Should Gaming Age Ratings Be Enforced?

By John Walker on March 9th, 2009 at 12:30 pm.

They should have mental age ratings too.

The New Zealand government’s Chief Censor, Bill Hastings, has suggested that parents who buy games for under-age children should be prosecuted. Describing the policy as “shock value”, he told New Zealand’s The Dominion Post (reported by Stuff.co.nz), “It would send out a message that the enforcement agency means business.”

Any time government officials start trying to get involved in videogaming matters, the response is quick and angry. “Get off our lawn!” cry out the gaming community, afraid of the vote winning moves in response to rumours and ignorance. But here’s a thought. Maybe Hastings is right.

While the job title “Chief Censor” may be a sinister one, and while my understanding of the New Zealand government comes from Flight of the Conchords’ recent NZ prime ministerial visit, it’s important to realise that Hastings is not calling for either the censoring of games, nor for a ban on their sales. He’s suggesting that the laws already in place be enforced.

As reported by Stuff.co.nz, Hastings explained that people do not take gaming age certificates seriously. “They might think the offence is silly, but it ain’t”. He suggests up to three months in prison, or a $NZ10,000 (£3,500) fine.

“That’s what the law says, but . . . you’re not going to have police officers in every bedroom… There would certainly be some shock value to prosecuting a parent who gives their under-18 child access to a restricted game.”

Of course there remains an enormous gap in people’s knowledge as to what adverse effects playing adult videogames has on children. The NZ politician makes some spurious claims of unmentioned studies that prove the damage caused, but still focuses his argument on enforcing the restrictions already in place, rather than imprisoning developers. Perhaps this is somewhat spoiled by the country’s banning Manhunt, but maybe this new angle could be progress. (Hastings is also suggesting that all games, not just those with objectionable content, be required to receive certification from classification boards, as with films.)

I’d argue that enforcing age ratings on games is perhaps essential, and not because I’m worried about seven year olds playing GTA IV. I’m worried about 31 year olds not being able to play GTA IV.

Obviously the effect on the young shouldn’t be crassly dismissed. The suggestion that graphic violence will do permanent harm to children is one I want to see some evidence for. (Although I realise this is deeply problematic, as deliberately showing potentially harmful footage to children might run into a small problem of ethics.) But my common sense says that kids get scared, and scary stuff doesn’t need to be a part of kids’ lives. I’m not concerned that your child getting hold of Manhunt is going to turn him into a serial killer. It isn’t. But I would be worried that he’d have horrible nightmares, or a generally unhappy time. And that seems worth caring about.

But the selfish motivation to enforce ratings is to protect my gaming. And more importantly, respecting adults and choice. Some games are designed for only adults to play, and in a society where those games are accessible to all ages, it makes it massively more likely that adult gaming will be increasingly censored. In fact, in a world where all games can be played by all children, they probably should be censored. I don’t want that world. I want to be able to play games with violence and swearing if I choose to. (And as it happens, I generally don’t choose to. But I want to be able to choose.)

Parents are not informed about games, and this is primarily because most attempts to inform them come from hellraising ignoramuses trying to score a headline. Hastings told the Dominion Post, “For the first time in history, kids are more savvy with technology than parents … parents need to get up to speed on the digital divide. They need to look at what their kids are playing and doing.” But I’d suggest that even awareness isn’t enough. I remember working in EB when I was 19, when parents – with their young children – would bring the latest 18 certificate game to the counter. I’d say to them, “Is this for your kid?” They’d say it was. I’d point out the 18 on the box, and they’d tell me they didn’t care. They’re an adult, and the only thing I wasn’t allowed to do was sell the game to someone under the age on the box.

So why are people reacting with shock to the story? Well, perhaps it’s a matter of balance. Obviously any suggestions of restrictions or censorship are going to anger many. But perhaps the big mistake Hastings is making is the proposition of jail time. This is enormously counter-intuitive. If he believes a parent is being neglectful when buying such games, then how putting them in prison is supposed to improve this is not clear. Clearly the threat of it might have an impact, but I cannot see how enforcing it could ever help anyone. And taking all of a family’s money isn’t likely to help anyone either. I’d argue for more imaginative penalties, proportional to the individual. Consequence is fine, debilitation perhaps not.

