RPS On GRITtv On Supreme Court On Games

By Kieron Gillen on May 1st, 2010 at 11:00 am.

This is my favourite of all RPS' silly running gags.

This is one of the more interesting political games-related stories in the US, which we haven’t covered yet. The Supreme Court are going to consider whether a proposed California law to band sale of videogames to minor is unconstitutional. This would be the first time the obscenity law has been applied to violence rather than sexual content. Let’s let GRITtv take up the slack here, who interview Gizmodo’s Joel Johnson and the New York Times’ Seth Schiesel on the psychological effect of games and whether there’s any chance of this coming to pass…

Before you press play, there’s a fragment of the infamous wikileaks “Collateral Murder” Apache attack video in it, near the start. Skip from 1:25 to 2:00 to avoid it.

Of course, it’s an odd one for the British to watch – we don’t have the same constitutional rights here, so it’s already illegal to sell adult videogames (and films) to minors. But, especially, for the US, it strikes me that giving way on this could easily be the thin end of the wedge.

Thoughts? And keep ‘em relatively calm, folks. We’re talking about videogames for adults. We may as well show there are adults here.

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88 Comments »

  1. Heliosicle says:

    I really didn’t want to watch that wikileaks video…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Apologies – I meant to add a warning to the post when I saw it was in it, but by the time we got to the end of the video, it had slipped my mind. Added now.

      KG

    • Shadowcat says:

      KG: You might want to proof-read the post too :)

      “a proposed California law to band sale of videogames to minor” ?

    • 12kill4 says:

      a polite email is usually better for spelling and grammatical corrections, or so say the forum rules…

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      While i can appreciate why people would not want to watch the wikileak footage – i do believe it is important in terms of bringing home the reality of what is happening in Iraq. Accountability is a vital human faculty that seems to be almost entirely absent from modern western pop culture. -rant over-

  2. Curry says:

    Are they being incredibly rude cutting the Gizmodo fellow off and starting to babble on about iphones or did they just edit the video this way?

    • El Stevo says:

      @Curry:

      I think they were just running out of time.

    • GT3000 says:

      She should said something like “Sorry to cut you off” or she was just trying to get someone from Gizmodo on to comment on the story about the phone. Wouldn’t be the first time someone barely related to a story at hand was used to be brought on to comment on a totally unrelated story.

  3. Auspex says:

    I wish I had a New York accent…
    Also a heads on ‘that’ Wikileaks video would have been nice…

  4. Deadjim says:

    To be honest that was a more refreshing discussion on Video games violence as it was actually a discussion rather than a shouting match.

  5. MrBRAD! says:

    Huh? I thought the US had a ratings system where little kiddies couldn’t buy games above their age restriction.

    Also. I think the military are violent killers and should be banned. BAAAAANED.

    • Dreaded Walrus says:

      @MrBRAD!

      IIRC, it’s recommended, rather than legal. I.e. it’s there to inform parents and others of the content of the game, but it’s not illegal to buy it under that age. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entertainment_Software_Rating_Board#Restricted_ratings

    • MrBRAD! says:

      If I was the manager and an 8 year old came to the counter with an MA15+ game I’d tell em to get stuffed and suggest to them some crap, gimmicky, unsellable DS game.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      We do have a ratings system. It’s so easy, anyone with half-a-year of Kindergarten under their belts would be able to decipher it.

      But when parents adopt a, “Sure. Here’s $60. Go to EBGames, and knock yourself out.” sort of attitude with their kids, and then three months down the road (GASP!) realize that little Billy is playing a game featuring a foul-mouthed Serbian veteran who kills cops, they come to a crossroads of a sort…

      (A.) “I didn’t look at the ratings code. Christ, I didn’t even CARE. It’s just a game. Kids play games. That makes me a BAD PARENT.”

      - OR -

      (B.) “It’s… it’s… all the fault of the ratings system! Yeah! Who can understand THAT gibberish?!? It’s also the fault of the store that sold it to him! Yeah! That’s the ticket! If I bitch loud enough to my Senator, that makes me PARENT OF THE YEAR!”

      Guess which fork in the road so many of these useless people take?

    • Corporate Dog says:

      I should also add (as clarification) that the ratings system in the US is nothing more than a RECOMMENDATION. There are (presently) no laws regarding the sale of video games to minors, just as there are no laws regarding the sale of movie tickets to minors. It’s left up to the discretion of the store owner and/or parents.

      I actually think that’s a good thing. Some kids, regardless of age, are mature enough to handle media that an enforced ratings system would prevent them from seeing. If a parent is willing to spend the time to oversee the game/movie and field any concerns that might crop up, that’s doubleplusgood.

      An arbitrary age rating system shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution, especially when given the puritanical leanings of those who decide on the ratings.

      Besides: show me a kid with $60 in his pocket, and I’ll show you a game purchase that already had SOME parental involvement. If a parent isn’t willing to go a step further, and make sure that the purchase is appropriate, than I feel it’s on THEM if Billy sees some alien side-boob.

    • DarkFenix says:

      I disagree CD, that’s putting a lot of faith in the responsibility of a) parents and b) children. Now by all means not all kids are impressionable enough to soak up all the crap in violent games. Hell I can’t have been more than about 12 or 13 when I first started playing the Grand Theft Auto series, I’ve turned out ok. But this doesn’t mean everyone else will too.

      I’m totally in agreement with the legal age rating system we have in the UK, the problem then gets moved on precisely how media is classified rather than whether it is or not. This problem leaves significantly more room for error, and the consequences or error are wonderfully minor.

    • Wisq says:

      I actually think that’s a good thing. Some kids, regardless of age, are mature enough to handle media that an enforced ratings system would prevent them from seeing.

      Opposing an enforced rating system because “some kids” are “mature enough” is missing the point.

      The whole point of a ratings system is to deny the unsupervised sale of adult materials to minors, not to ban them from seeing it altogether. An adult can go out and buy pornography, alcohol, and cigarettes, and as far as I know, there’s no law that says they can’t then give all those items to their own child, at least for private use in their own home. But it’s still the choice of a responsible adult as to whether their children get to do those things, not the child’s choice — as it should be.

      Likewise, if a child is mature enough to be playing GTA or whatnot, then fine, their parent can go buy it for them. If their parent(s) refuse, that’s life, sorry. Why on earth should we alter the laws to support children buying controversial material behind their parents’ backs?

      Let the parents decide. If they choose to default on that decision because it’s “just a game”, then fine, they’re bad parents, and maybe no harm will come will come from their neglect. But the ratings systems exist for a reason — and while I seriously doubt a lack of an enforced rating system would actually push the industry towards non-violence or self-censorship, it would still create even more tension between video games and their vocal detractors.

    • archonsod says:

      Showing pornography to a minor is an offence over here (can’t remember the exact one, but it’ll get you on the sex offenders register). Cigarettes are now covered by the law too (it being an offence to purchase cigarettes for someone underage) but there’s no specific law regarding alcohol yet. Providing either can be classified as negligence or even child abuse if the authorities choose to prosecute though.

