Brownback Proposes Game Ratings Bill in Senate

September 27, 2006 -

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) has sponsored legislation in the United States Senate which would require the ESRB to play games in their entirety before assigning an age rating.

Brownback's Truth in Video Game Rating Act (S.3935) would appear to be the Senate version of a House bill of the same name proposed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL).

“The current video game ratings system needs improvement," Brownback said, "because reviewers do not see the full content of games and don’t even play the games they are supposed to rate. For video game ratings to be meaningful and worthy of a parent’s trust, the game ratings must be more objective and accurate.”

Brownback's measure would mandate the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to administer the requirement for a complete play-through before rating.

“Game reviewers must have access to the entire game for their ratings to accurately reflect a game’s content," Brownback added.



The bill would also direct the FTC to define parameters for describing video game content as well as defining what kind of behavior by the game industry would break those rules. 

Brownback also would have the Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluate the efficiency of the ESRB system as well as the potential for establishing an independent rating body with no ties to the industry. Universal systems spanning movie, TV and games would also be looked into.

The conservative Brownback has been very active on video game issues in recent times. He worked with Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT) on game-related bills such as the recently-passed CAMRA legislation and held committee hearings on video games in the Senate earlier this year.

Full text of Brownback's new bill is not yet available. We'll post it when it goes up on the Congressional system.


Comments

I like the write to this guy - and give him a copy of Final Fantasy VII (and a PS1 and memory card (because playing FF without a save file is crual and unusual torture))

and Chalange him to REVIEW the whole game. EVERYTHING in the game...

all 100+ hours of the game - and say he only has a week to do it...

This just seems like a dumb idea to me. The notion that it's an attempt to destroy the ESRB seems a little weird as well - don't these guys want ratings on games?

I dunno; part of me thinks it's a reasonable enough idea, or at least driven by the right desires, but it's suggestion is highly inefficient and not a reasonable replacement for the system that's already in place.

Like a lot of game legislation, it sounds like a reasonable idea that's not really been thought through properly.

Lost Watcher:
Pointing this out:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15032063/
Someone prolly will use it.

I just read that - I think the "videogames turn kids into killers" angle might not work, since the shooter was apparently 30-50 years old.

@Yukimura

I'm not trying to be nasty but you seem to really have it in for my little country and its laws. We do not have an outright ban on guns, just guns used in homes. We have laws allowing a registered individual (of which I used to be one) to own a rifle or similar for sport. You cannot own a handgun (unless its a Flintlocke type pistol) or an automatic. Our crime rate is not a sinister epidemic like your post seems to indicate. Its very rare for a gun related crime to be mentioned on the news, a large part of the crime is knife related.

As for our games ratings, we simply have PEGI which is very much like the ESRB and then we have the BBFC standard ratings which are given to submitted games which feature anything that could be considered unsuitable for younger players. This classification is EXACTLY the same as our film classification. Our laws prevent retailers to selling these games/films to the underage. Whilst I agree that you have a somewhat more free system we do not have this horrible fascist control system like you keep making it sound. I'd argue that the main reason the games take so long to come out over here is for exactly the same reason we won't be getting Mortal Kombat Armageddon for Xbox...you use NTSC, we use PAL...not immensly different but it does require some reworking.

“The current POLITICAL system needs improvement,” Brownback said, “because POLITICIANS do not RESEARCH the full ISSUE of games and don’t even play the games they are CRITICIZING. For SENATORS to be meaningful and worthy of a parent’s trust, the GOVERNMENT must be more objective and accurate.”

Fixed it for you, Senator Brownnose.

I didn't say gun crime. I said violent crime, and if I'm not mistaken, following the enactment of your gun laws, crime soared 300 percent in as little as three years. While You are correct about gun laws, the fact is, the cities and countries that have the worst level of crime are those that have, suprisingly, the strictist gun regulations. as an example, I live in arizone, which has very loose gun laws. Until the recent Sniper serial shooting, very rarly was gun crime a major issue, however overall, crime in general in the Phoenix area and around arizona is a record low.

On the other hand take a look at london. You all had your guns taken away, and yet your crime rate didn't drop, it nearly doubled in the first year. And has gotten worse sense.

I not trying to be mean but the fact is, gun laws like game laws do not accomplish what they are supposed to . It's like that famous quote. "if you outlaw guns, only criminals have guns, and the people who criminals prey on are defenseless against them"

Same goes for game law. Government control of any medium, in my opinion, is an absoulute crime and should be resisted at all costs. Some people might argue thats an alarmist view, but then, thats what was said in Nazi germany and Soviet russia when the state had 100 percent control of the media. That worked out well.

look, america was founded on freedom, hell, we fought Brittan in a bloody and violent war to get that freedom. Like hellI'll I 'll suddenly see us start to backslide towards the very thing this country was formed to resist.

As far as i'm concerned, the following coutnries are slowly sliding towards total media censorship.

1. The Uk,
2. New zealand.
3. Australia,
4. Germany.
5. Most any islamic country you can name.

The list goes on. Dont' lecture me about the virtues of goverment run media. To Parapharse foamy the squirrel.

