New bill would make ESRB ratings legally binding

[UPDATE] Utah congressman's Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act would make it unlawful to sell AO and M games to children, mandate all titles have clearly visible rating; ESA responds.

[UPDATE] Following the publication of this story, the Entertainment Software Association issued a statement on the matter. The ESA said it agrees with representative Matheson's ambitions to make sure parents are in control of the entertainment their children take in, but has issues with the proposed legislation itself.

"The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shares Representatives Matheson’s goal of ensuring parents maintain control over the entertainment enjoyed by their children," the statement reads. "That is why we work with retailers and stakeholders to raise awareness about the proven Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) system, the parental controls available on every video game console, and the importance of parents monitoring what games their children play."

"However, this type of legislation was already ruled unconstitutional and is a flawed approach. Empowering parents, not enacting unconstitutional legislation, is the best way to control the games children play."

The original story follows below.

A new bill---H.R. 287--introduced to the United States House of Representatives Tuesday would make the Entertainment Software Rating Board's ratings legally binding. Currently, there are no legal ramifications for retailers caught selling age-inappropriate games to children.

The bill--known as Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act--was introduced by representative Jim Matheson (R-Utah) on January 15. It will be discussed as part of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is the oldest standing legislative committee in the US House of Representatives.

The committee's responsibilities include the country's telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, public health research, environmental quality, energy policy, and interstate and foreign commerce.

Under the terms of the bill, it would be unlawful for any person to sell or rent--or attempt to sell or rent--any Adults Only (AO) rated game to any person under the age of 18. In addition, the bill seeks to make it illegal for any M-for-Mature game to be sold to any person under 17.

Further, the bill would make it unlawful for any entity to sell or rent a game that does not contain an ESRB rating label in a "clear and conspicuous location" on its packaging. Should the bill become law, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would have 180 days to create rules mandating that retail establishments display such a rating.

Currently, the ESRB's ratings system is entirely voluntary, though nearly all games sold in the United States are rated by the group. Any person caught violating either of the above terms would be subject to a civil penalty of not more than $5,000 per violation.

An ESRB representative was not immediately available to comment.

The Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act comes a month after the deadly elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead. The event has sparked new discussion about the relationship between virtual violence and real-world violence. A town in Southington, Connecticut (just 35 minutes from Newtown) planned to collect and destroy violent video games, among other media, though this effort was later scrapped.

In addition, the National Rifle Association condemned video games during a press event in December, saying such games were partially to blame for the shooting. The NRA also took heat from politicians near and far when it released its own game--NRA: Practice Range--on the one-month anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

In state-level news, Missouri representative Diane Franklin (R-123rd District) introduced HB 157 to the state's General Assembly this week, proposing that all games rated T, M, or AO carry a 1 percent excise tax. Revenue derived from this initiative would go toward mental health programs in the state.

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Eddie Makuch

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.
949 comments
metal_zombie
metal_zombie

Its funny that they are perfectly happy to restrict regulate an art form and in effect free speech.  The best argument that can be made against video games is that it's indirectly involved and not the main problem. Studios will now have consider making games pg 13 in order not to loses potential sales  which is asinine.  Lets deal with games ignore the lager issues like poor parent supervision broken gun laws which wouldn't be such an issue if they at least wouldn't be looking for an escape goat to rationalized their irrational fear.

santinegrete
santinegrete

Empowering the parents? Look what they made with the liberty of getting anything, they just complain while it's thir error in the first place. This does not sound so bad after all.

Evidense
Evidense

Reading the comments, it is so completely obvious that there IS a problem to address.  I am sitting here reading comment-after-comment about "tricking" the system, or getting an older friend/relative to buy the game for you, if you are under-age.  This is the exact same type of bargaining/scheming that is displayed in drug addicts; find any way possible to get around impediments blocking you from your addiction.  


Our children are addicted to violent games, end of story.  I don't think I need to expand on this any further.  It's not good.


 I am a hardcore gamer myself, playing the same games that should be regulated.  Unlike most readers on this site though, I can see past my own nose and recognize that sometimes we have to make changes to benefit our society, rather than what's best for myself.  This is why 13-year-olds don't create law.

briggsy10
briggsy10

How many perfectly sensible pieces of legislation get thrown out by the US government purely because they're deemed incompatible with a list created and signed hundreds of years ago in a society that hasn't existed for generations?

Surely on the same basis laws punishing retailers who sell alcohol or cigarettes to underage shoppers are just as unconstitutional?

