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Presidential hopeful resurrects federal game bill

Republican Senator Sam Brownback reintroduces Truth in Video Game Rating Act, which would require the ESRB to complete games before rating them.


"Our greatness is built on goodness!"

Last month, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback declared he would seek the 2008 Republican nomination for President of the United States. His first speech as a candidate was roundly mocked on the January 23 episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for his repeated use of the words "greatness" and "goodness." (The same program also pilloried the entire spectrum of Democratic candidates, including the "first Leprechaun president[al]" hopeful, Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich.)

Today, Brownback took a very public step to prove the American public how "good" and "great" he is. The Senator announced that he was reintroducing the Truth in Video Game Rating Act (S.3935), a measure he first submitted last September. If made law, the act would require the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to play the final build of a game from beginning to end before it gives said game a rating.

"Video game reviewers should be required to review the entire content of a game to ensure the accuracy of the rating," Brownback said in a statement. "The current video game ratings system is not as accurate as it could be because reviewers do not see the full content of games and do not even play the games they rate." The Truth in Video Game Rating Act would also commission a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study to "determine the efficacy of the...ESRB ratings system."

Currently, the ESRB reviews video of the "most extreme instances, across all relevant categories including but not limited to violence, language, sex, controlled substances and gambling" in each game it rates. Following the infamous hidden-sex-minigame Grand Theft Auto San Andreas scandal of 2005, publishers must now also submit "pertinent content that is not playable, but will exist in the game code on the final game disc."

Since then, the ESRB's system has proven fallible--or infallible, depending on one's viewpoint. In May 2006, the board rescinded the T for Teen rating of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion after it discovered graphically violent content at the denouement of the Dark Brotherhood questline. Despite being rated M for Mature, Oblivion went on to sell nearly 1.4 million copies in the US as of December 2006, generating just short of $80 million.* It has also won numerous accolades, including GameSpot's Role-Playing Game of the Year.

* According to the latest figures from the industry-research firm NPD Group.

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