Or is this an invasion by the state into how people raise their families? Should parents be free to let their children play whichever games they choose? Are age ratings unenforceable without ghastly phrases like “nanny state” rearing their heads? Indeed, how could the law be enforced if it were in place? Short of the police raiding homes and checking for copies of Saints Row 2, it’s hard to imagine what could be done. Is the threat of a penalty, even if it’s unenforceable, enough to protect children from adult games, or indeed protect adult games from children? Let us know what you think.

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231 Comments »

  1. TooNu says:

    Why debate over common sense?
    If the certificate says 18, don’t buy it for a child. Who really needs that pointed out to them? The only people that do it don’t care in the first place. “I didn’t relise…” is not an excuse that washes. End.

  2. Red says:

    Why can’t they enforce the labels on video games as those on movies? They’re issued by the same agency, why should they be treated any differently?

  3. Simon says:

    If they would enforce all age ratings, not just on games but on movies too. So that parents can’t bring kids into movies they’re too young for and annoy everyone else .. that sounds like a good thing.
    I mean, no reason to single out one medium, there’s plenty of literature about describing the evils of movies, tv, radio, music and indeed literature itself.

  4. piphil says:

    If they’re not going to enforce the ratings, why even bother? I think that we do need to see more parents prosecuted for buying or allowing their child to access games they’re not meant to be playing.

    There needs to be a sea change in the mindset of the general population. No decent parent would buy an 18 rated DVD and allow their children to watch it. Games are still considered as toys to many however. Even giving games the same ratings system as movies doesn’t seem to have put the message across that computer games are capable of being as “adult” as any other media.

    Maybe once the current generation of teenagers, who have lived with gaming as a mainstream entertainment option, have grown up, the problem will start to melt away as knowledge of the medium becomes more widespread?

  5. Gap Gen says:

    I think this is possibly a good idea. Obviously there are lawmaking experts who understand the consequences better than I do, but I think this kind of legislation is a good foil to parents who blame games for their own negligence.

    That said, parents will have to be more careful – I know someone aged 8 who played Zelda (rating 12, I think) and responsibly handled, I don’t think it’s too much of a problem. Of course, this will have to be handled intelligently but the police and courts. I suspect it will only be used in rare, severe cases.

    That said, access to media is very leaky, although again it’s a parent’s responsibility (however difficult in the internet age) to monitor their child’s access to media.

  6. qrter says:

    Indeed, how could the law be enforced if it were in place? Short of the police raiding homes and checking for copies of Saints Row 2, it’s hard to imagine what could be done.

    This seems baffling to me too. The police would not only have to find copies of SR2 but then force the parents to play the game and then hope those parents don’t know how to play or something? Or find people who want to grass up other people buying games for their underage children?

    By then we’ll have long ago crossed into the realm of the completely ridiculous, ofcourse.

  7. Tworak says:

    100 smacks in the planet with a wiimote sounds like a more fitting punishment

  8. BooleanBob says:

    Well… if the govt. wants kids to stay away from mature content, they shouldn’t just pay lip service to a ratings system. There should be legal framework to back that up – as with booze, ciggies, porn, etc.

    At the same time, I think a parent’s failing in this scenario isn’t letting the kid play a Manhunt or watch a City of God or Basic Instinct, but failing to keep track of the things they’re seeing and sitting down with them to explain the difference between fantasy and reality; the appropriate wider social contexts for sex and violence.

    But as someone who struggles to keep a nine year-old sister in tow, let alone kids I might one day have actual responsibility for and am not just screwing up as a courtesy, I have to accept that once again my rather lengthy opinion on such matters is somewhat triflingly worthy.

  9. Acosta says:

    My position for this is quite clear: any “protective” law to enforce ratings in videogame must be applied to any other medum, that includes TV, films, books, magazines and any other. If you think that as government you need to “protect” your citizen, do it with every type of media and go see if that fly.

    What can’t be tolerated is letting the government treat videogame as it was a case apart, because that will condemn it to the ghetto, a juvenile entertainment that will never be allowed to develop as it should. That’s not acceptable.

  10. TooNu says:

    Or is this an invasion by the state into how people raise their families?
    Yes it is, but frankly many parents in crappy areas around the UK specifically need to be walked through parenting because having a child and raising a child are not the same thing. Any teenage slapper can get knocked up and have a brat, but not raise it.

