office. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that decent individuals try to avoid the inherent corruption that comes with elected offices.

        Perhaps the time is near that our government won't be elected (be it via voluntary redesign, continued corruption, or revolution). With any luck, the change will occur in an orderly fashion without bloodshed, but I doubt the stalwarts are interested in such things.
      • by Tackhead (54550) on Monday August 07, 2006 @07:19PM (#15862455)
        > Jim Matheson and Mike McIntyre want to censor video games. So vote out Jim Matheson and Mike McIntyre. Quit voting for or against groups and maybe we could get some decent individuals.

        Catch-22. Old bureacracies never die, they just change the names on the org charts. Once upon a time, the Jackasses were for segregation, and the Elephants were for civil rights. Once upon a time the Elephants wanted smaller government, and the Jackasses wanted a bigger government.

        Suppose we abolished all political parties. The country would still be full of individuals who fear boobies, and individuals who fear guns.

        Even if 80% of the country doesn't give a damn one way or the other, but the 10% who fear guns would find folks like Matheson and McIntyre, who would become part of the WeHateGuns party, and the 10% who fear boobies would do the same, forming a WeHateBoobies party. The 80% who don't give a damn aren't going to form a WeLikeFreedom party, because they don't give a damn about that either. (And because the first thing a WeLikeFreedom party would do after getting elected would be... nothing, and who the hell wants to invest a million bucks in funding the campaign of a guy who won't pass a law that gives your industry a few tens of millions in return?)

        Eventually, the No Guns Party would pick an animal as a mascot, and so would the No Boobs Party. They'd probably come up with better names. They might even adopt the name and mascot of an old party. Maybe something like this has happened before. Maybe it's happened before more than once.

        • The 80% who don't give a damn aren't going to form a WeLikeFreedom party, because they don't give a damn about that either. (And because the first thing a WeLikeFreedom party would do after getting elected would be... nothing

          No. As I understand it, the WeLikeFreedom Party [lp.org] would privatize government services, end handouts, decriminalize victimless acts (thus letting police concentrate on violent crime), and cut income tax. So why don't 80 percent of us vote Libertarian?

          • by LGagnon (762015) on Monday August 07, 2006 @11:46PM (#15863663)
            When Libertarians want to take away our public education, welfare (which protects us from a proletariat revolt ala the Russian Revolution), and other public services, there's an obvious reason why nobody who knows politics votes for them.
            • So you mean to tell me that the lazy fucks who have made a family tradition out of Welfare and Food Stamps are giong to get up off of their asses and form together and attack the government? If they're that motivated, why aren't they employed right now instead of wasting my tax money?
    • by Guuge (719028)

      > Co-Sponsors Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)

      Bolded for emphasis.

      They're from red states. Of course they're going to be trying to pander to the think-of-the-children types. Democrats need to be elected too, you know. You may as well pick out the few pro-life Democrats and immediately conclude that both parties want to eliminate women's rights. Or pick out the few Republicans who stood against the flag desecration amendment and say that both parties support the first amendment.

      • They're also from states where adults make parenting a priority. If this were just about parents who didn't do "enough" for their kids, you'd think it'd come from some place like Seattle, where the per capita of dual income households that raise DOGS is higher than those that raise children, cuz they're too busy making money to give a darn about actually raising a family.

        If you have kids, you know that your ability to monitor what your kids are exposed to is only as stringent as the standards of your neighb
        • If you have kids, you know that your ability to monitor what your kids are exposed to is only as stringent as the standards of your neighbors.

          In other words, it takes a village to raise a child.
    • I think it's safe to argue, though, that guns are far more destructive to kids than breasts are.

      When was the last time you heard about a pair of breasts killing a child?
    • No, Democrats want to censor videogames because they're afraid if they don't, they won't look enough like Republicans and no one will vote for them.
    • The way I look at it, pretty much everybody has seen a pair of breasts, even if just
      while nursing. But not everybody has used a gun; nor has everybody used it to shoot
      a prostitute with exposed breasts.

      Depending upon exactly how far they go with this act, it is something that has been
      needed for many years. You really can't expect that the gaming industry is going to
      properly regulate itself without being proded in the right direction. Off the top of
      my head, I don't think I can think of a single industry that
    • Did you miss the whole part about Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) (bolded for emphasis) being the one who actually introduced the bill? It's bi-partisan. Everyone who's up for re-election needs something to get behind to deflect all that anti-war stuff.
  • Unconstitutional (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sqlrob (173498) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:46PM (#15862277)
    Government enforcement of third party ratings have already been thrown out as violation of due process.

