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Riccitiello: California Game Law 'Will Screw Us Up In A Real Way'
Riccitiello: California Game Law 'Will Screw Us Up In A Real Way'
July 6, 2010 | By Kris Graft

July 6, 2010 | By Kris Graft
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Executives from major game companies expressed concern with the Supreme Court's recent decision to revisit a California video game law that would restrict the sale of mature-themed games to minors, in a new report on CNBC.com.

Game execs are worried that the law could strain relationships with major retailers like Walmart, which could stop carrying mature titles if M-rated games are deemed suitable only for legal adults. Execs also have other reasons to be on guard.

"...We could end up with state level bureaucracies that define what’s marketable in 50 different jurisdictions across the U.S.," said Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello. "I can imagine [the government] trying to tell Steven Spielberg 'We need 50 different cuts of your movie for each state.' It will screw us up in a real way."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and state senator Leland Yee (D, San Francisco) wrote the law, with Schwarzenegger signing the bill into law in 2005. In 2007 after resistance from the game industry, the California Ninth Circuit Court found the law unconstitutional, ruling that video games are a form of free speech, just like books, movies and other media.

This year, the Supreme Court said it would now review the law, which would require government-mandated labeling guidelines and fines against retailers that violated the measure. The Entertainment Software Association trade body promptly said it would once again fight the measure.

Top execs from Disney Interactive studios and Take-Two also said the industry should worry about possible restrictions to sales. Sony Computer Entertainment America CEO Jack Tretton noted that similar laws have been struck down a dozen times before. "I think the Supreme Court is looking at it to potentially see if there’s something to it or to put an end to it once and for all," he said.

The video game industry is self-regulated, with the Entertainment Software Rating Board issuing ratings ranging from "E for Everyone" to "Adults Only" (18 and over). Some of the most popular games are M-rated (mature, 17 and over), including Activision's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the most commercially successful game of 2009, and Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto series, also a commercial benchmark.

Laws similar to the California measure argue that violent video games have a negative influence on children, and that young people should be protected from certain titles. But the court has found no conclusive evidence that violent video games cause violent behavior in youths.


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Comments


Ken Kinnison
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This sort of thing always hurts my brain.

Wal-mart already doesn't sell M rated games to minors (as well as gamestop and best buy as I recall). Making it illegal to do so is just wasted effort.

As a parent I don't really think I 'need help from the government in this regard. But then I don't equate video games with guns, tobacco or alcohol.

Is this really good politics? Is this really what John and Jane American need/want as a regulation?

Doug Poston
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Hopefully the Supreme Court will rule that Video Games are a form of speech, and that will be the end to most of these silly lawsuits.

Evan Combs
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There is something I don't get. From what I understand violence amongst youth is as low as it has ever been, and certainly far less than it was when the people trying to pass these bills were kids. If you can make any kind of assumptions it is that video games help kids get their aggression out in a virtual battlefield instead of a real battlefield.

Jed Hubic
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Am I missing something? How is this even an issue of violence in videogames? As I see it, this law is just putting real consequences on companies for selling M-rated games to minors. If Wal-Mart stops selling M rated games because they can't sell to minors, it would make no sense as they already don't sell M games to minors? Am I missing something? It's good to have some legal obligation so if a retailer ever does screw up it can come back to them. I'm not a parent but if some twisted employee somewhere sold a Leisure Suit Larry game to my kid and I came home well he was trying to get the nail some hot chick achievement I'd be a little mad.

Doug Poston
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@Jed: Wal-Mart (and every other retailer in the US I can think of) doesn't sell M-rated games to minors because it is bad PR (as it should be). It's the same reason why all the major movie theaters don't allow minors to view R-rated movies.



This system works. Minors are far less likely to be able to buy M-rated games (20%) than they are "R" and "Unrated" versions of movies (47% & 50%).

(see: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2008/05/secretshop.shtm)



So what's the harm in adding the risk of fines to these companies, who are already following the rules in most cases? Since they can't guarantee that nobody will make a mistake and sell to the wrong person, they'll just stop selling the games to anybody.

gus one
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Storm in a tea cup.

Ken Kinnison
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@gus- I don't know what that means but I like it.



@Jed- really? (ed: Ken.Tone = STATE_INCREDULOUS; ) You'd be mad at the retailer? Where'd the kid get the money, and why didn't you know what they were buying... further... are the games really that much of an issue?

Mark Harris
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Storm in a teacup = much ado about nothing = making a mountain out of molehill



etc etc etc

Kenneth Holm
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What it really comes down to is the government wanting more control. Plus if this does go through it means a whole bunch of new government jobs.

jason pike
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im trying to write a research paper about bureaucracies and violence in video games, any ideas on what approach i should have?


none
 
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