    Should parents be free to let their children play whichever games they choose?
    No. Many games with free choice for example give you multiple ways of ending an ingame life or acting out a scenario that comes from or is directly inspired from real life scenarios. Rape, mutilation, abuse in all it’s horrific forms. The only way this could be condoned was if the child playing said game was coached during, after or beforehand in that said “activities” are generally frowned upon and should not be taken as a performance guide for life.
    Sadly they do not do this, and while it may not be abundant now, judging by the amount of moronic horrible children you get screaming down Xbox live or over teamspeak I would suggest that parents don’t have an active role in their gameplay.

    Are age ratings unenforceable without ghastly phrases like “nanny state” rearing their heads?
    Does it matter what it is called? The point being that the sensible people who know it is wrong to buy an adult game intended for children are therefore under scrutiny jsut as much as the idiots doing it, kind of makes the sensible people a tad miffed at being watched or questioned.
    I couldn’t care less about them. If parents can’t enforce a simple rule as that, then somebody needs to and needs to crack down on it hard.

    Indeed, how could the law be enforced if it were in place?
    How is any other law enforced? fines, jail term etc. Get caught then get into trouble and pay for it. You won’t do it again, your friends will think twice about doing it. That’s how it works, you learn from mistakes and you learn that if something hurts you don’t go doing it again because it hurts….

    Short of the police raiding homes and checking for copies of Saints Row 2, it’s hard to imagine what could be done. Is the threat of a penalty, even if it’s unenforceable, enough to protect children from adult games, or indeed protect adult games from children?

    I can not answer this with a straight yes or no. Children don’t need protecting from games, they need better more guiding parents who are active and interested at least in what their children are doing. If you are the sort of parent that thinks “artistic integrety” before you think about how your child may be affected by a game then I think you need to take a step back and think long and hard. Games, like books and movies and paintings and music have a profound affect on a person no matter their age. So let’s start thinking that way and then stupid pointless arguements like this do not need to be discussed because the core of the problem has allready been dealt with.

    Raise your children correctly and stfu.

  11. Gap Gen says:

    I think that severe violence is an issue beyond just contextualising it. I was talking to my sister on MSN and she said that most gamers she’s spoken to actually enjoy the violence in games for its own sake, which is problematic.

    I think that sitting down and explaining violence can be important, but I don’t think that doing that justifies letting a 9-year-old play Manhunt.

  12. Ed says:

    To me it seems that the industry must want to sell games to under-age players – there’s no real reason to not make it illegal otherwise.

    I’m not suggesting I’m in favour of that though.

    My experience of GTA players is that a substantial proportion are under 18.

  13. Dreamhacker says:

    I may or may not have gotten my hands on Fallout at the age of 9. Best deal I ever did in my life.

  14. Ian says:

    I’m with the enforce-the-existing-rules/regs crowd. If there was any confidence that it’s more difficult for kids to get their hands on an 18-rated game then I suspect the furore over Manhunt 2 (and the like) might not have happened.

  15. mrmud says:

    Parents should decide for themselfs when games are suitable for their children.

    I played Doom at age 11 and isnt worse for wear.

  16. FunkyB says:

    Agreed that all ratings should be enforceable, but only if the ratings are awarded in a transparent and fair manner. Noone wants the American system where masses of bloody decapitations yields a 15 certificate, whereas a brief nipple-slip is 18+ and two gay people kissing is banned by all the red states.

  17. StalinsGhost says:

    Enforced? No.

    Educated? Yes.

  18. Meat Circus says:

    No, John, he’s not right. He’s a censorious fucking idiot proposing an unenforcable measure to try to squeeze votes out of New Zealand’s own equivalent of the Daily Mail moron class.

    I hope you’re just playing devil’s advocate here, rather than moving firmly into enemy territory.

    Since we’re not the Soviet Union, I think it’s okay to allow parents to decide what’s best for their children. Just a thought.

  19. Nelson says:

    I’m for extending the movie ratings across all media. We all understand G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17. Why not just make it easy on consumers? No kids can rent or buy R games, movies, comics, etc. There will always be idiot parents who let their kids watch SAW movies. At least the law did its part to dissuade them.