      I don’t think it matters whether you legally enforce an age rating though. Like it or not, it IS the parent’s responsibility to look after their child, not the State. The problem is over-eager politicians looking to jump on the moral crusade bandwagon. To my mind, if the parent is complaining the video games their child is playing are too violent we should be asking why the parent permits their child to play them in the first place.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      @Wisq: I never said that I oppose the law because some children might be capable of handling violent and/or sexual content. I said that I think it’s a good thing that the California proposal is NOT the law in the rest of the United States because some children might be capable of- yadda, yadda, yadda.

      It’s not a rhetorical quibble either. You ask, “Why on Earth should we alter the laws to support children going behind their parents backs?”, but from my point of view, the question is, “Why on Earth should we alter the laws to pick up the slack of parents who don’t engage with their children, while also penalizing some poor counter jockey who works for minimum wage, and forgot to ask for an ID?”

      Remember: in the States, the ratings system is a parental suggestion. It’s not enforced by any government agency. The California proposal is an alteration of the law.

      Bottom line: does this law really serve to “protect” a child, if a parent isn’t engaging with their kids anyway? A thirty minute whine from a clever-enough kid, is going to spur mommy to slap the money down on the counter, without any guarantee that she’ll even LOOK at the content of the game.

  6. Lack_26 says:

    Pfff, look at them with their fancy ‘constitution’, real men don’t need a constitution to hide behind.

    Anyway, like MrBRAD I was under the impression that they already had a games rating system that prevent under-age buying of games.

    • Sarlix says:

      Maybe it differs from state to state?. I’m sure Mr Schwarzenegger wouldn’t have any issues with minors buying violent video games if it encourages them to enlist in the military.

    • 12kill4 says:

      Incorrect there actually: Mr Schwarzenegger wants people to stop enlisting in the armed forces. Yeah, that’s right- what I just said is a truthal factual truth. You see, while Schwarzenegger might actually appear to be a Governating [Liberal] Republican (yeah I can spot an oxymoron, even if Californian voters can’t… oh snap) he is in fact an under-cover spy for Australia! He hides this fact by claiming to be from Austria and making the slight upgrade in unintelligablility of accent to accomodate this lie… So, seeing as the Australian Government such a small military force they have sent Arnold to the U.S to slowly, but surely deminish their forces and thus swing the balance in their favor.
      the first step was to make action movies so that americans thought that only one man was required to annihilate Iran, Iraq, Afganhistan, upper-class America, Future-America, Male infertility, annoying Twins, France, Future France at a French Renaissance fair where French people from the future pretend to be French people from the past imagining what the France of the future will be like, and all other potential enemies . In Short- Arnold sought to make the Americans complacent.
      While I could elaborate upon steps one through two-hundred and seventeen, ive already met my bullshit quota for the day. so there.

    • Sarlix says:

      Makes sense to me.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      I’ll see the piece of paper we hide behind, and raise you the skirt of the Queen that YOU hide behind. ;)

      Truce! My peace-offering is the postings I made above, in which I detailed what the ratings system in the States was like.

  7. skalpadda says:

    I understand if it’s an important matter of principle in the US, but personally I don’t see a big problem with setting laws in place to enforce the age ratings on games. In part this is purely egotistical; I don’t want anyone to be able to bring minors playing games that are unsuitable to them up as an argument in regulating game content overall, but I’ve also worked in preschool (not sure of the English term, but ages 1-7) and I wasn’t comfortable when I found out that some 6-7 year olds had been playing games like Doom 3. There are plenty of games that make me uneasy and I don’t like the thought of very young children playing them. Most children who haven’t even started school yet do not have the capacity to distance themselves from things and form their own opinions that adults have.
    I live in Sweden, where the age ratings are a recommendation only. Parent taking responsibility for what their children get their hands on is a fine idea, but if there is no actual way to enforce that responsibility it’s just an empty ideal. It’s also no only about what parents buy for their children but what games you can play at places like internet cafés, where parents cannot keep an eye on what their children get up to.

  8. Larington says:

    I think what’s often getting overlooked is that in order to interact with these games you have to use some kind of control method, be that mouse & keyboard or gamepad. These methods aren’t ‘bad’ per se but they certainly aren’t natural or particularly real (including the wiimote) and I have little doubt that the brain is quite capable of noticing that the on-screen events aren’t real because you’re interaction with those on-screen events has to be happen through a clunky imprecise control method (Or at least, imprecise in the sense you can’t control the position of your arms, or legs or what have you, it’s all generalised or simplified into a movement model that existing control methods can interpret/work with).

    Never mind the fact that the violent crime rate for youngsters and adults in America nose dived at the same time the video gaming became a dominant passtime amongst youngsters, despite claims by the newspapers and certain other news media companies that these violent games would lead to an upsurge in violent behaviour rather than the opposite which did happen.

  9. Muzman says:

    I dare say this isn’t the thin end of the wedge. The SCoTUS was already there with its decision on campaign finance and advertising a little while ago. Overturning this sort of thing seems like the next step.
    They probably mention this, I’ll have to look in the off-peak.

    As much as I don’t mind the restriction of media to minors in general I shudder to think of the dire arguments we’re going to hear from the California side.

    • Muzman says:

      Additionally: if they’re going to focus on the wikileaks biz in ‘OMG videogame! Crosshair is like mouse cursor’ terms it’s worth noting that all the soldiers who have been talking about this issue said the manner and language of the air crew was pretty standard. That sort of distancing and dehumanisation was a typical coping mechanism and part of training.
      So I don’t know what a ‘video games makes killers’ argument regarding this incident is supposed to be driving at since, even with video games out of the equation somehow, we can be fairly sure the Army makes killers and is pretty happy about the fact.

  10. RoteByrd says:

    When I play games that are hyper-violent, I have never been emotionally affected by the violence. When I have seen documentaries and read stories or even seen partly ficitonal movies about real violence, I have actually been brought to tears by that violence because I know that there is real human suffering behind it. I don’t know what causes militarily trained people to shut off their compassion the way that they seemed to in that collateral murder video, but consumer video games have not had that affect on me.

  11. MultiVaC says:

    I’m not really opposed to the state regulating the sale of video games to minors in principle (although I am concerned about them applying different standards than are used for other media, which is I think is the heart of this debate and will inevitably be overshadowed by WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!) and I could empathize with Leland Yee’s perspective if his approach was not so out of touch and hyperbolic. They literally teach children how to kill, maim, and hurt people until they no longer feel? That’s a pretty bold statement. I’m not even sure it’s possible to make someone “no longer feel” when they commit horrible and violent acts, even if you wanted to. At least not without the most extreme brainwashing and psychological conditioning we know of. I think you can talk to even the most hardened war veteran and find that he or she is still capable of feeling empathy and regret over the suffering of others. The kind of rhetoric he’s using throws the entire debate into a pit of fallacy and knee-jerk reaction.

    And Re: the Call of Duty gunship comparison: what is the crime here, the game or the war? Isn’t the real problem not that the game is too much like a war, but that the war is too much like a game?

    • Sarlix says:

      You make some very good points and I was going to reply with some equally stimulating points of view. However I’ve scraped that in favor of saying you have one seriously messed up looking crab! Holy snappers he looks deranged! It makes mine look like the pinnacle of normality!

