November 29, 2005 5:05 PM PST

Senators target 'graphic' video games

A new front in the political wars over sex and violence in video games opened Tuesday when Senators Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman called for a new crackdown on the industry by the federal government.

Sex and violence in video games has spiraled out of control, the two Democratic senators claimed, pointing to a recent flap over whether Rockstar Games embedded a sex-themed scene in its popular Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game.

Parents should be able to make "sure their kids can't walk into a store and buy a video game that has graphic, violent and pornographic content," Clinton said in a statement saying the actual bill will be introduced when the Senate returns from vacation on Dec. 12.

The announcement coincides with Tuesday's release of a report by the National Institute on Media and the Family, which called the industry-operated rating system for video games "beyond repair."

Pressure on the video game industry also came from a third political front: Sen. Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, who convened a full-day hearing Tuesday on the topic of "decency" in TV and radio broadcasts and through computer games. America lacks "the kind of moral compass the country should have for our young people," Stevens warned.

The political net effect was to put the industry, already reeling from a series of state laws targeting video games, on the defensive. (It had hoped to defuse criticism with an announcement a day earlier that Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony will include parental controls in their next-generation consoles.)

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association who testified before the Senate hearing, said in a statement sent to CNET News.com that the Clinton-Lieberman bill was unconstitutional and unnecessary. "If enacted, the bill will be struck down as have similar bills passed in several states," Lowenstein said. "So while this bill is positioned as a pro-family measure, in truth it will leave parents no better off."

The "Family Entertainment Protection Act"
Details on the measure, tentatively titled the Family Entertainment Protection Act, remains scarce. Lieberman's office refused to provide details, a sign that the proposed legislation may not been finalized.

But a summary that the two senators distributed says that the bill will prohibit the sale of "mature" video games to anyone younger than 18 years old; order the Federal Trade Commission to "investigate misleading ratings" on video games; solicit public complaints about video games; and require an "annual, independent analysis of game ratings" separate from the one currently created by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

The ESRB already rates games based on categories including alcohol, blood, violence, sex and nudity. In addition to a detailed description typically found on the back of a video game box, the board also creates a general seven-level rating indicating the game is appropriate for ages including "early childhood," "teen," or "adults only."

Those ratings are the ones that have regularly come under fire by the National Institute on Media and the Family, a Minnesota-based advocacy group that has been publishing a "scorecard" on the video game industry for the last decade.

Its most recent edition gives the industry a "D-" for retailers' real-world enforcement of sales to minors, an "F" for ratings accuracy, and a "B" for retailers' stated policies. "This year it appears that retailers are actually more negligent in enforcing their policies than last year," the scorecard says. "It seems that retailers would rather appear as if they care about children than actually take simple steps to protect them."

Clinton has been a critic of video games even before the sex-scandal involving Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas erupted in July. Clinton said in March, for instance: "Probably one of the biggest complaints I've heard is about some of the video games, particularly 'Grand Theft Auto,' which has so many demeaning messages about women and so encourages violent imagination and activities and it scares parents."

Rockstar, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, has said the so-called "Hot Coffee" modification--which permits a player to simulate sex with a woman--was based on a "determined group of hackers" who performed "significant technical modifications and reverse-engineering" of the game. It was subsequently slapped with an Adults Only rating.

Criticism of the video game industry has been a bipartisan phenomenon. The House of Representatives voted 355 to 21 for a resolution calling for an investigation of Grand Theft Auto, and a similar resolution was introduced in the Senate.

11 comments

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Its about sex
Grand Theft Auto has always been a little controversial, but Hillary Clinton didnt take notice until the locked sex game was unlocked by third party mods.

This to me, shows that they prioritize censorship of sexual things, and dont care about violence.

Look at television these days, watch any channel at a primetime hour and youll see shows about crime scene investigation, with intricit murder plots. No doubt these have helped people who are mentally insane enough, murder people.

