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A Brief History of Videogame Legislation 30

Joystiq is running a new column by Dennis McCauley (who you may recognize from the Game Politics blog). This week, he's got a post up looking at the history of gaming legislation. Starting in the 90s with the creation of the ESRB, McCauley walks us through some of the more notable skirmishes gaming and the body politic have had with each other. From the article: "In 2002 the city of St. Louis took the Indianapolis law one step further, prohibiting not only coin-op play, but retail sale or rental of violent games to minors. Different approach, similar fate. The 8th Circuit Court tossed the law for much the same reasons that doomed Indy's. A city attorney expressed bitter disappointment, called the Federal Court ruling 'a blow to the parents of St. Louis County and the kids.' That was three years ago, and, last time we checked, St. Louis hadn't been overwhelmed by a GTA-like wave of youth violence. As a matter of fact, youth crime levels have been trending downward for years."
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A Brief History of Videogame Legislation

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  • Derelict Legislators (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:53PM (#15937537)
    The bill's author, Democrat Sandra Pappas, rather famously told GameSpot, "Legislators don't worry too much about what's constitutional."
    I think this quote pretty much sums up the discussion.
  • by saskboy ( 600063 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:55PM (#15937545) Homepage Journal
    I wonder where the wave of car violence was in the mid 1990s when everyone was playing Carmageddon and Carmageddon II Carpocalypse Now where the aim of the game was to crash into other cars, including police, and run over pedestrians in creative ways? I see my CD label shows the game was set as M for Mature by the ESRB. So maybe no children ever played it because parent didn't buy M games for kids back then? ;-)
    • by Surt ( 22457 )
      That wave of violence was in Los Angeles, CA, where there were a number of car shooting fatalities, and lots of car jackings, and car vs pedestrian accidents numbered in the thousands.

    • I wonder where the wave of car violence was in the mid 1990s when everyone was playing Carmageddon and Carmageddon II

      Carmegeddon had all the reality of the Coyote and the Roadrunner cartoons.

      You lose credibility outside the gaming community when you build your defense on patently false and misleading analogies.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by saskboy ( 600063 )
        What is wrong with you buddy? The people scream and go splat with eyes and guts going everywhere. If that isn't a realistic enough depiction of it, I don't know what is. You want to smell the guts before you'll admit it's a depiction of real gore? Where's the blood in Roadrunner?
    • In the early 1980s, my high school lunch monitor cracked down on our playing of a board game similar to Carmageddon. Actually it was based more on the old Mad Max series of movies -- I think it might have been called "Car Wars."

      The pretext used against us was that rolling dice would be a horrible precedent to set in the high school cafeteria. 'Cause we all know how very, very innocent 17-year-olds are. Wouldn't want anyone starting a game of craps.

      We weren't even killing pedestrians -- just having some

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:06PM (#15937586)
    Before politicians whined about GTA, they whined about the fatalities in Mortal Kombat.

    Before that, they whined about Exidy's Death Race [klov.com] (1975), and Chiller [retrocrush.com].

    And at home, in 1982, there was Custer's Revenge [classicgaming.com] for the Atari 2600 console.

    And from its very invention up until the 70s, people had to go to court to prove that pinball [aol.com] was a game of skill, not a game of chance, and that pinball machines were therefore not illegal gambling machines.

    For everything fun, there's gonna be some idiot with a (D) or an (R) beside his or her name telling you not to do it. Fuck 'em all.

    • by soft_guy ( 534437 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:11PM (#15937868)
      Before that it was D & D, pool, cards, bowling, etc.
    • Actually, that bit about pinball isn't entirely 100% true. We have an old antique pinball machine that is from somewhere around the turn of the century and it has no flippers. 5 balls for a nickel, all you did was shoot the balls. No interaction from there on out.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        By the 1970's, all pinball machines had flippers and drop targets and the like. Flippers were introduced as far back as 1947 http://www.pinballhistory.com/lpins.html [pinballhistory.com] and were standard fare by the 50's, even though the flippers didn't always flip the same way. At the time when the lobbying to have pinball de-classified as a game of chance was going on, it had evolved into a game of skill. Granted, there is still an amount of luck involved, but very few things are truly independent of chance.
    • For everything fun, there's gonna be some idiot with a (D) or an (R) beside his or her name telling you not to do it. Fuck 'em all.

      Politicians like Mrs Clinton who can forge links bewtween the inner city and the suburbs get the win when it matters. Rockstar has been tamed. "Bully" won't be the game it might have been before Hot Coffee.

  • Video Game Law (Score:4, Informative)

    by bigbigbison ( 104532 ) on Friday August 18, 2006 @05:27PM (#15937665) Homepage
    Of interst may be Jon Festinger's book Video Game Law [lexisnexis.ca] which covers the various videogame laws that have been passed, but also lawsuits involving videogames from the cases involving Ralph Baer's patents up until Blizzards suit against makers of the bnetd project. It seems to have been published only in Canada, but if nothing else it can be ordered from the publisher.
  • by grapeape ( 137008 ) <mpope7&kc,rr,com> on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:24PM (#15937906) Homepage
    Most of the legislation today isnt introduced by parent aged politicians its grandparents. This is no different than politicians speaking out against rock & roll in the 50's or Long Hair on men in the 60's its basically just something that they arent familiar with and do not associate with other forms of media such as books, movies, etc. I have no problem with the ESRB in fact I think its a good idea, but until parents are responsible to buy into it, its not going to work. In the meantime the old folks who dont understand will raise a stink about the erosion of values and need for regulation. Its the same old story different generation.
    • I have no problem with the ESRB in fact I think its a good idea, but until parents are responsible to buy into it, its not going to work.