  12. Severian says:

    Let me first say that I’m never been a fan of the argument that playing violent video games makes you violent. But… I have a PhD in neuroscience and psychology and I’ve read enough of this literature (and taught some of it to my students) to know that we shouldn’t just “shrug” the idea off either. There is research showing that when people play violent video games (controlling for the arousal level they induce), they: 1) show some emotional desensitization to subsequent violence, and 2) are less likely to engage in (certain measures) of altruism and helping behavior. Before someone jumps at my throat, I’d like to also say that I do find a lot of this research to be methodologically flawed, or at least open to multiple interpretations. But part of me is concerned about the psychological effects (whatever they might be) that playing hyper-violent games might have on particularly young kids – WITHOUT parental supervision. If a parent is there to help interpret the situation – and possibly show enjoyment of the same game in a healthy manner – I suspect that makes a huge difference in how the brain integrates that information. Does banning the sale of these games to minors help? Maybe. Probably not. It’s similar to the idea of taking a child to an R-rated movie. It’d be nice if parental approval was required, I think.

    • 12kill4 says:

      Lt. Col. Dave Grossman makes some interesting points along those lines in his landmark text, ‘On Killing’. He makes some rather interesting and startlingly well researched comparisons of desensitization techniques employed within the armed forces- particularly from Vietnam and onwards- and violent media, esspecially that of interactive media. I’m not going to go into it right now though- I’ve got a hankering to go and kill some people. uhh.. Online. Kill people online.

      yes…>.>

    • Sarlix says:

      Speaking from when I was a kid, films/TV had a much more negative effect on me than computer games ever have. However at that time there weren’t games like MW/2 etc, so I can’t say what effect playing such a game would have on a 7-8 year old. It’s really about the context in which the violence observed though, whether it be in a book, film or game. I agree having a parent to interpret the situation in what ever form it takes is a good idea.

    • cliffski says:

      I find it amazing that some people think that spending hours watching, and participating in violent activity has no effect on people.
      Lets remember that:
      1) Kids are more impressionable than adutls. Thats just fact. The younger you are, the more you are learning and forming basic associations and impressions. I’ve spent 40 years not seeing people shoot each other and steal cars. At 16 years, I’d only seen 16 years of that.
      2) Games are not movies or books. The viewer is also the protaginist, making choices and getting rewards for confrontational and violent behavior.
      3) What we see changes us. it just does. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t must be kidding themselves that adverts don’t work either. They do. Even ones you can’t conciously remember still affect you.

      We are basically pattern-matching creatures. We associate the smell of food with pleasure, the sight of blood with pain, the sight of naked boobies with pleasure. Our brains are just a big pattern-matching machine.
      If we spend too much time associating killing or inflicting pain with getting rewards, then that has to fuck us up.
      I’m not saying all violent games make people violent. Not all mars bar adverts make us eat mars bars, but they do have an effect, and you bet your ass we need to ban the sale of violent games to kids and enforce that ban heavily.

    • Sarlix says:

      @Cliffski Was that In reply to me? I was speaking from personal experience about games having less of an effect on me than other media types. I don’t think anyone has claimed that participating on violent activities has no effect, I certainly didn’t.

      I understand what your saying but I think it’s very rigid. I don’t have fix associations such as food and breasts = pleasure. We have a conscious choice of how to view these things, they can be looked at either subjectively or objectively, same with games. All I was saying is that I agree with Severian that if kids ARE exposed to such things is should at least be handled in a mindful way/environment.

      P.S Aren’t you the author of ‘Gratuitous Space Battles’?

    • Sarlix says:

      Eh, I meant to ask if you have an age rating on it?

    • archonsod says:

      @ Cliffski

      It’s also worth remembering evolution has gifted our brains with a remarkable ability to distinguish fact from fiction too. It tended to be a necessary development in the not getting eaten by sabre tooth tigers stakes.
      Something to consider – no matter how realistic the game, and how interactive, it still fails to provide a good simulation because it’s only engaging our visual senses. Furthermore, children have always been attracted to violence – toy guns and games of soldiers or cowboys and indians predate the videogame by quite a long time, and yet nobody has ever worried than pretending to kill his best friends is training their child to be a killer.

    • Muzman says:

      Clifski says:
      I find it amazing that some people think that spending hours watching, and participating in violent activity has no effect on people.
      Lets remember that:
      1) Kids are more impressionable than adutls. Thats just fact. The younger you are, the more you are learning and forming basic associations and impressions. I’ve spent 40 years not seeing people shoot each other and steal cars. At 16 years, I’d only seen 16 years of that.
      2) Games are not movies or books. The viewer is also the protaginist, making choices and getting rewards for confrontational and violent behavior.
      3) What we see changes us. it just does. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t must be kidding themselves that adverts don’t work either. They do. Even ones you can’t conciously remember still affect you.

      We are basically pattern-matching creatures. We associate the smell of food with pleasure, the sight of blood with pain, the sight of naked boobies with pleasure. Our brains are just a big pattern-matching machine.
      If we spend too much time associating killing or inflicting pain with getting rewards, then that has to fuck us up.
      I’m not saying all violent games make people violent. Not all mars bar adverts make us eat mars bars, but they do have an effect, and you bet your ass we need to ban the sale of violent games to kids and enforce that ban heavily.

      This is a bit like blank slate theory; arguing that people possess no inate sense about anything and are essentially mediated things whose consciousness is made entirely of associations through input.
      It couldn’t be further from current psychological and neuroscientific thought if it tried, however. They fuck us up how? Just generally? There’s a lot of this vague intuitive “They must do something” surrounding this topic that really doesn’t speak to what we know, or even don’t know, about ourselves.

      Nobody thinks men like boobs generally speaking because they are taught to, for instance. The association is quite the reverse; sexuality is associated with products to make the products seem pleasurable. Boobs tend to speak for themselves, as advertisers discovered long ago. The horror associated with actual physical violence is pretty much in the same category for most people and it takes a lot to shift it. Playing games, even to excess, is for most people not ‘a lot’ in terms of teir overall emotional and psychological makeup.

      I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the world and the media bear no influence on people and children in particular, but the extent of that influence is often vastly over estimated. As is the amount of stimulus games provide. A game couldn’t possibly compete with the real world in a developing mind, attuned like nothing else as they are in relating to the nuances of their social environment. Exposure to real violence has fairly well documented responses and they don’t correlate at all with responses to games or films in the long term. If anyone is truly “desensitised’ to the commission of violent acts it is generally those who were subject to actual physical violence themselves, and only a few of them. The kinds of things no game can teach you, no matter how many XBL points (or whatever currency the kids are into) you get. If there is any desensitisation going on it’s only to game violence and not violence itself. There would be a lot less PTSD in the world if media were so “theraputic” in the way so often proposed (or a hell of a lot more). Reality always wins. For the vast bulk of us anyway.

      I’m all for restrictions. Games can be confronting and scary and people react differently to these things. Parents should be given the means to make informed choices on what their kids can see as much as possible and not the marketplace. But we gotta restrict for the right reasons.

  13. pupsikaso says:

    In the US, as well as in Canada, there is no legal restriction to selling M rated games to minors, but retailers enforce the restrictions themselves. Well, some of them at least. Ebgames are good at it, but if you send your kid to Toys R Us, they’ll walk out with Manhunt in their hands without a hitch.