It'll take a brave government to finally re-write that damn constitution to make it relevant once more, or tear it down completely, but until someone does exactly that the US will always be its own worst enemy - and that's saying something!

danusty
danusty

violent video games are not to blame for the violent acts we've seen in this beautiful country of mine. dumb/unaware parents and store clerks are to blame for kids getting violent video games and here's my example:


I live in Connecticut and when the game Capcom Digital Collection came out I went to a gamestop. While I was looking for the game I hear this 8 to 10 year old black kid tell his mother while at the store's register: mom, ask if they have GTA4 and the mom was completely oblivious as to what a GTA4 was. the clerk kept quiet obviously trying to make another sale for after all the mom is buying. when I heard that little kid say those words in my mind I said (OH NO YOU DID INT!), I jumped in and said to the mom: GTA stands for grand theft auto, those games are some of the most violent video games out there and I provided info as to why it was so violent., when the mom heard my info she said: oh no, I will not buy you that!

was I trying to be responsible or a hero in this situation? HELL NO! I just wanted to steal the kid's happiness! I win! Fatality! buhuhuhuhuhahahahaaaaaaa!

SkamArtist
SkamArtist

Part of the problem is that many parents still think of games as the old NES and SNES days. They are out of the loop when it comes to the content of video games these days. Even worse are the grandparents who may buy a game like Borderlands for their 10 year old grandchild.

Andrex1212
Andrex1212

When I was 16 I couldn't buy M rated games which I thought was MORONIC because I would just come back later with either one of my friends or my Dad who knew I could actually handle my games unlike the morons who seem to go off the deep end with violence. So I'm confused, this guy actually thinks it's the KIDS getting the games in the first place? Christmas, Birthdays, the parent's are buying the games for the kids. If a kid wants it, I'll be damned if that kid doesn't get it. Parents are barely parents these days. My Dad didn't let me play M games when I was a young kid and that was when Mortal Kombat was the worst thing around, which I still played at a friend's house who's parents didn't care. But my Dad did pay attention to the ESRB ratings and that's why I couldn't play T and M games until I was like... 8 I think?? I was watching movies that were WAY worse anyway by that time. I just don't get how they think this will do anything. It's not like alcohol where the kid can easily drink himself to death, or cigarettes where the parent doesn't want their kid to start smoking anyways. Bleh I'm getting off of here, it's just making me get a migraine from all these silly articles... Time to go kill virtual people! Actually, I'm probably going to go play Civ V and learn micro management and diplomacy. If I have to kill some people along my way to victory... so be it... but it'll be their fault!

Golden_Gonads
Golden_Gonads

I agree.  As long as its actually enforced.  Treat games the same way as they do films.

downloadthefile
downloadthefile

I don't care about this because they aren't preventing me from doing anything and parents have obviously shown an ineptitude to parenting resposibly, I'm tired of hearing how hard it is it takes zero effort to Google the video game you're buying your child before you buy it for them.  Idiots.  I take far more issue with the restrictions on television content and the apology-first culture we live in.

Feedbackula
Feedbackula

This would suck for a video-game retailer employee if he/she accidentally sold an M rated game to a sixteen year old. I know some teenagers that look like they are in their twenties. Cover your assets. Always check IDs.

-Saigo-
-Saigo-

"However, this type of legislation was already ruled unconstitutional and is a flawed approach. Empowering parents, not enacting unconstitutional legislation, is the best way to control the games children play."

Couldn't have said it better myself. I'm just sick of piss poor parents blaming everything  in the world except the true culprit: Their utter lack of parenting skills. TV and video games are a bad substitute for parental affection and NEVER serve as a viable babysitter.  

Roweb0t
Roweb0t

yes!!! finally there will be more awesome adult games.

santinegrete
santinegrete

If this passed Halo, CoD and probably XboxLive will be in a problem. To think Halo looks like a T game, at least for me (not a critic).

inaka_rob
inaka_rob

This should have been done 15 years ago. How many mommies buy M rated games for their 8 year old?????

ColdstoneX3
ColdstoneX3

i cant say i mind this, There is just some games i dont think little timmy should be playing, and ultimately it will come down to the parents to agree or disagree with their childs wishes, but to be fair, i dont want some guy trying to turn a profit selling extremely violent media to my kid. id like to be in a position where i can be sure, my kid understands what is going on in said media, not because i wish to oppress my kid, but because i want to be sure said kid isnt negatively impacted by such media. As for the shooting, i agree, such legal binding to the ESRB wouldnt have prevented a damn thing, he was old enough to buy whatever he wanted, so its a moot point.

sieg6529
sieg6529

I don't think it is in question what precipitated this:  the Newtown shooting.  What is certainly still in question is whether or not Adam Lanza played video games at all and whether video game violence causes real violence.  Furthermore, the guy was not a teen, he was of an age to buy any game he wanted (if he played them, which we still don't know).  NONE of these reactions to Newtown, either with guns or games, would have prevented it.  

