Critics and games industry do battle Stateside

Clinton, NIMF, ESA and the ESRB square up...

As you might have read earlier in the week, influential New York senator and former first-lady Hillary Clinton has decided to tackle the growing issue of games ratings stateside head on with a new piece of legislation. The federal law she intends to propose will legally enforce regulation of the sale of 'adult content' games to minors, in a fashion several states have already attempted individually. Proposed age restrictions on certain products have thus far failed at state level, despite strong backing at times, the 'freedom of expression' amendment in the US constitution being used by games industry bodies in court cases challenging the laws. You may not be aware, though you probably could have guessed, that the National Institute on Media and the Family has also launched an assault on the games industry this week, summarily awarding the entire industry a D+ rating for the increase in games containing sex and violence. The 'rating' will stand for ten years, apparently. The ESRB's content rating system was also derided as 'beyond repair', according to GameSpot's report on the stir.

"There is now a continuum of tools from the store to the home enabling parents to take charge of the video games their kids play," Entertainment Software Association president Douglas Lowenstein responded in reaction to Clinton's proposals. "It is now up to them to do their jobs as they see fit, not up to government to do it for them."

Lowenstein added that the proposed bill would probably be unconstitutional, not only upon freedom of speech grounds, but because the bill would utilise the ESRB's existing ratings system, effectively giving government powers to a private organisation - another unconstitutional move, according to Lowenstein. Clinton however has yet to reveal the exact words and specifics of her bill, so all this seems somewhat academic at present anyway. Industry bodies have been attempting to assure the masses for sometime that the existing situation affords minors sufficient protection, with greater parental responsibility the only approach they back.

Whilst ESA's response to Clinton's law and the damning NIMF report was generally restrained and highly diplomatic, the ESRB ratings board were less limber with their reply: "The call to issue more AO ratings has little to do with rating accuracy and more to do with NIMF's real agenda, which is to destroy the commercial viability of games it deems objectionable," read a quick-fire response. "Unlike NIMF, ESRB's job is to be a neutral rater, not a censor."

"Their silence is an unmistakable indication that this is not about working cooperatively in the interests of video game consumers, but rather is about NIMF imposing its own narrow values and morality on the rest of the country, regardless that it has little evidence to show that parents agree with their point of view," the statement concluded. More on this controversy as we get it.


E3 Trailer