    Because of that, I would like to see age restrictions on games put onto legal paper. Afterall, it’s illegal to sell adult videos and magazines to minors, why should video games be different? If they were intended for adults, then children have no place in playing them.

    • archonsod says:

      I’ve said for a few years that part of the problem is that adult oriented games are treated no differently from any other game, which is just as confusing for parents.
      Consider (in the UK at least) similar adult themed material, whether it’s pornography or the latest action flick, is distinguished from the non-adult themed material within a store – usually by placing it in it’s own section or on the “top shelf”. I’ve always wondered why a similar approach has not been adopted by retailers; if nothing else it at least marks out to a guardian that these games may contain objectionable material for their ward in a way placing Pippa Funnell next to GTA doesn’t.

  14. robrob says:

    Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the children?

    • jsdn says:

      I wish people would stop thinking of the children. The less children are exposed to the world, the dumber they’ll be when they become adults. Parents are getting screwed over too, some getting nearly arrested for taking a photo of their own child, some getting warned by police to not let their children climb a tree, some people going to court for owning anime of questionably underage girls in their underwear. It’s only going to get worse.

  15. MultiVaC says:

    Something I found oddly relevant was that here on a gaming blog that covers violent games of all sorts, frequented by people who have played hundreds of violent video games, the first comments on this article are requesting a warning about the 10 seconds of real world violence that is shown in the video. All this talk about being “desensitized” from the anti-video game crusaders, and yet there are hardcore gamers here who are disturbed by some actual violence that isn’t even graphic enough to be flagged on YouTube.

    • GT3000 says:

      Actually the original video was flagged but that be a moot point. Just responding to the general question of whether there’s an unconstitutional situation. Maybe, typically anything that bars the First Amendment gets shot down and even in the case of protecting children it falls to the parents as it should be. The costs of a society where creativity and inspiration is promoted is that you’re subject to things like sex and violence.

      Also, as someone who’s a member of the military I can tell you that without some level of desensitization, particularly psychological (Barring empathy and basic association) that killing a human being is a difficult endeavor and takes time getting used to. These pilots may appear bloodthirsty but it’s simply that psychological disconnect. It also helps that they’re half a mile away and not individually choking the life out of these guys. So I have empathy for their situation. I probably would’ve done the same.

    • boldoran says:

      I really hate getting off topic here but I would like to know what you mean by “I probably would have done the same”.Watching this video really disturbed me. While it was repulsing to hear how trigger happy they were and how little respect they had for their targets I can understand it. In a war situation the enemy has to be painted as inferior and dehumanized. So I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the soldiers treat him as such.
      What I really can’t understand how they could think it was ok to shoot on the guys that were trying to save the wounded.
      They are sitting probably a kilometer or more away high up in the air and just decide to shoot because they can? Is the military really training their soldiers to be that eager to shoot?

      That video really had an impact on me. I think the actions are indeed a bit similar to what I myself probably would do in a videogame. If I was sat down in front of a computer running GTA for the first time and the scene was the character flying in an attack helicopter this would probably be the first thing I would do. Make something explode and shoot the Firefighters etc that are rushing in. But I can’t belive that I would act in the way the pilots did in this video no matter how much GTA I played. So what is it that makes them do it? Is it the distance to the actual dying? the stress? the training? are they just bad people?
      Again sorry for derailing butt his really has been on my mind for quite some time after I saw the video.

  16. Tom O'Bedlam says:

    That was an interesting video, thanks.
    I found myself having a bit of a problem with some of the things discussed there though. I agree with the practical application of Ye’s law, true age restriction on games is great idea, same as films. (though thats a tricky argument when you then extend it to books. I bought a copy of 120 days of sodom when i was 15…). The way the system ought to work is pretty much how I grew up, if i wanted to watch a 15/18 movie or play the game I asked my parents if I could, if they thought it was ok then they’d watch it with me. Most notably when I was 9 and watched Alien and Terminator 2 with my dad.

    The problem with Ye’s law is that it has to skirt around the constitution to get there. By trying to brand games as obscene publication is making a mockery of both system and the form. In much the same way as there is a difference between Lady Chatterly’s Lover and Anal Whores from Fetish 7, there’s a clear difference between violent games and gratuitious games and parents ought to be the ones who know whether it suitable or not.

    But then maybe my parents were hideously irresponsible too? They did after all leave alone playing a game where I would frequently organise the mass suicides of green haired, blue jump suited creatures…

  17. Kanamit says:

    It would be very difficult for the Court to not strike down this law after they just struck down a ban on “crush videos” (don’t look that up if you want to retain any faith in humanity) and other animal cruelty porn on first amendment grounds. But then again, this is probably one of the most reactionary activist Supreme Courts the US has ever known so I can’t say I’d be terribly surprised if they did anyways, precedence be damned.

    • GT3000 says:

      Such is the cost of creative expression. You may not agree with it. Hell, nobody may agree with it but it ensures that the spirit of the law is intact. I don’t think this particular iteration of the court is any more reactionary than the past but it’s always nice to see how these things pan out.

    • Kanamit says:

      For the record I’m not entirely sure what I think about that particular decision. But the law in question had exceptions for things with artistic, scientific, etc. etc. merit. My problem isn’t with the depiction of animal cruelty but with the fact that the production process is extremely cruel.

    • TeeJay says:

      –sorry posted in wrong place–

    • The Dark One says:

      Any supreme court with a sitting judge who cites Jack Bauer to defend the use of torture is pretty actiony to me.

  18. GT3000 says:

    Again, there’s laws governing animal cruelty. It’s depictions are entirely up for grabs.

    • Kanamit says:

      Like child pornography, the abhorrent, cruel nature of the production process does not cease to be when passed from the producer to the viewer.

      People can draw whatever they want and I don’t care, is what I’m saying.

    • GT3000 says:

      After a bit of reading I saw there was a proposed amendment designed for the animal cruelty law targeting crush videos in particular which I don’t mind at all. I think it rests right there with the amendment and not a separate law. For the record, I don’t approve of any animal being subject to abuse.

      http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d111:24:./temp/~bdWI04::|/bss/|

    • Kanamit says:

      See, this is why I’m concerned about this decision. Crush videos, as particularly disgusting and cruel as they are, are not the only forms of animal cruelty. I think it would a mistake to ban them without banning videos of pitbull fights and other cruel acts as well.

  19. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    1) Kids are more impressionable than adutls. Thats just fact. The younger you are, the more you are learning and forming basic associations and impressions.

    That’s true. But at the same time, how many games can you name where the violence is an end in itself? Furthermore, how many games can you name where being “evil” is rewarded?
    In smashing majority of videogames you’re the “good guy”. And yes, you kill enemies, but the enemies are usually nazis, zombies, zombie nazis, demons, terrorists, soulless mercenaries, and so on. Even if they’re not: they’re hostile to you. Killing enemies who are trying to shoot you in the face hardly teaches random acts of senseless violence or murdering your entire class. Hell, there are places in the world where it’s perfectly legal to do in real life!
    So yes, children are very impressionable, but just what are they being impressed with in violent videogames?