    • by illspirit (957034)
      This is worse. On top of the standard Fourteenth Amendment problems, It pretty much violates the whole first article of the Constitution by delegating power of all three branches of government to a private entity. It would give Legislative power to the ESRB by allowing them to decide what content is "legal," Executive power in the form of law enforcement/investigation, and Judicial power by letting them judge/fine any violations.

      Furthermore, by making the ESRB an agent of the state, it would violate the Fou
      • Blockquoth the poster:

        On top of the standard Fourteenth Amendment problems...

        the whole first article of the Constitution...

        it would violate the Fourth Amendment...

        Thus, it also violates the Fifth...

        Next up, it violates the Sixth...

        Finally it also violates the Seventh Amendment...

        Might also violate the Eighth,...

        *Sniff* Someone who still believes that Constitutional guarantees still mean something. Brings a tear to my eyes, in thinking of the old days...

  • "Rating games on only partial content: Unlike the present system, the ESRB would be forced to play games in their entirety"

    This sounds like a good idea. Let's see them however play through games like Spore, GTA, or Oblivion in their ENTIRETY! That would be a week or two of solid gameplay.

    On the other hand let's see them play through Daikatana, or Ninja Gaiden Black. One is just so bad that no person can play through it with out it being absolute pain. Ninja Gaiden Black on the other hand is so hard that
    • That's completely pointless. If the developers are required to 'completely reveal' the contents of the game, why should the ESRB have to play through it at all?

    • Ninja Gaiden Black on the other hand is so hard that one wonders how they would do that sans cheats.

      Which would only be relevant if there were some part of the game that was different in cheat mode from in regular mode. Remember, they're not playing the game for the fun of it, they're playing the game to judge the content.

      A different problem is that "playing to completion" is only a sensible measure for games that have a linear plot. It doesn't really apply to a game like tetris, which you can theoret

      • Many games offer bonuses for people who play it completely with out cheats. Some games final versions doesn't come with cheats.

        In addition producers adds and removes content from the game up to two weeks before the game. That means 2 weeks to play through the game complete evaluation and rate it. Again not a huge problem but stuff like Oblivion would be nearly impossible.
    • So we have to tell the ESRB about the content that we removed from a game, that has no way for the player to access, that can only be available by a hacker who then unlocked the data by reverse engineering the game?

      More than that, you need to report that, since you offer topless male skins with hairless chests in your game, some gamer may use and editor that reclassifies them as applicable female character models, producing naked breasts!
      • What's the difference between the female chest and the male chest? Ok, I know there's a difference, but where I live, it's perfectly legal for women to walk around in public with no shirt, because of equal rights. They couldn't very well say that nobody could walk around without a shirt, as men would find that completely stupid, and nobody would be going to the beach or the pool. On the other hand, they couldn't very well say men were allowed to, and women were not, so they just made it legal for women t
    • So we have to tell the ESRB about the content that we removed from a game, that has no way for the player to access, that can only be available by a hacker who then unlocked the data by reverse engineering the game?

      Yes, it's not "removed" if shipped on disc. It is also a pretty safe bet hackers will find it. It's still not clear if the Hot Coffee thing was a marketing gimmick, an east egg for the technically inclined, or laziness or carelesness. Given a company that makes its name on controversy I just
      • See that's the problem. Only one file is found but everyone acts like hackers ALWAYS find the files.

        They don't. I can't give the names of the games, but I work in the industry and know for a bunch of guys that I worked with that often ESRB has told people "remove this or get a higher rating" and it's removed from the gameplay, but not the data (removing it from the data takes more work, and can cause problems). So the code remains but it's not found. ONE piece of code was found and everyone acts like no
  • I remember back in the late 80's-early 90's when magazine ads used to have "professional game testers" endorsing a new title. If this goes through, would there be a rebirth of non-competitive pro gamer opportunities? Given it'd be tied to the government, I'm not sure the fun would be worth the paperwork that'd need filing for the job, but still...
  • Is it even possible? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bones3D_mac (324952) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:58PM (#15862333)
    I'm not sure how realistic it'll be to make something like this actually work. Are they expecting the ESRB to examine only content of a game that is disclosed to them by the developer, or are they planning to make the ESRB hire people to pound on a title for any potential exploits that might allow a game to become open to third party modification, such as the "Hot Coffee" mod to GTA:SA that enabled a "feature" that was never intended for the end user to access in the first place?