  20. BooleanBob says:

    @Gap Gen: Yes, I agree with you. I was more thinking if I were to discover my whelp had played Manhunt, the most appropriate and beneficial course of action would be to explain to him the consequences of violence in real life, how they differ from that in a video game, why and how a game like Manhunt can come to be so awash in violence in the first place, and why he isn’t going to be playing anything more depraved than Harvest Moon for the next two weeks, and anything resembling Manhunt for the next x years.

    As opposed to, y’know, turning myself over to the police and spending 3 months with all the other white-collar crims in Strangeways while my kid grows up without a dad, or in care.

    Similarly a simple one-on-one chat about the exploitation of porn stars and the hollowness of sex without love would not be a sufficient response to finding your 12-year old scrote on redtube. That’s something my dad should have learned from experience…

  21. H says:

    I think it’s definitely straightforward: enforce age restrictions on games or, as JW says, we won’t get to play the GTAs, etc, because they’ll get banned. When Politician A says “this minor was corrupted by Game B because it contained vast amounts of swearing, sex and violence” we’ll reply with “but it clearly had an 18 rating and therefore the parents are at fault”. Without this in place, the politicians can do or say what the hell they like.

    With little or no evidence to back up the results of playing games on gamers, there’s also no defence to the accusations. At least this gives us ammunition and sandbags to hide behind. And as JW says, the age restriction is emblazed on the game anyway, so now let’s enforce it.

  22. Radiant says:

    YES.
    The same way drinking and cigarette laws are enforced.
    Sell to a minor and be prepared to have your shop shut and fined.

    Games do influence children, there have been a grip of studies to show this [that I'll have to dig up] and to say that games have no influence on youth culture or behaviour isn’t right; I’m 30 odd and games had a ridiculous influence on me growing up.

    As a casual games developer I worry about the games we make [aimed directly at children]. They’re not innovative or educational in the slightest; all they are there for is to get people to look at adverts.
    But I am more worried about our other targeted demographic: mothers.

    The length of time these two demos are playing our games is staggering; I’m not talking 20-30 minutes but hours.
    And the times they play.
    3-4 pm our usage goes through the roof.

    How do we restrict that?
    Flash a message “LOOK AFTER YOUR FUCKING CHILDREN”?

    I don’t know… it’s not like I’m cry wanking whilst looking at my bank statements but I worry you know?

  23. jsutcliffe says:

    I may be horribly wrong here, but to my mind the advantage of having BBFC ratings on UK games over PEGI ratings is that they are legally enforceable, just like for movies. I like that.

    I’m not some horrible stick-in-the-mud type who thinks the kiddies should be protected (e.g. I was little when Doom came out, and I loved it much to my parents’ chagrin), but I do feel like these are some games that are simply unsuitable for many children.

    Additionally, having ratings legally enforced will shut the “Grand Theft Auto turned my little Timmy into a sociopath” lobby up, or at least give us some ammunition to lob back at them.

    Aside: I’ve only ever been asked for proof of age when buying a game once, for Fallout I and II, when I was almost ten years older than the recommended age on the packaging, on a trip to the USA where they don’t enforce game ratings. I did not have ID. :(

  24. Heliocentric says:

    I’m a parent, I know games. A law that could criminalise me because i dont agree with the judgement of a censor? Thats a police state.

  25. TeeJay says:

    In the Soviet Union parents don’t decide what’s best for their children… children decide what’s best for you…

    …erm, that didn’t work did it? :s

  26. Mawich says:

    You can’t make it illegal for a parent to let a child play an 18-rated game without making it illegal for a parent to let a child watch an 18-rated movie. Really, we should be able to trust parents to make responsible decisions about content.

    To accomplish that, we need to educate non-gaming parents about the content of games intended for adult audiences, and then we need to go and upgrade the brains of a large chunk of the parent population, who seem to think their involvement in raising their children ends around the time the children learn to walk.

  27. Jon says:

    A nice crack at guilt by association, MeatCircus, why not chuck in a Nazi equivocation for good measure.

    In any case, talk of enforcing existing legislation is all hot air unless someone can come up with a workable way of doing the enforcing.

  28. MrFake says:

    Ratings defeat censorship? That needs a little more thought. Consider Live Free or Die Hard.