Cait
Cait

I am against this bill, as long as they are guidelines, the parents have a choice.  I say that you should only go a year or two under the recommended age.  But if they pass that law, I guarantee, that it will become the government's standard and not yours.  No, this law shouldn't pass as any country with laws of this nature, well, the gamers are complaining about games in general.  But then again, I can't blame the government alone for this.  Back in the day, they had willing ratings and companies were enforcing them, only parents came into the store complaining "WHY AREN'T YOU SELLING THIS VIOLENT VIDEO GAME TO MY KIDS!?" Only then, parents became outrages (likely something stupid) they began to demand why they were selling these games to their children and demanding laws passed.  No, we don't need laws passed, we only need parents to back up the stores and the game companies when they say "No, Timmy, we can't sell you that game, you are underage for the age according to the rating the company gave it!"

(_ _') Seriously, when we should self-regulate, people think we need to pass a law, which only makes the problem worse.  When we shouldn't self-regulate, they pass bills up the ying yang.  What happened to thinking?  Is it a dying art or something?  

JustPlainLucas
JustPlainLucas

I work for a public library.  Just the other day, our senior librarian ordered the Terminator for a six year old.  Her parents said it was her favorite movie... Hmm... 

csward
csward

A dark time for the industry. Ever since I was a kid, the ESRB was a guild-line. One that my parents used. Sigh, so much ignorance today.

Also, doesn't this conflict with the California Supreme Court's ruling that prohibiting violent media to minors violates the Constitution (1st Amendment I think)? I know Federal Law trumps State Law, but I can think of examples with Marijuana, healthcare and Immigration where States don't seem to be bound by Federal Law.

IllegallyAwesum
IllegallyAwesum

$5,000 per infringement? I know those idiots think everyone has their kind of money, but we don't.

arcangelgold
arcangelgold

I've had all I can stand of liberals and their anti-constitutional agendas! This was in fact already ruled on in the supreme court they have NO RIGHT to decide what our kids can buy or play. Parents need to decide. No teller is going to decide for my family. i'm so sick of the obamanoids constant attacks on families and gamers, and gun owners. Get out of our houses already you dirty thieves!

DouglassIndust
DouglassIndust

As I said in the other post with Obama and his 10 million dollar research into violent video games...Pulling the trigger on a gun is not the same as pushing your right trigger on your controller. And yet they can't understand that and probably never will either.

DouglassIndust
DouglassIndust

Why don't smart kids give their money to parents so then they can put the money in the bank so therefor they can buy any game or games they want online. Without someone from Gamestop or whatever store saying you can't buy this game because of the rating little kid, go get another game that suits your age.

aussiemuscle
aussiemuscle

So just buy your dodgey software from Russia, with Love!

Venge-VS
Venge-VS

If we do this then not only should we have video game police, but we should have police at places like movie theaters to arrest people selling tickets to R-rated movies for underage kids. We also might as well make it illegal for the parents to circumvent any of these measures. We should make it illegal to show anything violent or sexual on TV until after midnight. The US military should be barred from showing recruitment ads on TV or any place where kids might be subject to their violent suggestions. Family farms should be outlawed as it desensitizes kids to killing in the form of slaughtering animals. Police should not be allowed to visibly carry firearms as this suggests that we live in a culture of violence.


We just need a few more laws and we'll live in a utopia! Tell your congressman.

Kalania
Kalania

Dumb parents will still buy their kids the games. I am a frequent shopper at Gamestop and I notice this all the time. (I am a parent and I do not allow my kids  to play games with a Teen rating and  above)  All the age restrictions in the world can't regulate stupidity.

gamerbassist95
gamerbassist95

Whats the point? age restrictions on mostly all gaming consoles now. And why not just get the game digitally to get around this law?

Crush_Project
Crush_Project

lol just watch one documentary on how messed up our rating systems for movies are and you will laugh at this.

America, think our problems are bad? wait till you see the solutions!

ChargeMan1991
ChargeMan1991

The ESRB has been around for almost twenty years and all consoles, handhelds, computers, and phones can use age restrictions. What more do these brainless American politicians want us to do?

deathstream
deathstream

Most retailers already follow these rules.  I don't see why some people here are getting their panties in a bunch over a PROPOSED bill that would simply punish retailers for breaking those rules.  It hasn't been passed and it hasn't been upheld by the courts which have shot down similar laws.

Some people are just dying for something to complain about.

TC_Squared
TC_Squared

When I was your age, we were a free country.

tgwolf
tgwolf

OKAY SO, this is where we are at then. Anyone that says that they can't take control of any aspect of your life is out of touch with reality. I'm wondering if THIS, FINALLY makes us stand up for our disintegrating Bill of Rights...

JimmeyBurrows
JimmeyBurrows

What's wrong with the good old age rating, where you actually put a number on the box...

AwsomeZ101
AwsomeZ101

wait...... i thought they already had this rule since in AUS we cant without having an adult right next to us unless i didnt read this right. It i did read it correctly, itexplains so much about this country regarding the gun ban and the poles showing the views of adults on games etc.