"Fuck these government censors up the ass with a PLASMA FLAT SCREEN!!"
"My name is Lenerd Church, and you will fear my LASER FACE"

@Yukimura

A few points:

1) I'm not lecturing about government run media, I'm mentioning this grossly exagerrated view you have about our media. The government does not censor to fit an agenda, otherwise we wouldn't have these lovely shows about the secret government documents, get to laugh at Tony Blair's failings or purchase Grand Theft Auto without any backlash against it.
2) The gun laws did accomplish what they were set out to do, it removed away impulse killings. Gun control will not rule out planned criminals, this is accepted, but most murders/attacks are done as a spur of the moment thing. By removing the gun from the household you take away that risk. Its a specific risk your going after and obviously does not effect actual planned crime but despite what you may believe it has helped. We have different self defence laws in place which also contribute, laws I will agree are in the wrong. You cannot kill someone for entering your house/threatening you unless they were preventing you from escaping or putting you in utter danger. You are however allowed to use reasonable force which does allow physical attacks, stabbing etc...provided it was reasonable. The most obvious example of when this was not the case would be the farmer who planned an attack on tresspassers, laid traps and then shot them when they attempted to flee.
3) London is a very busy place, and small to boot. Arizona is much bigger and can house more people. Of course there will be a greater crime count in a smaller contained area then in a large open one. I think the main reason that crime is reported as increasing is simply that, its being reported. More and more people are now reporting crime when previously they didn't, in addition Police methods of recording crime has improved. You'll find the same statistics in Arizona as well I'd wager.
4) Wow, your compairing the labour government (who has been the biggest support of your US administration to date) to the Nazi party? Do we ban news stories about governemnt mistakes? No. Do we ban reports that the government is secretly funding wars? No. Do we prohibit films which show a certain agenda? No. The last time I remember a film being banned was on video release and even then only for a short time (it was shown on cinema first). Gameswise, we haven't banned anything you country didn't refuse to rate and we happily have 18 rated games on shelves.
5) I don't want games censored any more then you do, especially as the states has its wonderfuly biased shops which refuse to stock certain titles thusly censoring them for you. If censorship is allowed in your country it effects all of us but I'm tired of seeing my, remarkably liberal country compared to Nazi Germany and Fundamentalist Muslim states.
6) I'm not even going to get into this whole patriot distorted view of the War of Independance and the evil Brits...

Like I say I don't want censorship, certainly not in any of the manners proposed by your government so far. I just wish you'd lay off the Brit bashing.

"6) I’m not even going to get into this whole patriot distorted view of the War of Independance and the evil Brits…"

That was Patriot as in the Mel Gibson movie...should have pointed that out

In the interest of understanding Yuki, here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_Kingdom

Particuarly this section:

"Britain remains one of the countries with the lowest murder rate in the world per capita, accounting for 853 murders in the reporting period 2003/04 according to the Home Office's Crime Statistics, which at a population of more than 60 million that translates into less than 1.3 murders per 100,000 residents in the UK.[6] By comparison, in 2000, police in the United States reported 5.5 murders for every 100,000 population.[7] In addition, 70% of murders in the United States involve firearms compared to 6% in the United Kingdom.[8] Both New York City and London have over 7 million residents, with New York reporting 6.9 murders per 100,000 people in 2004 to London's 2.4 per 100,000, also in 2004.[9]"

Correction noted Dag, guess I got carried away there. Noted that report you cited was 3 years old almost, but once again, I made no specific comment about murder. Point taken none the less.

I however stand by my statements regarding censorship. I do not retract them in anyway. Any country, regardless of government that activly engages in censorship, of ANY KIND, is commiting crime against expression in my eyes. While the British government has a been a stanuch supporter of the US, tha doesn't change the fact that you have a system in your government that places media control in political hands. In america, such actions have become the subject of enormous controversy, including the formation of a coalition to have the FCC disbanded and replaced by a non content controlling authroity.

Adimittedly, the UK, as well as the other nations I mentions, are not nearly as far down the road as the Nazi party was. But neither were they, at first. It started simply, with the banning of books by the Nazi regime, but within less then a year, all MEDIA, period, was under nazi control. It may take a slower course, but the UK, and the other countries I cited, are walking that EXACT PATH!!!.

One final note. yes, i'm aware of the distorted view of the revolutionary war, but even, from a purely factual standpoint, America want to war with brittian cause it tried to excersise far to much control over the US, starting with taxes and leading up to religion. While the movies distort this and paint the Brits in a mostly negitive light, it doesn't change the fact that, at the time, the English government tired to put the screws to the us and got it's face punched in for it's trouble. I hate the thought that the US would ever start taking ideas from the UK. Fact is, our to countries are just to different for that to ever work.

I do correct myself and apoligize about the mix up in the crime statistics, but it doesn't change my views on media or censorship. As I said before, and this applies to all CENSORS, ANYWHERE.

“Fuck these government censors up the ass with a PLASMA FLAT SCREEN!!”

Sorry dag, but nothing is gonna change my mind on that. However, that quote works in a lot of ways. Just remove government censors and replace with whatever you despise, News media, Jack Thompson, and it's instant insult time.

So, again, didn't mean to blow my top, but the fact is, I stand by my beliefs when it comes to censor ship. And like I once told JT. The day he wants to take my games, he better bring an army. Cause I will leave them lying in the street before I let anyone tell me what I can and cannot watch/play/see/read/say/think.

Thank you London we love you GOOD NIGHT!
"My name is Lenerd Church, and you will fear my LASER FACE"

Yuki: I'd just like to point out a few more facts about England as a whole...

Arizona has a land mass roughly equal to that of England as a whole, but has roughly one tenth the population (5.13 million in Arizona versus 50.431 million in England), meaning the population density is a lot higher in England and particularly in the relatively higher-density areas like London. It's true that there is, on an absolute scale, more crime in England than there is in Arizona. However, to use an absolute scale to compare the two would be unfair, as England has ten times as many people to commit crimes.