    It’s simply a matter of target markets, and at the moment kids under the age of mature adult (around 18 in many places) are the target market for video games. Until that changes, there will be no answer that doesn’t involve some form of censorship. As consolation, you could say that mature games fill a niche market, and as such there’s a higher probability of quality releases.

    My issue with kids and video games is the parents’ relationship with the video games. Though, it’s not just games. I’ve seen my nephew go from active sports enthusiast to introverted texting geek and he’s hardly an awkward teen yet. It’s kind of a shame. I get that I’m getting old and it’s likely I just don’t understand these young’uns nowadays, but it’s not the behavior that bothers me but the parents’ acceptance of it; acceptance without encouragement.

    I can’t judge what is or isn’t wholesome for a kid, but the stories of parents that just buy whatever for their kids irks me to no end, and games make up just a small piece of that irksome pie. To me, letting a kid spend every waking hour in front of a computer screen is little different from letting them sit in front of a TV all day, or driving them to the fast food playground every other afternoon or sitting them in a movie theater and ignoring them for a few hours. In short, video games should not act as surrogate parents.

    The NZ debacle could actually assuage that problem, with ripple effects on the target markets as well. It could also put everyone on the defensive, and further divorce the two sides of the issue that need the most reconciliation: video game players and video game buyers. So, I figure any legislation either way is too risky; information and education is the real answer, for kids and parents alike.

  29. Muzman says:

    It’s legal (here in Aus anyway) for parents to give minors alcohol (within reason) in their own home under supervision. Seems like it’d be a bit weird to make games worse than that.
    I don’t know what the law on that is in NZ though.

  30. TeeJay says:

    Sexual Offences Act 2003

    section 12: Causing a child to watch a sexual act

    (1) A person aged 18 or over (A) commits an offence if—
    (a) for the purpose of obtaining sexual gratification, he intentionally causes another person (B) to watch a third person engaging in an activity, or to look at an image of any person engaging in an activity,
    (b) the activity is sexual, and
    (c) either—
    (i) B is under 16 and A does not reasonably believe that B is 16 or over, or
    (ii) B is under 13.
    (2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—
    (a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum or both;
    (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years.

  31. Matt Kemp says:

    I (occasionally) work in our student union and we are constantly on the look out for underage people trying to buy alcohol. Obviously, it’s an offence to sell it to anyone under the age of 18. At the same time, it’s an offence to sell alcohol to anyone over the age of 18 who you suspect is buying it for someone underage.

    Why shouldn’t this be the same for games and film? It is for cigarettes and alcohol, and we’re talking about something that is physically damaging.

    (As a sidenote, the only thing that annoys me more is people who say ‘I played [insert 18-rated game here] when I was 9 and I’m normal’. I didn’t play my first GTA until I was 19. I’m normal too.)

  32. Super Bladesman says:

    Enforce age limits – are you mad? Who would the Daily Mail blame then?

    You can’t expect them to blame the parents for allowing their little Johnny to play some 18+ game when it’s clearly the developers’ fault for developing it in the first place!

    Oh wait…

  33. CdrJameson says:

    “For the first time in history, kids are more savvy with technology than parents …”

    Um… I think kids probably grasped the significance of the wheel and fire long before their parents.

    And the argument is moving from ‘parents don’t know about games’ to ‘grandparents don’t know about games’. Politicians, being old, are in the latter generation.

    Age ratings could be enforced as they are with Video/DVDs, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t be. Ratings should not, however, be compulsory in all circumstances. Ratings have to be paid for, and that costs money that publishers can easily afford and indie developers can’t.

  34. Flappybat says:

    Games are held to a higher standard than movies or TV, there was as much sexual content in the first episode of Breaking Bad as the Hot Coffee mod, Manhunt gets banned whilst whichever SAW sequel they are up to is openly advertised.

  35. Zaphid says:

    No, this idea is really really retarded. I would be ok with some minor fine, but three months in prison ?! I can imagine some kids getting their parents jailed simply by getting the games themselves and calling the police …

    What happens at people’s homes shouldn’t be under the scope of the state, unless it’s obviously causing someone discomfort (drugs, violence, terror, abuse …)

  36. Akirasfriend says:

    You can, of course, take this to the extreme. Several times in recent years have I been denied purchase of games because I have no ID on me. Indeed, I was denied my fix of Ninja Gaiden: Sigma by an over-vigilant Gamestation employee. I could show her my years-old college card, but nothing with my age on.
    I’m sure I look older than 15. Daft.

