Congress wants to rate your games

Written by Brett Thomas

August 7, 2006 | 14:58

Tags: #congress #esrb #video-games

In another "I talk, but have no clue what I am saying" moment, a US Representative has proposed a "Truth in Video Game Ratings" act, which he believes will help clean up the ESRB's 'deceptive conduct.' Cliff Stearns, a Republican from the state of Florida, is proposing the bill, which is co-sponsored by two Democrat representitives.

Mr. Stearns is an expert in the video game field, as far as congress is concerned, as he recently presided over a hearing on the matter. His proposal includes new testing measures for the ESRB, such as being forced to play through every game it assigns a rating in its entirety. In addition, game manufacturers would be held liable for any rating-affecting content that the ESRB is not made aware of - a clear shot at the "Hot Coffee" issue in GTA:SA. And just to make sure blame cannot be avoided, it will be a crime to commit "gross mischaracterisation" of any content, the terms of which will be defined by the FTC.

Currently, the ESRB has three trained people review each game based on footage prepared by the developers themselves, which is submitted voluntarily. The entire operation is a little bit low-budget, as the ESRB does not have infinite money...a fact which the proposed bill completely fails to address. In fact, the legislation does not account at all for the increases in cost or market-delay that will inevitably result from government mandate. The ESRB will just have to hire more people, rate a lot less games, or be fined to death by its new overlo....err, benefactors, the FTC.

Despite the ESRB president Patricia Vance's warnings that this is not only unnecessary but unwise in previous hearings, Stearns intends to press on with the bill, which he feels is an important step to "educating parents about rating content." Of course, he fails to hear that over 80% of polled parents acknowledge awareness of video game ratings, and over 70% say they use it in purchasing decisions for their children. But, that's congress for you.

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