While yes the crime rate in England has risen... It's not the epidemic you make it out to be. Sure there are a few hundred murders country-wide, but that doesn't even come close to the death toll the good ol' USA manages to rack up each year... even on a per-capita basis.

Glad we cleared the crime bit up. I blame UK football for that new stereotype which has been placed upon us. I disagree entirely with your nazi correlation simply because our censorship laws are actually getting more relaxed rather then less, most of the censorship falls down on the conservative Thatcher era when many things were restricted.

Personally I like the BBFC rating but then we do have a system in place which makes it work, thats where your censor groups have got it wrong your country wouldn't tolerate such a system being put in place as it would quell creativity and sales. It doesn't effect us because with our system we can have the goriest most explicit film/game ever devised and still be able to sell it care free...of course we'd still get the parental watchdog groups...but every country has those!

I don't think our countries are that different, our restrictions are pretty much the same as yours, though by and large we are slightly more...prudish and subdued...I mean if watching UK Pop Idol and American idol is anything to go by! I think really, like TV has given a flase view of America over here, your TV has given a false view of the UK. If films like Shaghai Knights and Garfield 2 are anything to go by you lot would utterly confused to actually come over here! I will say I'm glad our religion has far less importance over here. You can't get someone like JT spewing Bible quotes every few minutes to be a TV expert...well...unless its religion based...er...

Dag

Now that I didn't know. However, I was fairly familiar with the whole Thacther era. Man was she an unholy Bitch.

Anyway, Your free to disagree, and you may be right, if your restrictions have been dropping off, then your indeed going the other way from what happened with the Nazis. Shame some countries don't share that pattern. Looking at you Australia.

But I will say this, your damn right about the whole FALSE view thing across cultures. hell, UsvsUk views are almost 50 to 90 percent wrong on both sides, and it's not just us. Usvs Japan view is also horribly biased.

SO yeah, I can see where you coming from, and yeah, theres a lot of misconceptions one both sides. While I like the news that the UK is getting better, I still stand by my quote from before aobut government censors. Fuck them all up the ass with a Plasma flat screen.

Course, recently, I've been thinking about extending that to a few hundred politicans to.

Aww one can dream right?

Anyway, glad we got that worked out, hate to have a grudge deveolp over this. Now if we could just get idiots like JT to shut up, that would go along way to clearing up some other kinds of misconceptions eh?
"My name is Lenerd Church, and you will fear my LASER FACE"

terrible waste of a good plasma screen though Yuki ;p

True dat Dag.
"My name is Lenerd Church, and you will fear my LASER FACE"

from a technical standpoint its very easy to see everything in a game - an unpacked version with all decals, models + animations that can be viewed in the in-house editor.

chances of this - none. Everyone's far too paranoid about handing over thier IP to anyone else, especially if they don't have to.

MMO's do have a rating system disclaimer built in, the same as Xbox live:

"ESRB Notice; game experience may change during online play."

This means that when someone starts F'ing and blinding at a seven year old its nobody's legally punishable fault, in theory.

As to violent crime verses videogame content - in Namerica your politicians have an epileptic fit everytime someone even alludes to sex in a game, but shooting people in the head is ok.

BTW: Fuck mel gibson.

[...] Back from Peru, and digging out through a ton of email. You don't want to know how much, but I'll give you a hint and say it was in the middle four digits. Yep, all in two weeks.Anyway, saw a post on Evil Avatar linking to Game Politics. It discusses a proposal from Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) to improve the ESRB rating system. In particular, the concept is that reviewers would have to play through the entire game before assigning a rating. To quote: Brownback’s Truth in Video Game Rating Act (S.3935) would appear to be the Senate version of a House bill of the same name proposed by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL).“The current video game ratings system needs improvement,” Brownback said, “because reviewers do not see the full content of games and don’t even play the games they are supposed to rate. For video game ratings to be meaningful and worthy of a parent’s trust, the game ratings must be more objective and accurate.”Brownback’s measure would mandate the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to administer the requirement for a complete play-through before rating.“Game reviewers must have access to the entire game for their ratings to accurately reflect a game’s content,” Brownback added.I actually think this is a good step in the right direction. There's certainly value to reviewers having experienced the entire game and not having to depend on selected (and potentially targeted) assets to make their decision. I've actually believed for a while that government regulation of the game rating system is coming and could actually be beneficial. Unfortunately, it also appears that the current proposed bill has the usual "don't get the games industry" flaws that would need to be addressed. (I should say that this isn't a ding against Mr. Brownback - I actually think he's on the right track here. It's more a comment on the fact that the current generation of politicians didn't grow up with games and just don't get them - in many ways, video games are seen as the new Rock & Roll, corrupting American youth and contributing to the general downfall of society. This is self-correcting as "our generation" gets older and becomes those same politicians... in the meanwhile, we just need to help educate them. Kudos to John Stewart for helping fight that battle!)It's worth stating that we don't have the complete text of the bill yet - so keep that in mind as you read the possible holes I see.The first is simply that a video game isn't necessarily the same, linear experience as a movie. As such, it's just not reasonable to expect an MMO or even a huge RPG such as Oblivion to be completely played through (ie, all content experienced) before being given a rating. This is just a simple reality, and the bill's text will obviously need to take this into account. My hope is that this is sufficiently obvious such that it's already being considered - but we shall see.The second is that it appears the bill doesn't understand the difference between content available to players in game vs. "debug" content that may never be accessible in any way to a player other than via game modification devices. There's nothing wrong with having a "nude" avatar model in the game engine if the game always clothes that avatar before displaying it. Users (and reviewers) would never see the corrupt evil that is nudity (note sarcasm), and the world would continue to turn. However, it appears the bill doesn't understand that it's possible for "hackers" (call them what you will) to do all sorts of things to game code once it's outside the hands of the developer and publisher. That's a huge gaping hole that needs to be addressed.I look forward to seeing the final bill text - here's hoping it goes in the right direction! If not, I'm sure the Daily Show will have a blast with it. Posted: Thursday, September 28, 2006 8:21 AM by Ozymandias Filed under: Gaming Industry, Game Politics [...]