    And who will be accountable for what? Will the ESRB be held accountable for not getting the rating right on the first try? Will the developer's be held accountable because some 3D model they use is too accurately detailed and exposed only through third party modification, even though the detail of the model actually improves the visual quality of the game itself? Will developers be forced by law to hold any "controversial" games indefinitely until the ESRB rates it under the new criteria proposed in this?

    Personally, I think we may be looking at the end of the ESRB. This act would make the stakes too high for any civilian agency to control. Get ready for the new Federal Video Games Rating Board, powered by same good people in the red states who put our fearless leader into office.
    • Will developers be forced by law to hold any "controversial" games indefinitely until the ESRB rates it under the new criteria proposed in this?


      A related question would be "Is ESRB rating going to be required under this?"
  • Does this mean that the average consumer will finally learn that children and young adults are being used as slave labor until they're too old at the age of 30 and then toss away to get an IT job with fewer hours at better pay?
  • This thing can't possibly fly. (And because this bill is starting in the House, it probably won't.) Attempting to play Final Fantasy X-2 entirely through to completion, for example, is a mission for doofuses on gamefaqs.com with all the time in the world on their hands, not an organization like the ESRB.
    • Actually, playing all the way through Final Fantasy X-2 is something even suicide bombers won't do to themselves...

      Oh the pain... the pain...
    • Also, what counts as completion? I've got 100% in FFX-2, yet there's still a shitload of things I haven't done, including a 100 floor secret dungeon. When exactly should they stop? When the game company tells them to? Is that any better than just watching videos the game companies send them?
  • I'm glad my government spends its time passing laws like this and threatening to sue it's states.
  • Get a job with the ESRB!!!
  • What about games that do not have an end? How do you rate a World of Warcraft or these other MMORPG's? Or do you just slap a "game play online may vary" clause on a E rating?
  • Movie Ratings? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Other Than That... (824148) on Monday August 07, 2006 @07:32PM (#15862543)
    Are movie ratings subject to government oversight?
    • Nope, it's a voluntary system, just like video games.
    • Re:Movie Ratings? (Score:3, Informative)

      by LionMage (318500)
      Not currently. The MPAA specifically started doing its own moving ratings to stave off government regulation [wikipedia.org] (and if the Wikipedia article is to be believed, the SCOTUS ruled in 1915 that movies were not protected by the First Amendment). In the early years of Hollywood, the U.S. government started doing to the film industry what the current Congress is doing to the videogame industry -- hearings, ill-conceived proposed legislation, you name it. (See this article [wikipedia.org] for more on the history of the current U.
  • Re-election (Score:2, Informative)

    by Ars-Gonzo (14318)
    "Perhaps not surprisingly, Stearns, Matheson, and McIntyre are all running for re-election in November."

    Everyone referred to as a Congressman (or Representative) is up for election every two years. Members of the House of Representatives are supposed to receive the Congressman honorific, while members of the Senate are called Senators.

    Congressmen = elected every two years
    Senators = elected every six years
    • I don't know if it speaks badly of the submitter and editor, or badly of their perception of the /. crowd, when something so redundant is included in an article summary for a purely inflammatory effect.
    • Members of the House of Representatives are supposed to receive the Congressman honorific, while members of the Senate are called Senators.

      That's because the word "Housitors" rapes the ears.

    • No. Both Reps and Senators are Congressmen. 'Senator' carries extra weight, so most Senators preferred to be called Senator.

      Typically, though, if someone is referred to as 'Congressman' they are a member of the House.

      It's the same situation as calling a square a rectangle -- most people call it a square, even though it is factually a rectangle as well.
  • by nick_davison (217681) on Monday August 07, 2006 @07:50PM (#15862655)
    The act would require ratings boards to entirely complete the content of a videogame before applying a rating, and would involve the Government Accountability Office to oversee the ESRB's practices.

    The only two cases anyone has really heard about were:

    GTA3 (Hot Coffee) - You could play the game end to end, taking any path you liked, and never see it. It was locked content that got unlocked only through a hack.

    Oblivion (topless textures) - You could also play this one end to end, as it was released, and have absolutely no way of seeing the textures. It was only through a mod to the game that they became available.

    The Sims 2 (removing pixelation) - Not one I really count because no one's made much of a fuss but a console command will remove pixelation, revealing naked sims (to the degree of a Barbie doll). Again, not one that playing end to end would identify.

