US congress introduces new game-restriction bill

Bipartisan Video Game Ratings Enforcement Act could become federal law, requiring retailers to post AO- and M-rated game descriptions, check IDs of purchasers

A new bill in the US Congress would force retailers to card kids attempting to buy video games bearing M-for-Mature or AO-for-Adults Only ratings.

In addition to the identification-checking requirement, Reps. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) and Lee Terry (R-Neb.)'s Video Game Ratings Enforcement Act, introduced on Wednesday, would also require stores to post explanations of what the ratings, devised by the industry-backed Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), actually mean, according to a press release. A copy of the bill's text was not immediately available on Thursday.

US Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah)

"As a parent, I know that I'm the first line of defense against my kids playing Mature-rated video games," Matheson said in a statement. "But parents can't be everywhere monitoring everything, and some reasonable, common-sense rules ought to be in place to back parents up."

The ESRB's ratings definitions say that games with an M-for-Mature rating "may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language." Those with an AO-for-Adults Only rating "may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity" and are recommended only for people age 18 or older. However, most retailers will not stock AO-rated games, nor will console makers allow them to be released on their platforms.

Whether the new rules are necessary may be up for debate. Some stores already attempt to verify the age of game purchasers. For example, Wal-Mart says on its Web site that it already posts information about the ESRB ratings and has programmed its cash registers to automatically prompt sales clerks to check the age of the customer when M-rated games are scanned. GameStop also checks IDs before selling M-rated games.

And interestingly, just after the bill was introduced, the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday released the results of a new "undercover" shopper study, which found that the number of incidents of stores selling M-rated video games to teens has plummeted since 2000.

On average, only 20 percent of the 13-to-16-year-old shoppers were able to purchase the games from stores such as GameStop/EB Games, Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Toys R Us, down from an average of 42 percent in 2006 and 85 percent in 2000. (Some stores recorded a far lower percentage--for instance, only 6 percent of those shoppers were successful in purchasing M-rated games from GameStop.)

The Parents Television Council, a group whose mission is to shield children from sex, violence, and profanity in television and other media, applauded the bill's introduction, pointing to its concerns about the Mature-rated Grand Theft Auto IV, which has already broken sales records within the first week of its release.

"Video game ratings supposedly exist to protect children from material that is created for adults, but there is no consequence for irresponsible retailers who repeatedly sell these games to children," PTC president Tim Winter said in a statement. "The importance of this issue cannot be overstated when considering the array of games that include content too deplorable and disgusting to describe in detail."

However, previous legislative attempts to limit children's access to violent or sexually themed video games have not met with much success in the courts. Earlier this year, a federal appeals court upheld a lower court's decision to block a Minnesota law that would have imposed up to a $25 fine on minors younger than 17 caught buying or renting video games rated "M" for mature or "AO" for adults-only, citing, among other things, First Amendment concerns. Similar rulings have come down in other federal courts with regard to laws in Louisiana, Michigan, and California.

The Entertainment Software Association, which represents the video game industry, said that it shares the politicians' goal of ensuring that children have parental approval before playing certain games, but disagreed with their proposed method of doing so.

"Empowering parents, not enacting unconstitutional legislation, is the best way to control the games children play," said ESA President Michael Gallagher.

The new bill joins a handful of other proposals related to video games that have surfaced in this session of Congress, including new attempts to outlaw "deceptive" video game ratings. That legislation was a reaction primarily to the 2005 "Hot Coffee" scandal, when best-seller Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was found to contain unlockable sexually explicit scenes.

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470 comments
swisdwag
swisdwag

Guess those old grey haired bastards are bored on Capitol Hill. They ignore the pressing issues we face today to battle steriods, Spygate and Grand Theft Auto. All of which has nothing to do with them. It's all politics, things they think that will get people to vote for them and give them a few more years in a powerful position. I HATE politicians with a friggin passion!!!!

Jazz_Fan
Jazz_Fan

Meh kids will still find a way to get there games.

eddievh_5150
eddievh_5150

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

pukmok
pukmok

Whats with Minnesota? Trying to fine kids for trying to buy a game? How about doing that with cigarettes and alcohol first before acting like idiots.

terror_ninja
terror_ninja

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

Huskerz09
Huskerz09

Holy **** My Congressman (Lee Terry-R NEB.) actually submitted a bill that people are talking about......... WTF happened to your priorities damnit?! Gas prices are sky high.....and you've got your panties in a wad over GTA? Watch your ass get booted out of office come election time.....