  20. KCpwnsGMAN says:

    In the US you have no rights until you turn 18, which is the age you can register to vote and join the military.

    The stores have set up their own policies to not sell to minors here. When I was 14 or 15 it was hard for me to buy any M rated game, except if it was online, in which case it was easy to pirate or buy.

    This legislation is a waste of time and money.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      And even though you can pick up a gun and shoot brown folks over in the desert at that age, you still can’t hoist a beer in most states.

      Wonderfully schizophrenic, our laws are.

  21. Shnyker says:

    Supreme court doesn’t much like California, or stupid things. Being a technical minor (not a Californian though) I obviously oppose this. I’ve played violent games since I was old enough to hold a controller. I think that it has less to do with the game and more to do with the rest of the variables in their environment, like parents not stressing that violence is bad.

  22. Springy says:

    I liked the little bit of banter concerning how the Court will actually examine the games. I can’t imagine Clarence Thomas and John Roberts sitting down and playing through the entirety of Modern Warfare 2, but that might just be my own pathetic imagination’s failing. They have to play them, it’s the only way to fairly judge how people are exposed to them.

    And it’s not like there’s not a history, heck, the entirety of the Warren Court had to sit through the most depraved, sickening shit the porn industry could grind out for a case, and what came out of it is the statement that ‘I can’t tell you what obscenity is, but I know it when I see it’.

    Which is how I feel when I could swear someone’s kicking my arse so bad in a round of MW2 they *must* be cheating.

  23. MrFake says:

    I couldn’t care less about the rights of kids in this matter. I’m more concerned about the adults that will be hassled over this. Bring a kid along and you’re busted, intent or not. Be a middle aged woman, not up on the games vernacular, and you’re busted. Genuinely want to introduce your 15 year old to a game like, say, The Void, and no, the state has decided you can’t.

    And what’s the penalty? Thousands of dollars or years in prison for buying a few games? What if the games are for you, but you don’t want to lock them up in your closet where your kids can’t get at them?

    Slippery slope and child impressionability my ass. Please, won’t somebody think of the PARENTS!

  24. MinisterofDOOM says:

    Thin end of the wedge is exactly right. And not only for the immediately obvious reasons. In my view, the ESRB is an excellent system in most ways. The biggest failings of the system are not due to the system itself, but how it is enforced. For instance, there’s the whole misinterpretation of the AO rating, which causes a whole slew of new problems. When vendors refuse to sell a certain rating (by law or choice), it impacts other ratings down the line. No one dares make AO rated games that aren’t porn (and AO is NOT the porn rating, it’s the “R” rating) because they won’t sell. This has effects on M-rated games, and on games as a whole. That’s broken. And even without supporting legal reasons, most stores already refuse to sell AO rated games. Adding legislation on top of that is likely to worsen that situation.

    I already have a hard enough time buying M games as it is. I’m 25, but look young…but that doesn’t matter anyway. Many stores have already integrated systems using the 2D barcodes featured on newer US drivers’ licenses. I have an older license as it isn’t up for renewal until next year, and it lacks the barcode. So whenever I go to these stores, I have to wait for a manager to authorize the purchase, because the cashier can’t just scan my ID and continue. This is overkill. But things like this will only become more common if this law goes through.

    California is responsible for setting a LOT of very uncomfortable precedents that wouldn’t fly in any other US state. The problem is that once the precedent is set, other states often start adopting it. Allowing California to pass this law is opening the floodgate for the nation as a whole to adopt it. Bad Things. This same thing happened with CARB (google it if you’re not familiar with it). It really makes being a US resident from another state frustrating. I don’t vote on California state laws, but they absolutely affect me.

  25. TeeJay says:

    @ Kieron Gillen

    While California law is a valid/interesting story, I am still waiting for a journalist to ask some decent and in-depth questions about what is actually going on in the UK.

    PEGI has now been adopted in the UK as legally enforceable for videogames, in place of the BBFC, however I am finding it hard to find out what the PEGI criteria actually are and who exactly are enforcing them for the UK (the VSC apparently?) and if it is now technically illegal for a mod-maker or indie developer to release/distribute a game (adult or otherwise) in the UK without a PEGI certificate. Also it isn’t clear what input the British public have (if any) into PEGI or VSC guidelines.

    Until now the Video Recordings Act required that any game which “depicts to any significant extent, gross violence against humans or animals, human sexual activity, human urinary or excretory functions or genital organs, or techniques likely to be useful in the commission of offences” needed to be certified by the BBFC. What is the situation now?

    Kieron, it’s all very well British journalists covering stories from California, but it would be great to see someone do the same for our own backyard, given the confusing state of affairs here in the UK.

    - “Three men get sole rating power for computer games” http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/media/article6550177.ece (2009) – Is this still true now?

    - Are PEGI ratings more restrictive or more liberal than BBFC ratings? (eg BBFC rated Mass Effect 2 as ‘15′ versus the PEGI ‘18+’, other examples are vice-versa).

    - What are the implications for ‘naked’ or other mods, indie games, online games, etc?

    - How much does it cost to get a PEGI rating and what are the legal risks if you fill in your forms wrong?

    - Have PEGI ever refused a rating? If so what kind of stuff would get a refusal? How are the differences between UK law and those in other European countries going to be handled exactly?

    - Will the Video Standards Council exercise any additional controls or discretion on top of/beyond the PEGI ratings (eg for ‘extreme’ content)?

    - Will developers change what they put in games? Will shops and online retailers change how they sell games?

    Could a UK games journalist get an interview with the head of the Video Standards Council or whichever person is in charge of this new system and put some of the questions to them? Preferably they would also double check the answers with others and do an good in-depth story about the new UK videogames censorship regime. Thanks in advance to anyone who actually goes and does this.

    • TeeJay says:

      edit: I have finally found some detailed PEGI criteria, unfortunatel in a downloadable .pdf on a flash website:

      Go here: http://www.videostandards.org.uk/
      Go to the ‘games’ tab
      Go to the “Download PEGI Assessment Form”
      You need to download the file, unzip with WinZip and use Adobe Reader to look at it.

      It has 46 yes/no questions. Here’s some examples:

      Q.22 Glamorisation of the use of illegal drugs – “The depictions will show that the user of the drugs is able to achieve success (win the game, get the girl, kill the enemy, commit the crime) after the use of illegal drugs. The drugs concerned should be real and be illegal (not fantasy or legal drugs).”

      Q.24 Sexual expletives or blasphemy – “The most common sexual expletives are fuck, cunt, motherfucker and cocksucker although this list is not exhaustive. Blasphemy means irreverent depictions or words concerning sacred matters or religious beliefs (not restricted to the Christian faith). It should be noted that blasphemy is likely to be illegal under national criminal laws and may not be included in the game in any event.”

      Q.30 Depictions of erotic or sexual nudity – “This is where the depiction of nudity (including partial nudity) could result in sexual arousal or is shown as a prelude to human sexual activity. This can include still pictures particularly if they depict an erotic activity. This will not generally include straightforward pin-ups.”