For those interested in keeping up with the Colorado school shooting, the shooter has been identified>

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15041037/

I think it's more likely that we're talking about a sexual predator who has adopted the one idea everyone hoped would never occur: The all or nothing stance. Run in, grab a few victims (6 girls in this case), commit his sexual crime on multiple victims right then and there, then off himself. Nothing to lose because he intends to end it immediately anyway.

Considering how many sexual predators there are out there, I'd be seriously concerned even a teeny tiny fraction of them may get the same idea and copycat this.

No video games here. Merely, and fearfully, criminal sexual desperation. People who have a "nothing to loose" attitude are the most dangerous.

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

nightwng2000 Says:
(No video games here. Merely, and fearfully, criminal sexual desperation. People who have a “nothing to loose” attitude are the most dangerous.)

Not yet anyway. I wonder how far from Columbine this was? BTW whats going on in New Mexico now (The other shooting.)

- Warren Lewis

Consumer responsibility is just as important as Corporate responsibility. So, be responsible consumers.

"This is some stupid crap there will be no way that these jerk offs will be able to a play a game to its entirity."

Please note that the ESRB is on the wrong end of the firing squad here. Most government officials, neglect the simple fact that ESRB ratings are completely voluntary on the part of the developers. Always has been since sega rated thier own games, before it was industry standard. As part of a project focused on Video Games and Game Politics, myself, I know all it will do, if passed, is anger a lot of people, gamers like ourselves, who will, like every other group who our government has mistreated, will rise and fight for our rights. And just like in the past, we'll be underestimated. It seems to me that they fail to see how tight knit gamers are as a community, thanks to the internet. You may have fan boys and such. But if it's something that effects gamers as a whole we all seem to agree.

A group of gamers I think would be the first to rise would be the MMO players, games like WoW and FFXI all have extremely tight brother hoods. And the moment the government passes a bill as such, their beloved genre (also my personal favorite genre) will take a serious blow, and no one will stand for it. Gaming is a multibillion dollar industry and can get lobbys together in no time.

Politicians Lose...We, as gamers, are being targeted and treated like pedophiles. We are like the rock generation of the 60s. Ignorant people fighting something they don't understand...

And thanks to our understanding of what we are defending, and our passion for it, we won't be hindered. We are a free country in the year 2006....not 1984. Religion is tearing this country apart. A country formed to be a haven for the different, the misunderstood, the oppressed, is oppressing thier own. We are a subculture, of a supposed culture of misfits and dreamers...

Fight the censors,
Foton
PixelEnigma.com Webmaster

I am highly supportive of actvism,although i may not possess the necesarry skills. i found it highl disheartening that we could not campaign against John bruce thompson in paticular(No offence,but,WTF?!) and that topics posted in the activism section would get no replies. however,flowers for jack showed just how organized gamers can be.

Warren,
Apparently, it's not very far at all.

Before the story was updated with the identity of the shooter, the media was making it very clear that the shooter was dressed like a student (complete with backpack) and that the shooting reminded people of Columbine which is pretty close.

After the update, even the reference to Columbine seems to have diminished or vanished altogether. Probably because the face of the shooter is all over the news and he's identified as being in his 50's. The "school shootup" theme is gone and the sexual assault and the fact the victims were female is taking the lead.

As to the NM case, nothing new that I know of except comments 30 and 31
in this article:
http://www.joystiq.com/2006/09/27/jack-thompson-becomes-boring/
Of course, I had my say in comment 33.
Obviously, I let myself go... just an itty bitty bit. Yeah, i was the textbook case of calm and collect. Yeah... right. Sure. :: sigh ::

nightwng2000
NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000 Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

@Yukimura:

I agree with you wholeheartedly. The fact that Australia's rating system for games is NOT the same as our film ratings is beyond understanding. Whoever decided that games should be rated differently obviously doesn't understand games and how much potential they have had, and still have, as a creative medium. The unfortunate truth is that Australia is like America's little lapdog. Whatever George Dubya decrees, lil John Howard is going to follow soon after.

Therefore, all of these law suits against game companies and the scapegoating of gamers in America is beginning to catch on in Australia. Just recently there was a story on GP about the NSW Minister trying to get Bully banned, despite the OFLC giving it an M15+ rating. She cited numerous lawsuits from the US in later press releases. As someone who has been lobbying the government constantly to get the games ratings system changed to mirror film ratings, these kind of chain politics is REALLY F^T$ing annoying.

Conversely, we do have some politicians who do seem to get the picture. A couple of years ago the Premier of Queensland Peter Beattie gave a multi million dollar grant for XBOX game development within Queensland (how much did MS give him for that I wonder). That's great, but censorship is what is really hurting. There a few (notably younger) politicians which are campaigning against the censorship of games, unfortunately they are not the ones in power. Parliament is typically full of old conservative, close minded, argumentative people. That's the way it has always been.