On a sidenote, Texas has decided to not teach anything about prevention of STD's, and only aknowledging abstinence as the lone method of staying safe. Look at how many of our (conservative) representitives in higher government come from Texas, and bordering southern states.
Posted by wazzledoozle (288 comments )
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Americans are So obsessed with anything sexual
I am an American. Born and raised here for generations. But, I have traveled abroad and I have found that the American attitudes regarding sex are so over the top. Most other countries around the world have very lazy attitudes toward sex. Almost anything goes on television and right on city streets! People have been known to run through downtown streets in Germany, France, and England totally naked, with children around, and everyone just points and laughs! It's no big deal. Right on a busy corner in London, I witnessed a television game show being taped where a woman had to smell men's bare butts while blindfolded to see if she could tell her husbands odor from another man's! No one thought anything of it. If that had happened on a busy corner in New York, we would have the government and lame "family entertainment police" all over it.
The bottom line is, sex is natural. It's in video games. Its on television. It happens everyday in millions of bedrooms around the world. Relax people, it's just sex.
Posted by thenet411 (415 comments )
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law suits
you know when wrestling became big 2 little boys were pretending to be wrestling and one of the boys was killed.. a law suit was filed...now that there is more sex and violence in video games i am sure it is just a matter of time before one of the manufacturers of video games will have a law suit slapped against them..on another note they now have video games like vtech and etc.. to help enhance childrens learning abilities. has vtech or any other learning video game ever had this much public attention? no bc that doesnt matter. i am willing to bet that most kids have an xbox at the age of 6 instead of a learning video game system such as vtech or etc...
Posted by val31 (37 comments )
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Mediawise has no creditability.
"This year, every new study and all the latest research pointed to the same fact: video games are excellent teachers. Just as activity simulators can help train players for real-world tasks, violent video games coax players into actual aggression and antagonistic attitudes. If there was ever any doubt about the impact of video games on children it has finally been laid to rest. Everyone in the scientific community agrees, whether an ally of the industry or a critic of its practices - whether or not they realize they agree - because every bit of research we have seen has shown, in one way or another, that video games are powerful in potential and effect, for good and for ill."


Obviously they're selective in what research they pay attention to (only the research that supports their position). The scientific community is by no means in agreement on the effects of violence on children. For every report they cite that says there is a link one can find one saying there isn't.

One their "Video game fact sheet" they state:
"Violence (homicide, suicide, and trauma) is a leading cause of death for children, adolescents and young adults, more prevalent than disease, cancer or congenital disorders (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2001)."

By it's inclusion and without any clarification it would appear they are trying to imply that video games are the cause of this.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
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Sen. Ted Stevens & Decency
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Sen. Ted Stevens the one who wanted to spend 500 millions dollars to build one bridge between a 3,000 pop town and 50 pop town and build another between a small town and almost deserted dock. Decency is not spending half a billion a pork. Then you can bad mouth games.
Posted by reptile007 (1 comment )
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Ted Stevens and More Decency
Ted Stevens was also the one who stubbornly refused to allow to have oil executives be sworn in under oath before they testified to Congress. As it turns out, documents found show that they probably lied to Congress.
Posted by rbilotta (4 comments )
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Rating system is fine
no rating system will work if Parents who don't want their children to watch certain Media, simply dont pay attention or dont care.

GTA is rating Mature, 17+ right on the box, its not the industrys fault that parents dont watch what Media their kids consume.

Even though I'm fairly young, I don't have a huge problem with not being able to sell M games to pre 17 people without parental consent (although I know their would be many ways around that, not like it would stop much, but that a different story)

However I honestly don't get the problem people have with the rating systems, sure their was the whole GTA fiasco but that is Rockstar fault, not the ESRB, (and as others have pointed out I cant help but find something so utterly wrong with parents who are "OK" with their kids acting out gang violence, but be utterly and totally revolted by the fact that their is a hidden sex minigame)

I'm strongly of the sentiment that the government should butt out of regulating content/deceny and leave that up to the parents.

If a parent doesn't have the time to monitor or block access to media they dont approve of, or teach their children basic morals, quite frankly they shouldn't be parents in the first place.
Posted by Madrone (43 comments )
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UGH
You know, the government needs to be worried about things like health and jobs NOT pleasure, its the parents job to moderate what there children do NOT the governments and im sick of them thinking it is. WE LIKE VIOLENT GAMES, would they rather us do it for real?
Posted by Fault (2 comments )
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Political Positioning
Can anyone say 'running for office'? This is 100% political positioning. The government needs to leave the parenting to the parents. If they really wanted to take a step forward, they could accept responsibility for the 'results' that they have created by continually taking steps to erode family morals and religious beliefs. Their actions are politically motivated and downright hypocritical, plain and simple.
Posted by JNET001 (1 comment )
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American Pregidous Is Spiraling Out Of Control....
Every form of entertainment has to go through a time of pregidous, TV, radio, even books. It's video games turn, in a few years some new form of entertainment will come out and some new senators will fight it and the government will forget all about it, we've got nothing to worry about. As long as the gamers keep fighting they'll eventually give up and move on to something else and than we can sit back and relax. It's all a matter of time.
Posted by Thorax232 (27 comments )
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GTA already Mature rated
How come people still buy their kids M rated games when they know its going to turn out bad. Grand Theft Auto was a Mature rated game and the younger type gamer are still getting their hands on them. I say not only should retail stores pay more attention to this but rental stores too. Especially parents, gardians, and older siblings.

sign, The King of Advanced Virtual Arts
Posted by King Ava (13 comments )
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