Kabals
Kabals

Kids don't play games below the rating they can. And kids under 17 don't see rated R movies either. My liberal ninny east coast boss told me so, so it must be true. 

Bow to the government, who wants to be your God.

AnHRTBus
AnHRTBus

Glad to see so many people understanding thats its ultimately the parents responsibility to stay informed of the media their child is enjoying.Since all companies already face a fine from 2500 dollars to 50000 dollars for the unlawful selling of a videogame to a minor, I fail to see how this will impact a law that is already in effect.I am tired of parents that buy their child m rated games, then deny any responsiility when that child steals a car to feel gangster. These parents should face the fine, along with their child. They should also be remanded to take a parenting class at a local community college, at the parents expense of course. Maybe then we'll see a decrease in the raging 13 year olds on CoD, halo, and battlefield.videogames still fall under the category of "media" and all media is protected under the constitution.

bmart970
bmart970

I thought this was already a law...

Someguy1212
Someguy1212

Apperantly the BIG letter M isn't big enough. Just sharpie a big red M on the cover, there problem solved.

danusty
danusty

violent video games are not to blame for the violent acts we've seen in this beautiful country of mine. dumb/unaware parents and store clerks are to blame for kids getting violent video games and here's my example:


I live in Connecticut and when the game Capcom Digital Collection came out I went to a gamestop. While I was looking for the game I hear this 8 to 10 year old black kid tell his mother while at the store's register: mom, ask if they have GTA4 and the mom was completely oblivious as to what a GTA4 was. the clerk kept quiet obviously trying to make another sale for after all the mom is buying. when I heard that little kid say those words in my mind I said (OH NO YOU DID INT!), I jumped in and said to the mom: GTA stands for grand theft auto, those games are some of the most violent video games out there and I provided info as to why it was so violent., when the mom heard my info she said: oh no, I will not buy you that!

was I trying to be responsible or a hero in this situation? HELL NO! I just wanted to steal the kid's happiness! buhuhuhuhuhahahahaaaaaaa! Mission Complete!

theKSMM
theKSMM

How many of you have ever witnessed this scenario?

Pre-pubescent kid goes into store.  Kid tries to buy M-rated game.  Saleperson refuses.  Kid leaves store and returns shortly with parent.  The parent, annoyed that he/she had to come into the store, buys the game over the warnings of the salesperson who advises that said game is shockingly inappropriate for children.

I can't count the number of times I've seen that scenario.  I'm convinced that parents are the problem with kids getting M-rated games, not retailers.

theKSMM
theKSMM

And what of those games that were made before the ESRB ratings system?  Are they no longer allowed to be sold?

This seems like a strange issue for the feds to take up.  My guess is that Rep. Matheson knows that this legislation won't hold muster, but he wants to look like he's "doing something" on the issue until it eventually blows over.

Unfallen_Satan
Unfallen_Satan

There is a superficially subtle but legally huge difference between civil penalty for violating the ESRB rating agreement and a legislation that renders criminal punishment for violating the same rating. the ESRB is an entirely self-regulating body. I find it unthinkable that the US government would put its enforcement powers behind actions by an organization that is entirely outside of its control. The fact that a Congressman would even contemplate such a thing is shocking to me.

Unless, of course, there is thinking that maybe the ESRB should become a government entity, but that just opens up a whole new minefield dealing with potential over regulation, and as some have stated, a violation of the First Amendment.

codeman101360
codeman101360

Also, as other people have said, Jim Matheson is a Democrat (a quick Google search would've shown you that, Eddie). It's important to remember that  Democrats and Republicans tend to be equally uninformed and out of touch when it comes to stuff like this.

codeman101360
codeman101360

"...mandate all titles have clearly visible rating..."

 What the fuck do you think giant letter on the front and back of the box is for, decoration!? Also, most stores already don't sell M-rated  games to under-age people, so this bill does essentially NOTHING. It's just a waste of time and resources, even if it does get passed.

This clown is who you elected to represent you, Utah. I hope you're happy.

ExplosiveChorro
ExplosiveChorro

Wait what? is not M rated games need 17+ (or is it 18) to purchase it??? fucking idoits

Jd1680a
Jd1680a

Video games once again is becoming the scapegoat. If the law were to pass, it wouldnt stop parents from buying their kids mature rated games. What needs to happen is having the right medical system for people who are mentally ill.

Ranma_X_basic
Ranma_X_basic

I like how the media and government continue to use the entertainment industry (be it video games, movies or tv) to push their political agenda down everyone's faces when it's been proven time and again that video games do not cause anyone to commit violent acts (at least to my knowledge).

What happend in newtown is a tragedy and i feel bad that all those innocent kids and the school employees got hurt and killed but video games had NOTHING to do with some unstable person going and shooting up said school. but that's just my view. the government is getting far to big for it's own good and need to stay out of people's lives.