Like Grahamr said, activism is a fantastic way for everyone outside of our community to realise just how many people of all societal status are games, and how awesome games are for creativity, storytelling and medical purposes. Activist drives like flowers for jack, Penny Arcade's frequent donations to charity (especially the one in the name of Jack, hypocritical shit that he is) and endeavours like Child's Play show just how much power gamers really have.

I'll never give up fighting for my creative freedom.

Centennial post!!!!!

Just thought I should celebrate a bit. Read my above post if you want my opinion on this matter. ^^

I am trying to get an activist group together and organized...Just don't have the full political nor financial stability for it as of now, not to mention not enough support from the community.

Some action should be taken to defend our rights...we are people too. And Gaming is just as much of an Artform as Film.

We deserve respect.

Foton
PixelEnigma.com Webmaster

(nightwng2000 Says:
Of course, I had my say in comment 33.
Obviously, I let myself go… just an itty bitty bit. Yeah, i was the textbook case of calm and collect. Yeah… right. Sure. :: sigh :: )


Don't be to hard. On the subject of Jack Thompson, I always let myself go. *sigh* maybe I shouldn't do that so often.

- Warren Lewis

Consumer responsibility is just as important as Corporate responsibility. So, be responsible consumers.

EDIT:

(nightwng2000 Says:
Of course, I had my say in comment 33.
Obviously, I let myself go… just an itty bitty bit. Yeah, i was the textbook case of calm and collect. Yeah… right. Sure. :: sigh :: )

Don’t be to hard on yourself. On the subject of Jack Thompson, I always let myself go. *sigh* maybe I shouldn’t do that so often.

- Warren Lewis

/EDIT

Consumer responsibility is just as important as Corporate responsibility. So, be responsible consumers.

Warren,
A few more details:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15041037/page/2/

And the kid mentioned on page 2 who lied... I'm just a little ticked off. What does he think this is? A game? Ok, maybe that's not exactly an appropriate thing to say considering this is a video game politics site. But really, this kid is messed up. Maybe that's a little harsh, but this is not the time to be seeking attention.

nightwng2000
NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software http://www.facebook.com/nightwing2000 Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as http://groups.myspace.com/pfenl

I can not believe how utterly useless this bill would be. It will completely and totally NOT solve the "problems" in game rating, as some people see them.

As has been pointed out, neither San Andreas' Hot Coffee nor Oblivion's boobs would have been caught by playing those games all the way though. Neither of those things were part of a complete play through of the original, unmodded game. Is playing 100% of the release version of the game even close to necessary? Do you need to do all 30 Rampages in Vice City to see that the game is fairly wantonly violent? Wouldn't just one really get the point of that aspect of the game across?

It's also been pointed out that this would boost the amount of time (and hence, the cost) required to rate a game to an obscene level, but I think it's worse than most people are considering.

One other person mentioned it in passing: Not only would you have to play through the entirety of a game, you would have to play through the entirety of the game on EVERY DIFFICULTY LEVEL, just to make sure the game wasn't more sexy/violent/drugged out/whatever on extreme than it was on easy, or vice versa.

So, not only will Jenny Soccermom at the ESRB have to play all 100 hours of some RPG, she'll have to do it 2 or 3 or 4 times. How will she even know if she's missed something? Most games don't actually offer you a completion percentage.

The fact is that as it stands now, the ESRB operates in a very effective manner. Using a video allows them to have unskilled, average joes rate games, specifically so that the rating isn't coming from a gamer. The video from the publisher essentially has to contain not only a representative sampling of the gameplay, but all of the "worst" elements as well.

If they leave out said "bad stuff" they are hit with a not insignificant fine, plus the game will be re-rated (and pulled by most retailers in the meantime).

Warren,
The article I mention in earlier has been updated slightly at the beginning:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15057589/

While one might think that it silly to look for motive considering his acts might suggest the motive, the fact he was questioning students earlier about particular people makes one wonder.

Worse yet is the fact that no one questioned HIM while he was questioning them. All that time spent out there and no one's red flag went up to even suggest that someone go out and politely ask him for an ID and a nice gentle question as to why he was questioning students? I mean, when I go to my son's school, my ID is in my hand. No arguments about "it's my business" or "privacy rights" from me.

I wonder if this is a problem with the overall school system there. I know other individual schools may have a lack of concern or security, but this seems to be growing in that area.

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Warren and others,
One more update, a rather unpleasant graphic one:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15057589/

nightwng2000
NW2K Software

Out of curiousity, which game came onto these people's radar that ended up being massively damaging due to ESRB Negligence. I haven't played every game, and kids games even less, but was there some sort of rape scene in Psychonauts that was at the end that the ESRB may have missed? Homoeroticism in Kingdom Hearts II? More than usual, I mean.

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@Yukimura

Funny that you try to sell the UK a repressive, totalitarian state cuz when I went over there I could watch some pretty heavy sexual stuff on TV. They even have topless models on the newspapers. I've not seen anything like that in the "super free" USA. Btw comparing Arizona with London is retarded, as it has already been pointed out. Try comparing Chicago or New York with London and you'll realize that USA is very high in the violence scale. Video games are one thing but gun control is another.