Warghost2k
Warghost2k

Because video games are as harmful as alcohol and tobacco? Stupid.

Jeff23400
Jeff23400

actually, Fredd_E_Sharp, I like the way you think but I dont think it would actually help, no matter what bill gets passed, people will still blame video games for all of the worlds problems.

Russty540
Russty540

congress - "screw the gas price issues, we must stop video games!"

Fredd_E_Sharp
Fredd_E_Sharp

To be honest, I doubt it matters either way if this bill is passed. Underage consumers will still find a way to get their hands on the product. Not sayin' that i'm for it, but if the bill is passed then that should mean less hassle for the actual game companies such as R*. Hopefully that means when the release date for any AO rated game approaches, there'll be less efforts of people trying to completely stop the game from comming out. Anybody else agree?

angelcar
angelcar

Games: the new scapegoat for every calamity in society. It used to be comic books back in the 40s and 50s. It seems to be a recurring theme in this country: a new media that appeals mostly to the younger generation (and in that younger group I include those of us in our 30s) comes along and the "adults" go haywire b/c they don't understand it. Blah. Sure, check for ID. Maybe that way they'll fing shut up already. I hear Teletubbies make kids cross-eyed. Maybe they should try to ban those.

g3n3r41xan
g3n3r41xan

also people get violent because they have been brought up violently. things like parents fighting when their kids were young and drugy parents that dont even bother taking care of their child and many other stuff that leaves their kids to do stuff that they shouldnt. so if i were to buy my kid a violent video game i would but from childhood i would raise them that they wouldnt do violent stuff. how is it that i am not a violent person and i play violent games and dont go to the streets on a rampage. i think many people are like this too. its unfair on us.

nicknicknick333
nicknicknick333

I go to Blockbuster all the time and buy/rent M-rated games relatively consistently. I don't have a problem with it and neither does big business, congress should just back off the issue.

g3n3r41xan
g3n3r41xan

those people that have killed people and have been violent all their lives i bet have never played a violent video game before or even watched a violent movie. i mean common they are so into those crimes that they dont even have time to play these games. so the idea of a video game increasing violence is nonsense.

bananabutt
bananabutt

what mothers and congress don't seem to understand is the more attention they bring to these games it's just going to make kids want to play them more and somehow they are going to get there hands on them, just like booze or porn or whatever. i am 22 years old and i have been playing games my whole life, since i can remember, I remember being 8 years old playing mortal kombat on arcade at my local walmart and even playing GTA1 on my pc when i was 11 or 12, I am the most unviolent person alive, what all this is about is people wanting to find something to b*tch about. people complain how violent and whatnot my generation is blaming video games and r rated movies for the cause of it, even though crime is way down to what it used to be in the 80's and 90's way before violent games.

ChicaQueenWarGa
ChicaQueenWarGa

I lol'd at dewd4. Video games stores are doing the right thing of not selling AO games. I hate how my mom buys me an M rated game at EB Games, and the cashier asks her for ID. Not to be mean, but she is...aging somewhat.

shoeman12
shoeman12

don't waste the money i pay in taxes to pass a stupid law that parents can enforce.

jknight5422
jknight5422

What was so great about "Hot Coffee"? It's the same kind of crap you see every day in a modern-day rap video. This legislation is a waste of time. It ought to be obvious when a kid is buying an M-rated video game & to tell them to have their parents come in & pay for it.

XXMadManVII
XXMadManVII

I'm not for the government telling us what we should see and hear, not even our kids. That is the responsibility of the parents. Having said that, some parents are very irresponsible, or just ill-informed. There needs to be proper education and resources available so the parents can make intelligent decisions. We don't federal legislation over something as menial as video game content. Our tax dollars hard at work. But, this is America and apparently it take a country to raise a child. So as long as they don't restrict content (more than they already do), it's whatever....

Lemonsquare
Lemonsquare

I'm also very glad I don't live in the U.S. Parents who try and stop their children from playing these game should seek professional help, unless their kid is mentally retarded. I think most of us know the difference between real-life and a video-game. Besides, what's the point of stopping our kids from seeing and hearing things they already know? If they were brought up well a game like this shouldn't affect them.