      Q40. Words or activities that amount to obvious sexual innuendo or explicit sexual descriptions or images or sexual posturing – “This can refer to words or pictures that may be sexually explicit but do not amount to eroticism (a brief glimpse of a lady with bare breasts at a window or a brief glimpse of a naked couple (not showing genitalia) getting into bed). The sexual innuendo must be obviously relating to sexual intercourse/foreplay and can consist of words and/or activity. This would cover instances in which it is clear that sexual intercourse is taking place but the participants are out of view, under sheets etc. The importance is sexual connotation. If however, the couple can be seen, even if they are partially clothed, then question 27 ‘sexual intercourse without visible genitals’ will be more appropriate. The test is whether the images could prompt sexual curiosity on behalf of the player. Sexual posturing means dancing or posing (while remaining clothed) in a manner intended to put across a sexual message or suggestion. This will include such things as pole dancing, lap dancing and even some of the more suggestive music video sequences.”

      Q.41 Mild swearing and/or offensive language – “This means bad language that falls short of sexual expletives and includes the words bloody, son-of-a-bitch, sod, tart, crap, bugger, screw, arse, slag, slut, tosser, dickhead, bitch, shit, piss off, whore, arsehole, prick, bollocks, twat, bastard, wanker and shag. It also covers offensive language such as nigger, coon, yid, queer, dyke and other racially or gender offensive words”

      Q.46 Depictions of violence that are set in a cartoon, slapstick or child-like setting, and could possibly be upsetting to a child younger than 7 – “A child-like setting is a setting that is more likely to appeal to younger children. Such a setting may include (but is not limited to): • a fantastical setting usually where reality is exaggerated. • unreal/vivid colours • joyful music • cheerful sounds and/ or
      • an overall cartoonlike atmosphere.

      Slapstick will usually refer to realistic looking characters where the violence exaggerates reality and exceeds common sense. Whether the violence in that setting is likely to be upsetting to a child younger than 7 is determined by elements such as: • threatening sounds • nature of the characters
      • dark overtones

      If none of the depictions are likely to be upsetting to a child under 7 question 49 may be appropriate. If the depictions of violence are likely to be disturbing rather than upsetting a 12 rating is more appropriate (disturbing is a higher test than upsetting).”

    • Kast says:

      Regarding Q.22 ‘Glamorisation of the use of illegal drugs’ – I wonder if a successful but unglamorous use of illegal drugs would fall under this category.

      Imagine the situation: the player character shoots some cocaine in a cutscene or Heavy Rain-style interactive sequence prior to a missions. Perhaps they are a criminal and go on to rob a bank, or a soldier and take out an enemy outpost. Whatever. They complete their task with style and skill as befits the Hero of the tale.

      Optionally, the drug’s effects could be seen to include heightened reflexes (bullet time mode?) or senses (indicators of approaching enemies?) giving the player benefits to having taken the drug. This might be counter-balanced with tremors (occasionally worsened aim) and off-kilter perception (loud whispers and distant machine noises but quiet gun shots and shouts).

      So far so glamorous. Once the mission is completed, however, there is a scene in which the player character suffers the after-effects of the cocaine. They are seen to shake, wobble and collapse clutching their chest. If the game is from a first-person perspective the player experiences extreme vision blurring and the thrum of blood in their eyes and ears before all goes white. There is vomiting and hyperventilation involved. Decidedly not glamorous.

      Now this is all rather unusual for a mainstream modern action game but I wonder if the PEGI system is capable of discerning and advertising the difference.

      For that matter what does anyone think of the idea as a concept? Could that make for an interesting twist/mechanic?

      Sources: Wikipedia, Drugrehab.co.uk

    • MadMatty says:

      Kast: there are working drug systems in a few games, namely Fallout 1 & 2 (atleast) and in Eve Online.
      They basically give you a short boost, then in Fallout it checks to see if you get addicted, then applies negative modifiers for a period afterwards (hungover).
      I´ve seen pen and paper RPG´s where you also roll for braindamage or neural damage (Cyperpunk 2020) after taking particularly nasty shite.

    • Kast says:

      That’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of the Fallout games. Of course those were before PEGI and Fallout 3 didn’t deal with real drugs – not after they renamed them anyway.

    • TeeJay says:

      Just to clarify:

      Answering ‘yes’ to Questions 1 – 15 meant a BBFC certification was required in UK (not sure what it means now UK laws have changed).

      Answering yes to other questions mean that:

      For Q.16 – Q.25 = 18+ age rating
      For Q.26 – Q.35 = 16+ age rating
      For Q.36 – Q.42 = 12+ age rating
      For Q.43 – Q.47 = 7+ age rating
      For Q.48 & Q.49 = 3+ age rating
      Q.50 relates to online multiplayer.

      As far as I understand it even the most extreme content will get a 18+ PEGI rating, and it is up to individual countiries to actually ban games or add on extra restrictions or extra age ratings on top of this.

  26. Fumarole says:

    That guy in the blue shirt sure hates to blink.

  27. Lemon scented apocalypse says:

    “Trying to protect children from violence is dangerous because the world is a violent place”
    - and of course sex is completely unnatural. The American constitution certainly is a bizarrely backward slice o’ pie.

    • Fumarole says:

      ’tis not the Constitution, but the most vocal of constituents.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Lemon Scented Apocalypse

      What a bizarre comment. There’s nothing in the Constitution about sex or violence, and the only amendment that addresses the issue even tangentially would be the first, with that whole “right to free expression” thing. That a bulwark of neo-puritanical inanities has been constructed by subsequent generations of lawmakers is no comment on the Constitution.

    • Lemon scented apocalypse says:

      My apologies -a slip of the old semantics makes johnny an impossible to understand boy.
      Let me elaborate . . Despite its historical context., I just find the particular American cultural concept that violence is A OK but sex is taboo to be utterly baffling. It has no place in the modern world and is completely at odds with the general public outlook – The constitution creates the inflexible, outdated core to the American legal system that allows exploitation of these kinds of outdated and destructive ideals.
      It serves only to create a byzantine forest of red tape and bureaucracy that is deeply detrimental to the political and cultural health of the states. ramble out.

    • Corporate Dog says:

      I still think you’re missing the point, Lemon.

      I mean, I guess, if you want to ask, “Why do you Yanks protect and enshrine the right of gun ownership in your Constitution, but not, say, the right to sell/display/manage your naughty bits?” that’s SORT OF a valid question. But that’s also like asking, “Why isn’t there more meat on the menu at this seafood restaurant?” The Constitution doesn’t cover EVERYTHING. It covers what the founders felt were the most important things, and then it left it up to society to cover the rest.

      When your ancestors arrived on our shores in their spiffy red coats, I hear that our first offer was blowjobs for all, if they’d just turn around, and tell George to leave us alone. Considering how THAT turned out, it’s not too much of a surprise that we enshrine gun rights in our Constitution. And the reasons for doing so then were JUST as valid as they are now.

      That still doesn’t account for US gun culture, which is a very real phenomenon, but also not nearly as hyperballistic (no pun intended) as I’ve personally heard some Brits believe it is. I live in rural Maine, where hunting is common, but I’ve not once in my life seen anyone (apart from law enforcement and the occasional hunter) carry around a firearm.