If the federal government wanted to create their own rating system for videogames I'd be totally behind them. They could do things in their own asinine way, spend all the time and money they want paying people to replay randomly generated elements and prowl around in search of easter eggs, scramble to throw out a new rating every time a patch or mod hits the internet, and otherwise go on not knowing what the hell they're talking about. Then they could post their ignorant opinions on the game box right beside the old rating.

But leave our ESRB the f*** alone.

*sends a copy of Star Ocean 2nd story to Senator D**chebag* When he can rate this according to his system, I'll take the proposal more seriously.

This leaves me wondering if we do indeed have the lesser of two weavils or the choice there-of. Aren't there FAR more important issues to be addressing? Pork project spending? Flat tax (where the heck did that go!?)? Social Security? Rising Healthcare costs? Stagnant Wages? Sputtering Economy?

And lest anyone think otherwise, I think they're all a bunch of self-serving crooks - I'ld say time to dump something else into Boston Harbor, 'cept they're all so oily the EPA would have a fit as they all floated out to sea on their own oil-slicks.

We could speculate all day on what they're actually trying to accomplish with this inane proposal.... and that's JUST what we should do. My speculation:

I think their aim is as follows. If the ESRB is required to experience every aspect of the game in order to rate it, then they will in turn require the game makers themselves to give them full access and all of the walking points of any and all possible hidden content. Once game makers are expected to identify any possible questionable content, it wouldn't be far off to expect them to rate their games themselves. However, a game maker rating themselves doesn't mean anything unless they can be held accountable should their game break that rating.... and THAT's their aim. Force games to become afraid of being found a grade lower than what they claimed to be....

What the game industry needs is honesty between game developers and the ESRB. If the developers would truthfully describe the *potential* content of the game (i.e., user-created content, mods, and Easter eggs) directly to the the ratings board, we wouldn't be having so many scandals. In fact, a new rating system might be in order to take variables like user-created content into account. Game devs like Rockstar and Bethesda are in effect screwing the ESRB over when they secretly include objectionable content within the game data. Other games in which the nudity, etc. comes from completely external data are more forgivable, but from now the people who make the games need to give the ESRB the whole story, including a prediction of what users might be able to do with the game.

While I can't say what exactly this bill is going to do since the details of the bill is not known, it is reasonable to think that a rating system should encompass the whole game, not just a part of the game. Having said that, not just this bill but the ESRB also constitutes censorship in this nation that is infringing upon our freedom of speech, if gaming indeed is a form of 'speech'. Quite frankly, they can put whatever rating they want on games, I think I'm old enough to play games with the most adult ratings. As for the kids who wont be able to play.. well they can't even vote anyway, so who cares, right?

Forget MMOs and big single-player games. The real buzzkillers for this bill are games involving massive amounts of downloadable, user-created content. Right now, I have an 12 gig Unreal Tournament 2004 directory, and about 2/3 of that is custom map content almost entirely made by third parties. I happen to know that two or three of those maps include depictions of uncovered breasts. That alone ought to highlight the problem; that said, the very worst of UT's content happens to be pretty tame overall. The real problem comes in with games that push the content-authoring envelope further, like the soon-to-come life-sim Spore. With an FPS with custom content, I can (with a little know-how) look at the map/mod list before I connect, see that the next map in the rotation is "DM-BigPornoPalace[Clan TTF ReMix]," and find another server to play on. However, according to its description, Spore will push user-created content directly to the user along several vectors; the creatures that populate the world, aside from those created by the local player, will be selected by some unknown arbitrary algorithm from the pool of ALL user created creatures. Hence, I could find that my herd of purple alpacas were being -- shall we say, attacked? -- by a flock of carnivorous winged dildos that happen to fill the algorithm's desire for an avian predator. Now, if Spore is half as good as the hype, it's going to be one of the most relevant gaming watersheds of the decade; nevertheless, its dynamic content system may well be a ruthlessly double-edged sword, ESPECIALLY in the wake of asinine legislation. What happens when a really thought-provoking game gets barred for sale to minors or gutted in the media because some unenlightened rater happened to see a walking anus or some hateful watchdog put a few dozen screenshots of the game's absolute filthiest user creations into a powerpoint presentation for the board? I guarantee that SOMEWHERE in Spore, someone is going to make independently ambulatory versions of every imaginable sexual organ or sex aid and construct buildings with designs hateful to every known religion (say, a town full of swastikas, one full of burning crosses, or one with obvious depictions of Mohammed standing knee-deep in a pig carcass). I ALSO believe that the really wretched material will make up only a tiny proportion of the Spore universe, such a small part that one would have to "go hunting" to find it. Nevertheless, if video game censorship gets further politicized, how long will it be before somebody's political action group scours any game with user-created content for walking fetuses, tarbabies, or snuff, and then, bearing "proof" of the game's foul nature, demand a recall?

Wait until games like "Spore" become commonplace, and you could literally spend the rest of your life playing through "all there is to see".

so why not make the parents play through these games in their entirety before they buy them for their children? the government wont think twice about regulating things like oil and foreign labor laws, but when it comes to something that will make parent's lives be less involved with their childrens day-to-day, more power to it! its not at all difficult to learn information about any game with the internet out there, but i guess those smart parents who bought their kids GTA way back when without even reading the title are kicking themselves right now.

