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New Bill Calls For Video Game ID Checks
New Bill Calls For Video Game ID Checks
May 8, 2008 | By David Jenkins

May 8, 2008 | By David Jenkins
More: Console/PC

Republican Lee Terry and Democrat Jim Matheson have introduced a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives which would require all video game retailers to make identification checks on those buying video games intended for adults.

According to a Variety report, the proposed Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act would require ID checks for any game rated M for mature or AO (adults only) and would also require stores to prominently display explanations of the existing ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) ratings system. Failure to comply in either case would result in a $5,000 fine.

Terry is optimistic that the act will not fall foul of first amendment concerns because it does not attempt to rate or define the content itself, but instead legally enforce the existing age ratings. The bill has already gained support from the Parents Television Council.

“The images and themes in some video games are shocking and troublesome. In some games, high scores are often earned by players who commit ‘virtual’ murder, assault and rape,” said Terry.

“Many young children are walking into stores and are able to buy or rent these games without their parents even knowing about it. Many retailers have tried to develop voluntary policies to make sure mature games do not end up in the hands of young kids, but we need to do more to protect our children,” he added.

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Matt Glanville
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I think we've had a law like this in place in the UK for some time now. It's surprising how many parents let their kids buy adult games because they think it's "just a game" and won't cause any damage. It's a bit of a double-standard as I'm sure they wouldn't let their kids buy a film with the same age rating (the UK uses the same classification system for both films and games).

Alex Nautilus
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Silly bill. Will they also require all book retailers to make identification checks on those buying books intended for adults?!

Theresa Adams
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Why should the government have to waste time and money making laws when the parents should be responsible for what games their kids play?

Ted Southard
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They card for movie tickets (theoretically anyway), so I don't think that this is a big deal. The government is taking a step to help enforce something the industry manages, without affecting the industry's management of the rating or affecting the development of the games themselves.

It also shields us developers from parents who say that "they didn't know", because now there are laws on the books to seperate children from adult content.

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If a 15 year old kid walked into a Best Buy and bought a DVD of Terminator, would he be IDed?

James Hoysa
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David Urrutia
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To be honest, while kids help game sales, I can't stand a high pitch kid screaming over the headsets, talking the entire time not about the game, and general immature ramble, singing, etc.. So, I'm all for a kid being carded. You can't drive, smoke, go to strip clubs, adult movies, buy adult music..... why should you be able to buy a game that has all in it if you're not of age?

I learned the hard way. I played GTA Vice City with my cousin and it seemed fine until my Nana came in and he proceeded to pick up a hooker and say "Nana look".... she was confused and I was able to make him crash into the ocean before she understood what was going on.... but it just shows that even when you explain to them you know they shouldn't be playing, but just "be cool", their little undeveloped brains just can't keep them out of trouble, and they can't handle the maturity (in most cases) if they are not of age.... So yeah, they should be carding them if you need to be 17 to buy Terminator. If they want it that bad, they'll convince their parents (hence the 50 million little kids playing, Halo 3, COD4, GTA4 etc, online.

Plus, I might have a better ranking if those little bastards weren't playing all day while I'm working..... haha, ok, that one was a joke. I'm not that much of a hater!

Peter Park
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I think games should be treated just like movies or other media. If there are laws requiring theaters or stores card customers before selling adult-rated contents, then I'm all for this law. If not, government should rather use the money to educate parents that games are just like movies, so treat them with same serious attitude.

And I do think 15-year-old should get carded when trying to buy Terminator DVD. Yes, Terminator doesn't seem too bad, but some naive-looking things may turn harmful to children's minds. (I remember hearing about a kid who watched The Matrix and believed this world was fake, and went on to murder his(her?) parents and him(her)self afterwards. Tragic...)

Evan Combs
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"land of the free"

We might as well take that out of the national anthem if this gets passed.

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Well, this is just silly, since when do kids pay for M rated games these days? It's all about the parents. If they are gamers, they will most likely buy an M rated game and then when they are not around the kid might play it. Who knows, some parents actually buy games like that for their kids without doing any research about the game they are getting for little Johny.

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Apparently, the US thinks that the poor guys working the frontlines of retailers should be the ones taking care of todays kids. What about the media? Has anyone seen the show American Justice? Actual crime scene photos of real dead people. No acting involved. If the government is so worried about shielding kids, why the hell are they pushing the war in the Middle East? I mean they might as well desensitize them so they can send them earlier. In all honesty shielding a kid from something just makes them want to do it that much more. Apparently no one in Congress raises their kids, or they'd know that already.

Benjamin Quintero
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I think these politicians have it all wrong. They are not thinking like business men, they are thinking like politicians. For example, I'd sooner take advantage of this with a bill as follows:

MSRP for Game X = $59.99

MSRP for Game X (without proper id for AO games) = $79.99

If a kid wants to dish out another $20 because he's too lazy to get his parents to buy it for him; he'll have to pay a premium. Let the publishers get a cut on the profits from the premium and everyone wins; even the developers make their money back sooner.

Malcolm Settle
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We need this here in Oz. We don't even have an R rating (ie the equivalent of the US AO) and there are ongoing arguments about it. Pretty much most of the industry and a lot of players (given the average gamer is 25-30ish here) want it but the politicians refuse.

The anti-R rating side argue that children will then have access to games that are inappropriate that they wouldn't otherwise be able to get their hands on becuase the game would never make it into the country. The pro side argue that if we treated it like many other forms of media and enforce the asking for ID (also done for cigarettes and alcohol) then the sale of an R rated game would/should not be a concern. If a parent chooses to buy such a game for their child, then that's their decision as a parent.

An R rating would also mean that games are given a more appropriate rating. Every GTA game to date has been given an MA15+ rating, meaning it is only to be sold to those 15 and over. Not that anyone really checks, it's pretty much down to the retailer. GTAIV was apparently "toned down" to meet our standards but according to the supplier the difference is "negligible" and, AFAIK, no other GTA has been modified in the slightest. I love GTA:SA but seriously, that should be an automatic R18+. I bought Bioshock not too long ago and the disc itself is labeled 18 even though the cover shows MA15+. A little reasearch shows that it's rated for 18 in the UK and Europe. Should it be 18 here too? Given the violence level and (pseudo-)realism, probably.

As to the laughable idea that kids don't currently have access to certain games, the anti side say that if an R rating is allowed then certain games will be allowed inthe country and kids will then have access to them. The South Australian Attorney General (a major anti-R advocate) says (I'm paraphrasing) that kids are far more tech-savvy than their parents and will easily bypass any parental lockout system. I haven't had to use any such systems myself but apparently (and admittedly, to my surprise) the majority of modern lockout systems actually work quite well. Besides, those same tech-savvy kids will find another way to get it if they really want, like downloading it off the net, just like they and everyone else does already.

What we need is not just an R18+ rating but some education of parents and enforcement of the rules. Bring it in and put up signs, like this US bill proposes, and put some ads on tv and in the local computer/gaming mags. Educate the parents to monitor their kids more effectively. It's pretty much been done with the internet, parents know to watch out for inappropriate stuff for their kids. Teach them to do the same with their games. Take an active role.

Hell, if we had this proposed bill here, half our battle would be won. And that's just to get an R rating allowed in the first place.