      To reiterate what VInraith is saying, America’s predeliction with violence (and seeming distaste for sex) has nothing to do with the Constitution, or the rights enshrined in it. It has a lot more to do with the fact that when we settled on Plymouth Rock, we were your religious outcasts. You guys got to clean house, and we got saddled with Jesus and a guilt complex for the last 400-someodd years.

  28. sockeatsock says:

    Yeah, tell me about it. And since when is the world a violent place? I live in little ol’ ho’ hum Australia and sure, there are a few bashings every now and then, yet for the most part we keep our little fists to ourselves.
    I think when he says the world is a violent place he really means America is a violent place.

  29. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    Well I live in Australia and I can say that I think what it has come to over here is absolutely horrendous, we don’t have an R18 Classification, and so all games are rated M+15, this means that 15 year olds are essentially playing video games that are aimed towards 18-25 year olds (GTA IV for instance) and the 18+ year olds have to put up with playing dumbed down goreless rubbish designed to stop little timmy shooting up his classmates (ala L4D2 <- The ONLY reason I have not bought it)

    If Videogames are so violent and inspire all this chaos and desensitize you to violence etc etc, surely out of all my friends and all their friends and all their friends who play videogames, you'd expect to come accross at least one mass murderer, well that hasn't happened so, I think people need to stop blaming games for behaviour when it is parenting that influences so much more.

  30. Dan K says:

    I’m glad this wasn’t a scare-mongering up-in-arms horror show likethe Titchmarsh debacle was but it seems that filme certificates are enough, if parents want to censor for their childred tehy have the information to do so, the state doesn’t need to interfere.

  31. dethgar says:

    My mom always told me as a kid, “You don’t have any rights!” So I’ve always assumed kids weren’t afforded the same rights as adults, thus such a ban is not unconstitutional.

    Yes mother, coming mother!

  32. TeeJay says:

    It seems the Digitial Economy Bill has made the following PEGI criteria ‘legally enforceable’ so that it is illegal to sell a game with any of the following to someone under 18: Also the fine for a developer “making a false declaration about a game’s content” could be £425,000

    * Depiction of gross violence (ie depictions of decapitation, dismemberment, torture, sadism and other horrific methods of bringing about death, severe pain or injury) towards human-like or animal-like characters

    * Depiction of apparently motiveless killing or serious injury to multiple numbers of innocent human-like characters (eg killing of pedestrians, shoppers, school children)

    * Depiction of violence towards vulnerable or defenceless human-like characters (in particular women and children, those that have no opportunity to avoid the violence (eg. by running away or hiding).

    * Depiction of sexual activity with visible genital organs

    * Depiction of sexual violence or threats (including rape) or infliction (including self-infliction) of pain on genital organs.

    * Detailed descriptions of techniques that could be used in criminal offences (eg how to make a molotov cocktail or details of the implements needed to break into a car and how to use them).

    * Glamorisation of the use of illegal drugs – where the user is able to achieve success (win the game, get the girl, kill the enemy, commit the crime) after the use of illegal drugs (real & illegal drugs, not fantasy / legal ones).

    * Depictions of ethnic, religious, nationalistic or other stereotypes likely to encourage hatred

    * Sexual expletives or blasphemy (eg fuck, cunt, motherfucker and cocksucker etc. or “irreverent depictions or words concerning sacred matters or religious beliefs”)

    * Moving images that encourage or teach the use of real-life games of chance that are carried out as a traditional means of gambling (eg that is normally played in casinos, gambling halls, racetracks) but *doesn’t* include gambling which is simply part of the general storyline.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    It is unknown at the moment how much additional censorship will be added to these PEGI criteria, but the best estimate is that crietria will be roughly in line with the current BBFC rules governing films and DVDs and of course will include various other UK laws:

    The BBFC criteria (applied to films/DVDs/etc) states that adults should *not* be free to choose their
    own entertainment “…where material or treatment appears to the BBFC to risk harm to individuals or, through their behaviour, to society – for example, any detailed portrayal of violent or dangerous acts, or of illegal drug use, which may cause harm to public health or morals. This may include portrayals of sexual or sexualised violence which might, for example, eroticise or endorse sexual assault.”

    The highest *sexual* age-rating is “R18″, which is more restrictive than the normal “18+” rating:

    “Sex works containing only material which may be simulated are generally passed ‘18’. Sex works containing clear images of real sex, strong fetish material, sexually explicit animated images, or other very strong sexual images will be confined to the ‘R18’ category. ‘R18’ video works may be supplied only in licensed sex shops which no one under 18 may enter. ‘R18’films may be shown only in specially licensed cinemas.”

    More ‘extreme’ material is not allowed even under R18:

    * “any material which is in breach of the criminal law, including material judged to be obscene under the current interpretation of the Obscene Publications Act 1959″

    * material (including dialogue) likely to encourage an interest in sexually abusive activity (for example,
    paedophilia, incest or rape) which may include adults role-playing as non-adults

    * the portrayal of any sexual activity which involves lack of consent (whether real or simulated). Any form of physical restraint which prevents participants from indicating a withdrawal of consent

    * the infliction of pain or acts which may cause lasting physical harm, whether real or (in a sexual context) simulated. Some allowance may be made for moderate, non-abusive, consensual activity

    * penetration by any object associated with violence or likely to cause physical harm

    * any sexual threats, humiliation or abuse which does not form part of a clearly consenting role-playing game. Strong physical or verbal abuse, even if consensual, is unlikely to be acceptable.

    The BBFC also state that they will require any of the following material to be cut:

    * material which may promote illegal activity
    • material which is obscene or otherwise illegal
    • material created by means of the commission of a criminal offence
    • portrayals of children in a sexualised or abusive context
    • sexual violence or sexualised violence which endorses or eroticises the behaviour
    • sadistic violence or torture which invites the viewer to identify with the perpetrator in a way which raises a risk of harm
    • graphic images of real injury, violence or death presented in a salacious or sensationalist manner
    which risks harm by encouraging callous or sadistic attitudes

    Other UK laws which might also be applied to videogames include:

    * Obscene Publications Act 1959 & 1964 – “A work is obscene if, taken as a whole, it has a tendency to deprave and corrupt a significant proportion of those likely to see it.”

    To clarify this, the Crown Prosecution websiote states the following:

    It is impossible to define all types of activity which may be suitable for prosecution. The following is not an exhaustive list but indicates the categories of material most commonly prosecuted:

    * sexual act with an animal
    * realistic portrayals of rape
    * sadomasochistic material which goes beyond trifling and transient infliction of injury
    * torture with instruments
    * bondage (especially where gags are used with no apparent means of withdrawing consent)
    * dismemberment or graphic mutilation
    * activities involving perversion or degradation (such as drinking urine, urination or vomiting on to the body, or excretion or use of excreta)
    * fisting

    * Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 – “An extreme pornographic image is one which is pornographic and grossly offensive, disgusting or otherwise of an obscene character, which features an apparently real person, and which portrays, in an explicit and realistic way, an act which: threatens a person’s life; results, or is likely to result, in serious injury to a person’s anus, breasts or genitals; involves sexual interference with a human corpse; or involves bestiality.”