When i was little, my father, a Special Forces soldier, would look at whatever i played whenever he was home, and would often play games with me. I remember just a few years ago, we bought mechwarrior 3 and would lan at his appartment. This is the greatest waste of government money in recent history. This is an issue of parental responsibility. Play with your kids. Look at what they bring home. GRAND THEFT AUTO is obviously not for kids, it even tells you so in its TITLE! Who would buy grand theft auto for a kid anyway? Although in all fairness, i played wolfenstein 3d as a kid, mainly because my grandfather, a Ranger in WW2, hated Nazis. Nonetheless, this is an amazing waste of money from the taxpayers, money that could be better spent on, i don't know, our military, education at the state levels, road conditions in some states, etc.

And btw, stop posing for votes jackasses. This is why nobody votes.

This is what I see:

Past leading up to the present: As concerns over the content in video games rose, the ESRB was created so that people (and parents) would be able to determine, quickly and easily, what kind of content the game had (and whether they deemed it appropriate for their kids to play). Those that have come after the video games industry have been firewalled off with the ESRB, with the content of the game clearly posted and not merely a rating, if they don't like what's in it, then don't buy it. But with GTA:SA and ES IV: O, there are cracks in the defense, and those who object to the content now have an avenue they can work through. They have evidence showing that the ESRB ratings are not 100% reliable.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESRB

The bill itself (and Brownback's statements): Both imply that the ESRB has been doing extremely sloppy work, not just a couple misses in thousands of games, but an implied though unstated 'many or most games and that Government supervision is required because the industry is unable to regulate itself.'
In addition, a game's content remains fairly consistent throughout it, a person doesn't have to play the game in its entirety to have a good understanding of its content. Look at any game in these series and see if the content varies significantly within the game: Metal Slug, Command & Conquer, Dragon Quest, Mega Man, Super Mario, Sonic, The Sims, Battlefield ####, Civilization, WarCraft, Mortal Kombat. They overall don't. I wonder what the bill's definition of in its entirety would mean, it oculd play the game though with every single possible combination...

If rejected: The phrasing of the bill will give Brownback and Company ammo that can be used in propaganda against the ESRB and others. If rejected, they can start make a huge fuss about how the Video Games Industry is not being regulated, for 'the common good.' (Consider, if a Republican votes against a bill to fund an Abortion Clinic, Democrats can make statements about how that Republican voted against funding for medical facilities and research. If a Democrat votes against a bill that would allow a national park to be turned into residential development, Republicans can make statements about the Democrat voting against providing new homes (possibly low-income housing))


If accepted, near future effects: The ESRB will have a Mr.Smith perched on its back, 24/7, and through it, the game industry. Because of the bill, the government will be able to dictate every single rating and operationg proecdure. I can expect that when the ESRB rates a game, they will have to go though numerous regulations, that will keep increasing, year after year. Extremists, Special Interest Groups, Lobbysits, and others will have a backdoor that they can dictate terms through. Somebody doesn't like their group's portrayal in a game, they can tack that onto the rating system. Gamer's interests will be neglected. (Remember: People are subjective and emotional, a person can hear a fraction of the story and make a firm decision)
They could also hurt opposition groups the same way. The video games industry will take a rather noticeable hit, but will try to adapt. The exact measures of the bill will dictate how extensive the adaptation.

Long-term: The ESRB will be replaced by the government. Either by having more bills that have the government annex the ESRB, or by tacking evermore regulations, red tape, and requirements until the ESRB can't handle the load anymore/slips on a technicality. Another possibility is that another Hot Coffee could occur, or even that the ESRB is made accountable for user-content.
With this bill, the government will have its foot in the door and won't be taking it out. Anybody who takes the gamers side can be easily portrayed as taking the side of 'murder simulators.'
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2006/10/02
Sigh.
What happened to no Taxation without Representation? The Colonies broke away from the British because they were being subjected to decisions from several months and thousands of miles away without being allowed to have their own voices heard, concerns considered, or a vote in what happened. There are just so many people now. Us breaking away would be quite impossible.
Any suggestions on what we can do?
I see parallels in Terry Goodkind's book, Faith of the Fallen (the wiki entry is incomplete)

[...] Well, it finally happened.  Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) has authored a suspicious-smelling piece of legislation that would force the ESRB (the video game ratings board) to play all video games completely before issuing a review.  Brownback claims that any other method of reviewing games is not “meaningful and worthy of a parent’s trust.”  Here’s the thing, Sam: playing a video game “completely,” as you might suggest, still doesn’t catch everything.  It wouldn’t have caught Hot Coffee, the big scandal in GTA: Vice City.  It wouldn’t have prevented the nudie mod that caused the change in Oblivion’s rating… that was a fan-created mod, or modification.  That’s right, people, not everything in a video game is actually put there by the developers and programmers!  Shock and Awe! [...]

"Sen. Sam Brownback has sponsored legislation in the United States Senate which would require the ESRB to play games in their entirety before assigning an age rating."

I have an idea. How about we require politicians to play at least one video game in its entirety before they make stupid laws and try to influence the industry.

I don't understand how laws can be made to regulate a certain industry when the lawmakers have no knowledge of the industry.

I think we can all agree that this is an unreasonable request to expect an entire playthrough in a timely fashion. Why not a compromise of some kind, like requiring the ESRB to play 20 hours of a game, instead of having to go through all of it's possible content? Most games are about 15-20 hours long anyways (excluding a monolith like Oblivion or one of the many Atlus strategy rpgs), and even if a game's length exceeds that timeframe it should give a reasonable look into the game's mechanic and content.

I can't believe that another politician is trying to propose legislation on an issue that they know nothing about... Oh, wait, yes I can! Hilary had a fit about GTA. Don't forget the frenzy about Doom and its supposed effect on the Columbine murder/suicides.