Valen_Ca
Valen_Ca

Out of curiosity, does anyone have the numbers on how many of the parents that have complained about their kids playing games not meant for them have actually taken the time to actually setup the parental controls built into their 360s PS3s or Wiis?

peterferrif
peterferrif

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

dewd4
dewd4

Look at his weird smile i wanna punch him :)

Kazara_T
Kazara_T

This is horribly stupid. There is no similar legislation for music or film; their rating systems are self-regulated and generally supported by retailers, just like games are now.

nrCooldude
nrCooldude

same here slintpong.. for the first time in my life i think that india has some advantage over US

sleepy_weasel
sleepy_weasel

This is a very good idea, checks are in place if you want to purchase other restricted content such as alcohol, so why not. The only ptoblem of course is how will this work with on-line stores, and irresponsible parent will still go and buy restricted material for their kids as 'they're only games'.

freudanian
freudanian

I agree that the ESRB is a good idea, provided that their ratings are workable. There's no point in having an AO rating if it is essentially a ban on the game.

slintpong
slintpong

I'm so happy I don't live in the U.S. No offense.

_screamsoftly_
_screamsoftly_

I think people need to understand that the ESRB is a good thing. It's an industry backed alternative to federal control of the industry. Kids shouldn't buy mature rated games, whether it's wrong or right, video games lose credibility when they do. And to f-ing WizengamotX there is nothing in the constitution about freedom of expression. Learn to read for christ's sake. And the constitution leaves anything not specified in the constitution up to the states to pass law about, that's the 9th amendment.

freudanian
freudanian

I have to say, I find it confusing that the the large retailers in the US refuse to stock AO games. Surely that sends out the wrong message; namely that video games are for children/teens (even though the average gamer is around 29). Why don't Bestbuy, Wallmart etc... embrace the notion that GTA, GOW and other adult games are actually for adults and stock games with the highest rating? The system clearly has some holes in it since the ESRB will never rate a game AO because none of the stores will stock it. In the UK (where I reside) the games are classified 18 if they are very violent or adult themed, which seems a lot more straight forward and logical to me.

Marqmax
Marqmax

"HD360gamer WAAAAHHHH!!! If u r complaining u r a little kid the rest of us don't care because we ARE OLD ENOUGH TO DO ADULT THINGS" We also need IQ checks as well, so "adults" such as yourself can't buy these games either.

HD360gamer
HD360gamer

WAAAAHHHH!!! If u r complaining u r a little kid the rest of us don't care because we ARE OLD ENOUGH TO DO ADULT THINGS

otanikun
otanikun

And now the government steps in to do the parenting for the actual parents themselves. Honestly there shouldn't be a bill at all, it should be for each individual retailer to enact it's own rules and policies and fire those that fail to adhere to it. But oh well, or as they say in France, C'est la vie

Fable_fan88
Fable_fan88

Wow all the bad things going on in the f'ed up country and congress is passing this...? whatever i guess it makes them look busy. i agree little kids shouldn't be able to buy these games, now there parent has to be there to agree that they are buying games that are for mature players. :) now i guess its not the game industry's fault when some kid mugs a jew and then steals a car to run over a police officer then steal the police officers car and go buy a hooker and get his 12 year old ass layed for $120 ( at least he is getting out and not stuck play dumb video games)... now we can blame the parents when this happens. Isn't this what the ACT is now saying? its the parents fault now.

Ailith
Ailith

This is all a waste of time. I can't even believe elected officials are wasting their time with this crap when the country's economy is going to hell in a hand basket and were in the middle of a war. Way to go America. God, I'm embarrassed for my country... But since it is already up in the air, let me just say that since I'm over 17 I don't care that they card minors. I have been carded for M rated games for some time now, I don't see the problem. I will also be the first in line to say that the ESRB needs a serious makeover. Separate the Teen rating to Teen 13 and Teen 16 and make M rated games for 18 and up so they can simply do away with the AO rating which is pretty useless. I've never even seen an AO rated game before in person. And all the 17 year olds that complain about this idea, don't worry, its just one year. It's kind of like why people have never bothered lowering the drinking age here. All the 18 year olds want drinking to be legal for them, but in three years they turn 21 and don't give a sh!t anymore. Same thing. Groups like "The Parents Television Council" should also be b!tch slapped back into place whenever they stand up about stuff like this and end up making a noticeable difference. Its one thing to form a group and whine, but its another thing when you start censoring my entertainment and actually make a difference in the legal community. I wish I was a judge...

X_2005
X_2005

WizengamotX So then we should also sell guns to minors? Its unconstitutional to mnot sell them weaponry of any kind either. The ratings are there for a reason, to protect minors from the violence and drug use in this game. If taking one more step to ensure they dont grow up as psychopaths is unconstitutional, so is not giving them weapons to take to school.

