Japan considering self-imposed game regulation

Kanagawa prefecture legislation and a GTAIII-linked murder spur the game industry in Japan to take action.

According to Mainichi Interactive, the Japanese game industry--including leading console manufacturers Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo--are considering implementing a self-imposed regulation on sales of games to minors. The industry is reviewing a number of possibilities, including requiring identification when selling games targeted toward players over age 18. The Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association's (CESA) distribution committee, lead by committee chief (and Koei president) Kiyoshi Komatsu, is currently in discussion with publishers and retailers.

The industry's self-control is seen as a move to deter the Japanese government from imposing regulations that could hinder the freedom of expression in games. "I think that there needs to be some rules and regulations for game sales, but the censorship on the expressions in the games should be left to the industry," said one anonymous publishing-company executive, whose opinion seems to represent the general consensus among the industry.

The move comes on the heels of Kanagawa prefecture's decision to ban the sales of Grand Theft Auto III to minors as a "harmful publication." The ban has led other prefectures to consider taking similar steps for games that are violent in nature, especially given that there have recently been a number of juvenile crime incidences that were linked to games. Aichi prefecture will be implementing an age-limit restriction in July, and Osaka prefecture will address the issue in September. Ishikawa and Saitama prefectures are planning to regulate sales of violent games as well.

In February, a 17-year-old boy was arrested for killing one teacher and stabbing three others in his old elementary school. The boy was later found out to be a hardcore gamer who wanted to work in the gaming industry, and he was a fan of the Resident Evil series. More recently, a 15-year-old boy who murdered his parents and concealed his crime by blowing up their Tokyo apartment with homemade explosives was linked in the media to Grand Theft Auto III.

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