    In saying that, I bought GTA IV on launch. I took ID with me and everything, and they even asked as I was queueing if I had ID, yet when I came to the counter I wasn’t asked to show it. Bizarre. I suppose some companies enforce the ratings more dilligently than others.

    I’ve always thought it was a bit pants anyway. I think it’s fair enough if the parents buy it for their kids. It should be their call. There’s no way you could call them on it once they’d bought it anyway, short of pulling a Walker and asking if they’re buying it for their kid.

    SILLY POLITIX.

  37. Iain says:

    I think everyone underestimates the intelligence of kids in all this. I’d say that the vast majority of kids are able to distinguish between what’s real and what’s not. So while I don’t approve of 12 year olds playing GTA IV, I don’t think that a huge amount of harm is done by it.

    Certainly, there are a few people out there who aren’t going to be mature enough to cope with that kind of content at that age and may be damaged by it, but the key is to avoid huge knee-jerk reactions that deprive everyone for the sake of a tiny minority.

    As for John’s point about “scary stuff doesn’t need to be a part of kids’ lives”, I disagree entirely. Most kids LOVE that stuff. More than that, I think that everyone needs to be scared or challenged by what they see once in a while – because if you try to wrap everyone up in cotton wool and hide all the “bad” stuff, all you end up with is a populace who are unable to form their own opinion on what is or isn’t bad or harmful, because they’ve been “protected”, and you lose the ability to even hold an informed debate.

    I’d also take issue with Hastings’ statement that “For the first time in history, kids are more savvy with technology than parents” – come on, kids have ALWAYS been ahead of the curve compared to their parents, because kids are much more open to new ideas and concepts, and pick up these things far more quickly. Hell, when I was 8 years old and my parents bought a ZX Spectrum, I could set it up in half the time my parents could.

    I suspect what this is really about is that you’ve got politicians and adults over 40 who are desperately trying to be seen as still being relevant and not being left behind as technology changes the way society interacts. It’s a little bit like the Queen posting videos on a YouTube channel… a little bit pathetic, really.

    That said, I think that if you’re going to have a system for rating/censoring videogames (or films, for that matter), you might as well go through with it the whole way, or not bother at all. Educate people, certainly, so that people know what they’re buying, but when that fails, you better enforce the law properly and not give people loopholes (such as adults clearly buying 18-rated games for their kids), or just get rid of the concept of censorship entirely.

  38. Colthor says:

    When I were a lad (and all this were fields), my parents would rent videos. If they watched a 15 or 18-rated film and thought was suitable for me and my younger sister, we were allowed to watch it afterwards. If they didn’t, we weren’t.
    Nobody was threatened with arrest or fines.
    Is this too complicated?

  39. Jay says:

    I totally agree with the intent of this proposition (though not the threat of jail time, natch). I too did a stint at EB in my youth; I’d have loved some support when trying to convince uninformed customers that the latest GTA really isn’t suitable for their twelve year olds. Interestingly, parents who take offense to some spotty oik saying “This is a game where, if you want, you can stab prostitutes to death with a screwdriver.” don’t necessarily mind their tweens having access to said virtual hooker killer.

    I’m absolutely not against violent games (SH2 is my favourite thing ever). What I do feel though, is that kids need to know that the 18 rated games they’ll invariably get their hands on are not meant for them.

  40. Dormouse says:

    “in a society where those games are accessible to all ages, it makes it massively more likely that adult gaming will be increasingly censored… I don’t want that world. I want to be able to play games with violence and swearing if I choose to.”

    We need censorship to prevent censorship! Sounds like the reasoning that lead to the Hays Code. Which wasn’t really such a good thing for movie audiences. On the other hand, it was great for manufacturers of twin beds.

  41. Alan says:

    The argument that we should allow some government censorship just to prevent worse government censorship is absurd and evil. You either have free speech in a country or you don’t, and if your government gets to decide who gets to view what speech, then you don’t have free speech.

    Do we really want to give up free speech so easily, just so we can point to our concession when Jack Thompson rolls around? Especially when voluntary enforcement works pretty damned well. I mean, look at the movie industry in America. You can’t find a theater that will let someone who is under 17 into an R-rated movie, anywhere really. Yet there is no law enforcing this.