WizengamotX
WizengamotX

The new Video Game Enforcement Act is unconstitutional by violation of freedom of expression. To many, the media center is their temple; games are their religion. I have never read a law of the constitution banning "minors" from freedoms deemed sutable for all. Consitutional law overrides federal law in all cases. Because of this, I can predict confidently a Supreme Court case over this very Act of Congress.

Cjb2442
Cjb2442

I'm only 13 but... My dad has no porblem buying these games for me. He would rather me do it in a virtual world than real life.

imtheman4
imtheman4

eh oh well i guess my dad will buy M rated games for me from now on.

majestikk
majestikk

I don't care what you do... as long as you don't try to ban violent games. Bad enough Manhunt 2 suffered a lot from being censored to make the M rating. If I want to play violent games I should! Now as for the 12 to 16 year olds, all I can say is if you want to play a game that bad and it's rated M, try explaining to Mommy and Daddy that you understand it's just a game and you won't let it influence you at all. Even though we all know that's BS!

DuaneDog
DuaneDog

Seems reasonable... I'm not for censorshop or limiting content in games in any way but 10 year olds shouldn't be buying games like GTA IV unless their parent or guardian makes the purpose. Not really sure what the unconstitutional aspect of this is. Adults can buy the games that are filled with sexual content and violence; it only applies to kids. Just like kids should not be able to buy porn, cigarettes, or booze. What I don't care for are people like that Jack Thompson who believes that he is the spokesman for 'family values' and that the games should not even be on the shelves.

Amir29
Amir29

I have to say, "I agree". This CAN effect sales for M and AO rated software. This can also effect how many games we see released for those target markets based on that eventual drop in sales. But, ESRB ratings are their to protect children from getting their hands on games inappropriate for their age, and I don't think anyone can REALLY disagree that enforcing the rating system is the best way to protect them. I also noticed that many of you are talking about carding for R rated films and I have to say I agree with that as well. Ratings are their to protect children. What's the point of a rating if it's not enforced? It's here that we have the information needed to see who's passing this bill. If we all feel strongly about this (and it seems like we do) why not approach the government to extend this bill to cover film as well? I know I will.

Gezquester
Gezquester

I honestly hope the bill helps because I don't believe in children being exposed to adult content in Film, Tv, Music or Games. However, I think a bigger problem lies with children being exposed to adult themes in their own homes from abusive parents and or guardians, etc. A 12 year old can't play GTA IV but that doesn't mean their "uncle" isn't sexually molesting them or their father isn't beating them because they spilt the milk or something. To me things like that are more important and it seems like too much attention and effort by certain politicians has gone into trying to curb problems with the child to adult transition that are being blamed solely on entertainment mediums. These issues existed long before the Film, TV, Music and Games came along, I'm not saying that they don't play a part but they certainly are not the root of it and some of it is down to each individual's personality and background. Also why is it that games are always under fire but I never hear these issues raised when it comes to films like Hostel? Since when is violence in movies ok but not in games? They are all part of the same entity, you come down harsh on one; you should come down harsh on them all otherwise all the energy put into restricting the availability of adult content in games is wasted when they are just as available in movies. It seems to what's needed is to either completely ban and stop these entertainment mediums reaching people who might possible be adversely affected by then at the source or just let the entertainment be, not a half and half thing, we'll let companies put this content out there but only if kids don't ever get to experience it.

Banna021
Banna021

How many sales has IV generated since release...? Don't you think its a bit late to start changing the rating - the game should have been properly reviewed before the release date not after, already kids have thier hands on the game or have seen the most graphic/ violent scenes anyway so it is a bit pointless to make changes now....

madmachinegun
madmachinegun

@martok: i'm pretty sure (but could be wrong) that there is no law to enforce R-ratings in theatres. I belive it's completely self-regulated by the theatres. I mean, I've never been carded at an R (I'm almost 18) and neither has my friend (just passed 17) If it was law, they would care a lot more about it. Shouldn't there be some way for citizens to learn these laws? I mean, without consulting a lawyer? How the hell are we supposed to obey the law if you can't look them up?

gamerkingg
gamerkingg

OMG i didnt read it all but jezz m is for mature a is for Adult only, not that hard

Comingcurse
Comingcurse

When they impose penalties for renting/buying movies thet you are underage for, then I MAY think imposing this law is justified. Either way, it is stil up to the parent to PARENT, and should not made into a retailer's responsibility.