    So, brilliantly, they've ensured the ESRB will play each game end to end and achieve... uh... well, nothing. Even played end to end, not a single one of the above cases would have come to light.

    About the only case they could claim is Oblivion's "increased violence". To be fair though, this one was purely political when they were trying to justify seeming outraged (in order to placate politicians) over the nudity. The game doesn't get any more violent, there's no more blood nor more gore. It was also already rated with bullets for blood, gore and violence as part of the teen rating. The sad truth is, the topless nudity, only unlockable via a mod, really wasn't a good enough justification to demand a re-rating to Mature (which, politically, the ESRB needed to be seen to be doing) so they bundled in claims the game felt more violent than initially reported to try justifying it.

    This also doesn't address the fundamentally forking nature of videogames. No one playthrough shows you everything - if it did, QA departments would consist of a single guy who works short hours. To play a game like GTA end-to-end takes anywhere from maybe 20-100 hours depending on how many side missions you take. Complete every mission, interact with every character in every way possible, jump your car off every ramp to see if you can crash through every building (who knows, you might be able to say see up someone's skirt if you get inside a building's mesh) and you're looking at tens of thousands of hours worth of work.

    And that's while AI is pretty retarded. God forbid we actually develop decent AI any time soon (then again, if we can't get real intelligence in Congress, what hope do we have for the artificial kind in games). What'll happen when characters in games start learning from your interactions with them? What happens when a glitch in AI causes players who play one particularly obscure way causes creatures in Spore to learn that "giving head" is how you mate? What happens when intelligent human NPCs develop their own dialog and, thanks to your potty mouth, start learning some truly inappropriate conversational techniques? Or even totally appropriate ones that just get taken out of context?...

    Imagine talking to an NPC helper who's helping you build a robot."
    "Now pass me the arm."
    "I don't want to give you [arm]."
    "Fine, what do you want to give me?"
    "I want to give you [head]"
    "I like arm?"

    In short, videogames branch - there's no way you can review end to end and catch everything. And, even if you could, the examples everyone talks about weren't available in regular end-to-end play anyway.
    • Actually it would probably further criminalize content that is revealed via hacks. Thus imposing stiffer penalties on developers who bent the rules for the sake of a few laughs. Producers would then feel more obligated to go after their developers to recoup their costs, thus shutting down irresponsible developers. --Ray
      • by Anonymous Coward
        I have no idea where your insanity comes from, but I can garentee you that as a skilled developer, I could create just about anything and insert it into a game if it exists on the PC. The amount of effort, and time, required would vary of course, but some mods are far simpler than others.

        Any game can be mod'd with obscene skins however, with relative ease, if it exists on the PC. It happens that way because it is 100% neccessary to separate the game engine from the textures, because of a few simple facts.

        Mo
        • by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@Nospam.uberm00.net> on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:21AM (#15863805) Homepage Journal
          Amen.

          It's generally easier to ship them separately on disk anyway; put whatever encryption on it you like, if the game is able to read it, a careful following of the execution instructions in RAM will reveal how to decrypt the art / music / sound / what-have-you files, which will allow anyone to change them.

          You can't hold developers responsible for what third party mods add / change in their programs.

          But I think that's just a misunderstanding that the grandparent had about the review process; if the ESRB reviews games in an as-shipped form, third party mods won't matter anyway. Here's what annoys me though: that the government is so concerned about things like removing blurryness where there's no actual nudity beneath anyway (Sims / Sims 2). It's not that big a deal, dammit! If the game truly deserves it (and the only case I can think of is GTA: SA, but even that's just borderline), rebrand it to a higher rating and move on. Get retailers to stick M stickers over the T rating before they put them on shelves.

          The government should be concerned about more important things, like, I don't know, fixing what they started in Iraq, for example.
  • Game Politics notes that Co-Sponsors Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC) are up for re-election this November along with Congressman Cliff Stearns."

    All members of the US House of Representatives are up for election this November.

    That's the way it works. Every member of the House is elected every two years.

  • I'm more interested in a law that would require reviewers (read: bloggers) to actually finish a game before posting a formal review of it. Imagine what would have happened if Gamespy had actually finished Halo 2 before reviewing it ("THIS GAME'S ENDING SUCKS");
  • If this passes, Final Fantasy XII won't see the light of day this year. This act will significantly delay the release of games. id will have to change their tagline to "When the ESRB finishes playing it," rather than "When it's done."