  42. Matt Kemp says:

    Akirasfriend: If you don’t have ID and it’s a BBFC-rated game, it’s an offence to sell it to you. Do you not have a driving license or anything? (As someone who has to check
    ID on a regular basis, I don’t see why people don’t carry valid ID. [your college card doesn't count])

    Re GTA: Why would they need to check your ID at the counter if they’ve already had someone check it in the queue? Time saving.

  43. Jay says:

    “When I were a lad (and all this were fields), my parents would rent videos. If they watched a 15 or 18-rated film and thought was suitable for me and my younger sister, we were allowed to watch it afterwards. If they didn’t, we weren’t.
    Nobody was threatened with arrest or fines.
    Is this too complicated?”

    Can be.

    Games aren’t linear, and they can last for hundreds of hours. Also, whilst most parents are capable of watching a film, not all have got it in them to play through a video game.

  44. Dave Gates says:

    Yes, if only to shut the bloody Daily Mail up. If people by games not suitable for their children then its parents at fault not the games industry.

  45. Matt Kemp says:

    Alan: You either have free speech in a country or you don’t, and if your government gets to decide who gets to view what speech, then you don’t have free speech.

    I’d argue no-one has free speech. There is always some restriction on what you can do.

    One thing I’d like to bring up I heard on a podcast from the Australian Gamer guys – If someone brought out a game where you could molest children under the legal age, would that be an okay game? Should we allow the free market to decide whether it should be bought or not? I understand this is an extreme case, but where, as a detractor from censorship, do you draw the line?

  46. Alaric says:

    “Maybe Hastings is right.”

    Are you people really that insane? Imprisoning parents for making a judgment on what is appropriate for their children. That’ll teach them! How dare they infringe on the state’s right to parent.

    What’s next though? A state approved list of lullaby songs? Sing your kid a wrong one and end up in concentration camp. Reminds me of the Soviet Union. Those of you who haven’t lived there, it was NOT a happy place.

    I’ve never been to New Zeland and don’t know much about it, but it sounds like they are following in the footsteps of the “1984-Recreation-Society” aka Great Britain.

    How sad. How most unbelievably sad.

  47. Meat Circus says:

    Goodness, we seem to have quite a few Daily Mail readers in today. Welcome.

    WARNING: There may be gays and immigrants here.

  48. Optimaximal says:

    I may or may not have gotten my hands on Fallout at the age of 9. Best deal I ever did in my life.

    The good thing about Fallout was that, whilst it existed in a morally grey area (apart from the Bloody Mess perk, which was isometric violence porn for the sake of it) nearly every action had a consequence, be it being attacked by everyone in the area because you stole a Jet hypo or being branded a child-killer/slaver/other negative title and subsequently penalised with everyone treating you like shit.

    On the other hand, Games like Gears of War positively encourage you to kerb-stomp human(oid)s…

    I know that if my kid got hold of either, I’d prefer it be Fallout (and not just for the violence/morality angle – it’s a better game that requires thought, rather than just drilling through hoards of bad guys)

  49. Kommissar Nicko says:

    I believe that children should be allowed to buy any game they like, without enforcement of age restrictions. Likewise, I think that children should be allowed to buy porn. It is both inconsistent and silly to think that in a world where any child can go to the library and check out a book of poetry by Ginsberg (smut!) or buy any dime-store romance they feel like (smut x 2!) but then may NOT under ANY circumstances go and rent a porn flick is silly.

    Violence, on the other hand, is cheap. I would argue that most hyper-violent films cater primarily to people who are not technically old enough to see the movie anyway, since the plotlines are typically far from cerebral. In addition to this, books can contain far more disturbing and chilling acts of violence and debasement than most movies–they can even have the more haunting side effect of more thoroughly justifying these things.

    So, it’s just nonsense to censor things for the protection of children. I don’t disagree with age guidelines, to give KIDS a better idea of what they’re getting into, but I believe that if a child is old enough to express a desire to see/hear/read/do something and make that possible, they should be prepared to deal with what they’re going to see. Kids don’t just grope around in a vast vacuum of influence until they stumble into their first murder simulator.

  50. Optimaximal says:

    oh, and as Alaric has pretty much proved, the US really should get over their constitution…

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