      I'm not clear about what you think parents aren't doing now? What do you propose to make them "responsible to buy into" the ESRB?

      Being a parent who does pay attention, I'd just like to know.

  • by bmasel ( 129946 ) <bmasel AT tds DOT net> on Friday August 18, 2006 @06:34PM (#15937958) Journal
    A year ago, when I confronted Sondy Pope-Roberts, the Democratic State Assembly sponsor of Wisconsin's vidgame bill, she said "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." 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 anyway."

    This, like the DOPA Myspace censorship legislation [slashdot.org] that just passed the US House with only 15 dissenting votes (roll call [house.gov]) seems to me pretty shortsighted for a Party that will be competing in elections not just in '06 and '08, but on into the future.
    • I had a co-worker who had a My Space so that she could keep an eye on what her daughters were doing on line. She got the most atrocious posts from this devil worshiping freak who had been posting on his my space about his fantasies of raping women, sodomizing boys, etc. He harassed her for several weeks, on line before the MySpace staff was able to get him to stop.

      I've been harassed because I blog on Xanga. I had one person in particular that left me very threatening comments. Every time I'd have him bl
      • I don't think you understand what in loco parentis means. Libraries do not act in loco parentis simply because the children are in the building; the children have no legal obligation to be there, and the parent has not specifically given them authority over their child. Libraries are not day care centers. In fact, most public libraries won't allow children into the building without a parent. If in loco parentis worked the way you think it does, the clerk at Dillards could search through your kids person
        • Depending on what state you are in, that may well be the case...

          If the parent has a "reasonable expectation" that supervison and/or care would be provided to the child, then yes, they are...

          Sorry...I'm not wild about it, but it is what it is. Personally, I think that unless the parent signs something that the parent *ought* to be responsible. Unfortunately, that's not how it works.

          Espeically if the child is being dropped off for some kind of guided activity, etc. Some libraries have stopped having "Readin
  • for the children (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    'a blow to the parents of St. Louis County and the kids.'

    And that sums up why it is bad law. It is law that does not 'help' the community but polices parents. Stopping crime, building better roads, better infrastructure etc... Yet they want to legislate morality.
  • I'm surprised (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rolyatknarf ( 973068 ) *
    I'm surprised (unless I missed it) that some legislator has not tried to ban flight simulator games because they could be used to practice using an airplane as a weapon. Maybe I can get one of my state politicians to do this on my behalf and I can get my 15 minutes of fame doing a few sound bites on CNN standing next to my Senator with a shit eating grin on my face. I could get them to add a ban on Google Maps as well because they would provide an excellent method of locating targets. This could work becaus
  • Personally, I find the entire issue of legislating video games to be an attention-grab by the folks in Washington who need a wide-reaching platform on which to get re-elected. This, along with Net Neutrality have become my two big voting issues. Anyone who has enough free time to start railing against video games, could be doing something much better with their time than running a state or (gasp!) the country.

    What I would really like to see is an article that gives a side by side comparison of the legal
  • I won't give any names away, nor e-mail addresses (because I don't really care so much anymore), but there is a guy I used to know who is a young 32 year old parent with a 3 year old son (as of right now). He strongly feels that video games need to be legislated. However, his conclusions are illogical, and when I tried to explain to him all the fallacies in his argument, he basically replied over and over again, "...something needs to be done." He's a contractor manager at Lockheed Martin, and his person
    • 1) All stores that sell video games must post, in letters no less than 2 inches high, a complete description of the rating system. This signage must be located no further than 30 feet away from the entrance, exit and check out.

      The verbage of the sign should be this stuff - http://www.esrb.org/ratings/ratings_guide.jsp [esrb.org]

      2) It is illegal to sell video games rated M under 18. It is illegal to sell video games rated A or not rated to anyone under 21.

      3) ID showing proof of age is required for any game rated "M"
      • 1) Age restrictions are censorship.

        2) Age restrictions based on ratings are prior restraint and are very, very unconstitutional. It's one thing to have a court decide what is in violation after the fact, and an entire different kettle of fish to have someone decide that before the product hits the shelves. You brought up pornography, so it's salient to note that there is no rating system that determines what is pornographic in the states. That has to be proven in court after the fact. This is the only r
        • There is decision after decision that *reasonable* age restrictions are not censorship. That may not be your personal view of things, but It is the Supreme Court's. I'm guessing you buy your 12-year old kids Playboy and Hustler, take them to the topless bar, and let them order porn on line.

          It's not unconstutional. We do it with all kinds of products all the time, INCLUDING those protected by free speech. There are precendents here. Send your kid into the local quickie mart and see if they don't ID him

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