    This legislation is further proof that both major parties need to be evicted.
  • The only real failing in the ESRB rating system, is the lack of retailer support. The vendors release
    software, they rate it appropriately under the voluntary rating system, and the retailers ignore the rating. The solution? Make the rating mandatory!!!

    Fuckwits.
  • Rate books (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mr_Blank (172031) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:19AM (#15863793) Journal
    The ratings system for TV, movies, music, and video games is all baloney.

        First of all, only the parent can determine what is offensive. Who can say what porn is? Is Janet Jackson flashing porn? How about a naked David sculpture? How about watching to monkeys get it on at the zoo? If a 2 frame flash of boob gives a TV show one rating, and 30 seconds of hot monkey sex gives another show another rating then that is whacky.

        Second, there are not enough raters to rate everything on the same standard. If every game has to be rated, then I feel bad for the rater that gets the short straw and has to play every possible path in Chessmaster XX. If Grand Theft Auto has to have every scenario played just to be sure the princess pole dancers keep their skirts on, then Chessmaster should get the same treatment to make sure the queen doesn't get molested by a frisky knight.

        Third, only the parent can keep material away from a child. Ratings or no ratings, parent's are the only ones with a shot at keeping stuff away from their kids. Look at cigarettes. Kids are not supposed to smoke. Everyone agrees which cigarettes are not supposed to smoke. All the merchants are told not to sell tabacco to kids. Yet, any day of the week you can drive by most highschools in the US and see kids outside smoking. If something as "black and white" (relatively) as tabacco can't be kept out of the hands of kids, then why all the hubbub over video games, movies, etc?

        Tangent: Why don't books come with ratings? There are tens of thousands of books published every year. If protecting the children is so important, then shouldn't all illicit material get stampped M for mature, P for pansy, etc? Sounds whacky to apply it to books, so why apply it to other knowledge/entertainment mediums? If anyone wants to sound really stupid try the line of thought that says games are for kids and books are not.

        My solution: Leave rating entirely in the hands of NGOs (non government organizations). Let the MPAA and ESRB rate stuff. If parent's want to heed the rating advice fine. If not, so what. If some parent's do not like the standards used by those organizations, then use an organization that is tougher/easier as desired. www.screenit.com for movies for instance. Or a parent could watch/listen/play/read everything before letting their kids at it. It sounds crazy, but some parent's do it. Surely the government has better things to do than try to censure material from kids.
  • But give us real "Rated Adults Only" games already, none of that "Rated M" crap for 16 years old that still think blood and gore is "mature"...
  • other rating institutions. It's not like the US is the only country with a game rating system. Maybe they should look how the other do it. For example, check out the procedure they use at PEGI [pegi.info]. Apperently they managed to label Sand Andreas as 18+ and Oblivion as 16+.
  • The real reason? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thebdj (768618) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @07:12AM (#15864757) Journal
    Under recently passed legislation, we have changed our name from the General Accounting Office to the Government Accountability Office. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an agency that works for Congress and the American people. Congress asks GAO to study the programs and expenditures of the federal government. GAO, commonly called the investigative arm of Congress or the congressional watchdog, is independent and nonpartisan. It studies how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars. GAO advises Congress and the heads of executive agencies (such as Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, Department of Defense, DOD, and Health and Human Services, HHS) about ways to make government more effective and responsive. GAO evaluates federal programs, audits federal expenditures, and issues legal opinions. When GAO reports its findings to Congress, it recommends actions. Its work leads to laws and acts that improve government operations, and save billions of dollars.

    This come to your from here [gao.gov]. So based on this description, wouldn't monitoring the ESRB be outside the departments normal duties? Also, wouldn't this take away from the Office's real job...you know acting like it is making the government accountable. I guess when your government is so corrupt and backwards (and yes I live in the US) distracting the Government Accountability Office isn't such a bad idea...
  • A year ago, Sondy Pope-Roberts, the Democratic Assembly sponsor of Wisconsin's vidgame bill, told me "the pollsters" (I presume Hillary Clinton's,) had told her "This polls higher than anything else we asked."

    Sondy's subsequent press release asserted that "86% of 16 year old boys play these [violent] games." When I asked why she'd want to alienate 86% of (then) 16 year old boys, some of whom will be eligible to vote this November, and the rest by her next re-election cycle, she responded "They won't vote an
  • Here you have the US Congress trying to create a law, that would require a privately and voluntarily created video game rating board, to play through the entire game before rating it, when Congress doesn't even bother to read the entirety, or even a majority of the bills they vote on.

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