February 14, 2007 11:51 AM PST

Senator wants to ban 'deceptive' video game ratings

A U.S. Senate Republican with presidential ambitions has renewed his push to slap new regulations on the video and computer game industry, including a ban on "deceptive" labels by ratings outfits.

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) on Tuesday reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act, first proposed last September. It calls for requiring video game rating organizations to play all games "in their entirety" before issuing labels and prohibiting game developers from withholding any "hidden" game content from raters. It would also punish ratings groups that "grossly mischaracterize" any game's content.

"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," Brownback, who is expected to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said in a statement.

The proposed regulations represent another reaction to a high-profile scandal surrounding the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. In July 2005, reports surfaced that a readily downloadable modification could unlock sexually explicit scenes in the best-selling game, prompting bipartisan outcry from Capitol Hill and a federal investigation.

The bill's introduction drew opposition from the Entertainment Software Association, which lobbies for the video game industry. An ESA executive said the group believes the existing rating process is already sufficiently reliable and "remarkably useful" to parents.

"Sen. Brownback's bill not only attempts to address problems that don't exist, but his recommendations are unworkable and will not help consumers," Carolyn Rauch, a senior vice president at ESA, said in an e-mailed statement. "For instance, how does one play a game in its 'entirety' when a game has no defined end?"

A representative for the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the video game industry's primary self-regulatory body, said the organization had no comment at this time.

The ESRB describes at its Web site how it goes about evaluating games. It says it requires game makers to submit answers to a "detailed questionnaire" about their products and a videotape or DVD that displays all "pertinent content," including the most extreme instances of sex, violence, language, drugs and gambling. They must also turn over "pertinent content that is not playable, but will exist in the game code on the final game disc."

After investigating the Grand Theft Auto incident, ESRB opted to change the game's rating from M (Mature) to AO (Adults-Only). The game's publishers, New York-based Take-Two Interactive Software and Rockstar Games, went on to reach a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in which they agreed to "clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging and in any promotion or advertisement...content relevant to the rating." The companies also agreed to pay $11,000 for each future violation.

Brownback's bill also reflects his suspicion that those engaged in the rating process have conflicts of interest. It proposes directing the Government Accountability Office to issue a report on the effectiveness of the ESRB's rating system, with particular attention to whether the process would be better served if "developed and administered by persons or entities with no financial interest in the video and computer game industry."

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) each introduced nearly identical proposals last September in the House of Representatives. Neither Brownback's earlier attempt nor the House efforts ever progressed to a vote.

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Sam Brownback, video game, regulation, game company, Grand Theft Auto

13 comments

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pot, meet kettle
How about this: we'll force ratings boards to play through an entire game before rating it when congress(wo)men read through every line of every bill in front of them before voting on it. Sound fair?

-SD-
Posted by SteveDave2 (34 comments )
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What does Congress Have Nothing Better to DO
THE MIDDLE EAST, NORTH KOREA, TERRORISTS, ILLEGALS, SOCIAL SECURITY, ENERGY, GOVERNMENT WASTE, AND A 1000 OTHER THINGS I DON'T CARE TO TYPE ARE MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN VIDEO GAME LAWS...
Posted by SiXiam (69 comments )
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We should also...
hold lawmaker accountable for misleading laws and laws that are just out right stupid. They should also have to explain in detail exactly how each law works and if they can't they should be fined for not being able to do so.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
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Use Common Sense
The ESRB isn't at fault-- parents are. Also, kids are at fault, for wanting to play "Mature" or "AO" games, some of which are evidence of a diseased mind (I mean, seriously, some of that stuff's just nasty.) But if a kid is allowed to get stuff rated M, and he's way underage, ask the parent why they let the kid buy the games in the first place. This is especially true of those who complain that the stuff in games is really horrible, it shouldn't be on the market. Occasionally there have been games that were rated too low, but still, if a game is called, "Mortal Kombat," should you really let a little kid play it?
Posted by ben::zen (127 comments )
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ratings are not the answer
rather than change a whole new system, why not work on enforcing them. the ratings as they are are already satisfactory if they are adhered to. buying an 8 year old game like gears of war is the same as buying a Bruce Willis movie for them. parents should no longer plead ignorance. if they are unsure, see a preview much the same as you would a movie.
Posted by bradfriedrich (6 comments )
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ratings are not the answer
rather than change a whole new system, why not work on enforcing them. the ratings as they are are already satisfactory if they are adhered to. buying an 8 year old game like gears of war is the same as buying a Bruce Willis movie for them. parents should no longer plead ignorance. if they are unsure, see a preview much the same as you would a movie.
Posted by bradfriedrich (6 comments )
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stupid
Appreciate the sentiment but a waste of govt time. If my son plays games too much he gets over aggressive. o what do i do. Let me play less. No legislative action needed.
Posted by sheuerma (1 comment )
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this is useless
Posted by xpfilipino (5 comments )
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THE MIDDLE EAST, NORTH AUSTRALIA, NORTH CHINA BALALALALALLALAL
Posted by xpfilipino (5 comments )
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WHAT THE FUDGEEEE
Posted by xpfilipino (5 comments )
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really this is stupid
waster offff money
Posted by xpfilipino (5 comments )
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waste
waste of money
Posted by xpfilipino (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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