When will people learn that it's not because a game is violent that their kids become violent, it's because their kids lean towards violence that they are drawn to violent games and content? But I guess little Susie and Bobby are perfect in every way. It must be someone else's fault that MY kid is a horrible little heathen! I've played some bloddy and violent games, and I'd like to think I'm somewhat normal.

And why do we focus on bloody violent games? Ever play KOTOR (Knights Of The Old Republic)? That game is bloodless (if I remember right), but you can choose to kill completely innocent people for literally no reason. Doesn't that teach bad behavior to children? KOTOR also is another example of games that would be near impossible to play through completely as you can choose to preform many different acts in many different ways. Even in some of the most "kid-freindly" games like Kingdom Hearts you KILL enemies. Maybe we should all start playing Introduction to Typing for fun, and then when Columbine 2 happens they can blame something else!

It's been said before but these idiots in DC (both Republican and Democrat) really need to learn what they are talking about before they decide to tell us how to live or what we can and cannot play/watch/do/eat/drink/say/think. It's more that just the way they think of video games. The Janet Jackson nipple slip was blown way out of proportion. I was watching that on a 60 inch TV and her breast was maybe the size of my thumb nail (and blurry). As a result, the FCC can now levy heavy fines on stations. In an over-reaction to Howard Stern, the FCC can now fine the DJs; not the station, but the person on the air; nearly $100,000 or more.

It's absurd the way these politicans think they can just make laws and throw money at an isssue to make it go away. We need people who actually know what they are talking about to make laws. No wonder any real action takes 5 years to go through and we are in debt.

Sorry for the rant!

Give the rating system to the feds or whatever, rate it all XXX... It's all good, I'm over 21. Besides, worse the rating, more the enthusiasm to play. And if parents aren't going to buy their kids the games because the rating, it's probably all for the best. Maybe they'll actually do some homework.. or better yet, god forbid, they'll go outside! O.O
 
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Andrew EisenHence the "Uh, yeah. Obviously."09/02/2014 - 12:53am
SleakerI think Nintendo has proven over the last 2 years that it doesn't.09/02/2014 - 12:31am
Andrew EisenSleaker - Uh, yeah. Obviously.09/01/2014 - 8:20pm
Sleaker@AE - exclusives do not a console business make.09/01/2014 - 8:03pm
Papa MidnightI find it disappointing that, despite the presence of a snopes article and multiple articles countering it, people are still spreading a fake news story about a "SWATter" being sentenced to X (because the number seems to keep changing) years in prison.09/01/2014 - 5:08pm
Papa MidnightAnd resulting in PC gaming continuing to be held back by developer habits09/01/2014 - 5:07pm
Papa MidnightI find it disappointing that the current gen of consoles is representative of 2009-2010 in PC gaming, and will be the bar by which games are released over the next 8 years - resulting in more years of poor PC ports (if they're ever ported)09/01/2014 - 5:06pm
Andrew EisenMeanwhile, 6 of Wii U's top 12 are exclusive: Mario 3D World, Nintendo Land, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, Wonderful 101, and ZombiU. (Wind Waker HD is on the list too but I didn't count it.)09/01/2014 - 4:36pm
Andrew EisenLikewise, only two of Xbox One's top 12 are exclusive: Dead Rising 3 and Ryse: Son of Rome (if you ignore a PC release later this year).09/01/2014 - 4:34pm
Andrew EisenNot to disrespect the current gen of consoles but I find it telling that of the "12 Best Games For The PS4" (per Kotaku), only two are exclusive to the system: Infamous: Second Son and Resogun.09/01/2014 - 4:30pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/09/01/beyond-two-souls-ps4-trophies-emerge-directors-cut-reported/ MMM MMM, nothing quire like reheated last gen games to make you appreciate the 400 bucks you spent on a new console.09/01/2014 - 4:24pm
Andrew EisenThat's actually a super depressing thought, that a bunch of retweeters are taking that pic as an illustration of the actual issue instead of an example of a complete misunderstanding of it.09/01/2014 - 4:20pm
Andrew EisenObviously, the picture was created by someone who doesn't understand what the issue actually is (or, possibly, someone trying to satire said misunderstanding).09/01/2014 - 4:10pm
Papa MidnightPeople fear and attack what they do not understand.09/01/2014 - 4:04pm
Papa MidnightWell, let's not forget. Someone held their hand in a peace sign a few weeks ago and people started claiming it was a gang sign. Or a police chief displayed the hand signal of their fraternity and was accused of the same.09/01/2014 - 4:04pm
SleakerEither people don't understand that what the picture is saying is true, or the picture was created out of a misunderstanding of what sexism is.09/01/2014 - 3:52pm
Sleaker@AE ok yah that's where the kind of confusion I'm getting. Your tweet can be taken to mean two different things.09/01/2014 - 3:51pm
Andrew EisenSleaker - No. No, not even remotely. The pic attached to my tweet was not made by me; it's not a statement I'm making. It's an illustration of the complete misunderstanding of the issue my tweet is referring to.09/01/2014 - 3:13pm
Papa MidnightIn other news, Netflix states why it paid Comcast: http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/29/technology/netflix-comcast/index.html?hpt=hp_t209/01/2014 - 3:10pm
Papa MidnightAndrew Eisen: Sites like Tumblr make things seem much bigger than they are. A vocal extreme minority start complaining and things go as they do.09/01/2014 - 3:09pm
 

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