    * The Protection of Children Act 1978 – “It is illegal to make, distribute, show or possess indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of a child. It is also illegal to make, distribute, show or possess indecent images of children which have been derived from a photograph or pseudophotograph (for example, by tracing). A child is defined as a person under the age of 18.”

    * The Public Order Act 1986 – “It is illegal to distribute, show or play to the public a recording of
    visual images or sounds which are threatening, abusive or insulting if the intention is to stir up racial hatred or hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation, or if racial hatred or hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation is likely to be stirred up. It is also illegal to distribute, show or play to the public a recording of visual images or sounds which are threatening if the intention is to stir up religious hatred.”

    * The Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Act 2002 – It is illegal, in the course of a business, to publish a tobacco advertisement.

  33. Roffler says:

    I’m not sure where most of you are from, but here in ‘merica we highly value our freedoms and the smartest of our burger loving bunch see the value in preserving freedoms for everyone be they liberals, the KKK or even minors.

    Additionally we love capitalism just as much as we love Lincoln which means businesses that don’t adhere to our moral or consumer standards should be boycotted with the dollar, not the law. If parents dislike Toys R’ Us’ practices they should refrain from buying games there until they change their policy or go out of business.

    But the major issue is being overshadowed by moral posturing: if the obscenity standard is applied to violence from our highest court that will open the flood gates to all sorts of censorship. It won’t be long before some bored lawyer starts applying this standard to film, TV and books; resulting in a horrible cluster-fuck because while it’s pretty easy to define something as pornography (genitals? Y/N) violence is multi-faceted. Where will the line be drawn? Blood? Does it have to be red? Decapitations, even the comical kind? Will audio come into play? What about context?

    You could easily argue that the ESRB already has these standard in place, but because they are simply a recommendation they don’t have to fit a strict, defensible-in-court definition. Publishers and watch-dog groups could easily get ratings altered or alternatively games, books or movies could be delayed indefinitely during lengthy court battles, possibly bankrupting the people who make the games all you funny sounding people like.

    This is pretty much the exact same reason I defend the KKK’s right to assemble and distribute their ideas and information. I certainly wish they would all drown in chinchilla piss, but the second I allow our law that power someone who doesn’t like me and my ideas can come along and huck me in the very same vat.

    If anyone wants to see the obscenity standard in glorious action check out United States v. One Book Called Ulysses.

    • TeeJay says:

      Great rhetoric, but in reality the USA – like every other country – doesn’t give minors the same freedoms as adults in a whole range of areas. Also it is ironic that “the land of the free” has the highest incarceration rate in the entire planet with 3% of all U.S. adult residents on probation, in prison or on parole!

      The argument that if people don’t like something they they should simply not buy it for themselves or their children isn’t applied to drugs, alcohol, tobacco, firearms or cars is it? The *real* dividing line isn’t about some abstract “freedom” that over-rides everything else, it is about balancing freedom against potential harm to others. This is as true in America as it is in Europe or Asia, even if the lines are drawn in a different places from country to country.

      It is just as easy/hard to have guidelines for violence as it is sex – there are plenty of examples of censorship systems in place around the world, some of which are more leniant than the USA in some respects.

      America isn’t really that different from many other countries (and Americans sound just as “funny” as anyone else).

  34. Roffler says:

    Hopefully you realized my egotistical American attitude was in jest. I really am aware that accents are subjective and that other video game companies outside the US contribute valuable material to the industry.

    Fun and games aside, I understand your position, but I cannot agree with it for several reasons. First off I’m not a pure capitalist so I wholly understand the need for certain regulations, however your rhetoric rests upon the assumption that I am completely happy with the restrictions on those other industries. If you let me I could whinge for hours about our draconian drug laws, the assault weapon ban, the lack of awesomely sexy commercials as seen in Europe and our bizarrely strong puritanical values, but that underscores my argument. Namely that the idea behind a law is far divorced from its implementation or even its necessity.

    I absolutely do not believe kids should have free access to violent, pornographic or addictive products, but I also believe that the industry is doing a bang-up job in regards to informing consumers and preventing unwanted sales. In fact it’s difficult to compare games to things like cigarettes, alcohol or even films because the barrier for entry into video gaming usually involves hundreds of dollars and up. If some kid can scrounge together the roughly $360 dollars it takes to play MW2 I don’t think anyone needs to be telling him he’s not ready for it. Similarly you can smoke a cig anywhere, but you can’t play a game unless you plonked in front of a, typically, immobile screen. Simply stated I see no reason for the law at all. If lil’ Johnny gets a violent game his parents don’t want him to have it’s no one’s fault but the parents.

    So I guess you could say why not let them pass the law, no skin off my back? Well no. I absolutely do not support censorship of any form (and this is really just censorship of the economic sort) because it pressures the industry to conform to arbitrary guidelines if they want to be successful. The fact that this requires a complete re-interpretation of the obscenity standard makes things that much scarier because it has potential implications for all media produced within the US.

    If states aren’t being pressured to outright ban the sale of R rated films to minors I see no reason why video games should.

    TL/DR: I cannot get behind any sort of legal implementation of this (imo) unnecessary law because it goes against my core beliefs as an American. Namely that the government should have zero say in the decimation of ideas no matter how distasteful and shallow they may be or how cursory and restricted the regulations are. (BTW drugs and firearms aren’t ideas)

    • TeeJay says:

      You see the “need for certain regulations” and you believe in restricting the freedoms of “kids” (presumaby you have some age in mind) – but just not for videogames? But you also claim “I absolutely do not support censorship of any form”. These statements seem to contradict each other.

      There are *lots* of ways a young person (under 18? under 21?) could play a game without their parents knowing. If you think that young people need ‘protection’ then how can you argue that the government should not provide this protection even if the parents fail to do so? Choosing who to blame is not a substitute for preventing something happening in the first place (or at least reducing it’s prevelance).

      Re. “arbitrary” guidelines – America already has censorship and other controls and restrictions on people’s freedoms. You could argue that any law is “arbitrary”. In reality laws are based on balancing individual freedoms against possible harms done to society. This is how laws are set in America and in a vast number of other countries.

      You say you are joking about an ‘egotistical American attitude’ but what’s this about “my core beliefs as an American”? What has nationality got to do with censorship? It is an issue in every single country in the world. The things you are saying are political beliefs, they have next to nothing to do with being an American or being a non-American. Also some can be just as much as an American as you and believe very different thngs – such as believing that there *should* be censorship and so forth. For most of American history that has been all sorts of censorship and restrictions on peoples’ freedoms.

      Now, you might assume that from the above I am arguing in favour of banning sales to minors. In fact I am just pointing out that America is not very different from many other countries, even tho’ some people like to come out with all this “freedom is absolute” stuff (it isn’t) and “America is unique” stuff (it isn’t). Like you I don’t particularly like censorship either, but I also don’t like bogus arguments and myth-making. The reality is that America and all other countries *do* have restrictions on the publishing/distribution/sale of various materials and media which seek to balance individual freedom to do whatever they want against the desirability of protecting against possible harmful consequences of allowing this. There is nothing uniquely American about having a debate as to where the line is drawn and how it is enforced.

      If you think there is then perhaps you need to find out a bit more about the other 95% of the planet where you live?

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