Hot Coffee, the ESRB, and Government Video Game Regulation - Kill the M Rating
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As a result, I propose removing the M rating altogether for future games. Rockstar actually tried to hide the fact that the ‘controlled sex’ exists in GTA:SA, and that was only to avoid the kiss of death I mentioned before. Dropping the M rating and leaving a gap from Teen to AO will definitely force all the publishers to think twice about putting anything, impossible to reach or not, into any future game that may jeopardize sales. Games that by nature have to be somewhat violent like the Battlefield series will have to be purchased by adults over the age of 18. This will force parents to take responsibility for their purchases, and may actually become more informed about what their children are doing.
Maybe we’ll even see a reduction in incidents where lawyers blame the video games for training kids to shoot people. Am I being facetious? Somewhat. The list of cases where games get blamed as being the cause is still growing.
Having said that, rating a game based on its ‘modifiability’ as the ESRB said they are going to start doing is asking for all kinds of trouble. Games that encourage user created content like The Sims series are going to get wiped out instantly. (The Sims is currently rated Teen for nearly all versions.) Hackers can create mods that do almost anything to any game. One of the most famous examples is the ‘Nude Raider.’ Also, look at the amount of ‘trainers’ that are used to help cheat at games. Trainers modify the program in memory to force the game to operate in a manner that it is not supposed to in order to cheat.
It is foolhardy to write a program, distribute it to the general public, and expect that nobody will be able to figure out how it works. Similarly, GM does not expect that Ford will not be able figure out how the latest and greatest features in the new Cadillacs work. Microsoft also expects that hackers will be able to reverse engineer their activation schemes. As one DevHardware writer put it, “it's taken [Microsoft] 5 years to make [evading Windows XP authentication] difficult enough that I actually have to ‘think’ a little to get around it.” The best that these companies can do is try to obfuscate the inner workings as much as possible or attempt to make it prohibitively expensive. In the meantime, modding games is here to stay. Considering that the some of most popular games on the market today are games with active communities creating custom content, it makes financial sense to encourage it.
With the US Government publicly musing about stepping into the video game rating business, that financial impetus to keep certain things in a game could disappear instantly. Since there are senators who are thinking about bringing in Rafael Palmeiro for perjury charges based on his recent drug tests, it would not be much of a stretch for the Government to try to get involved. In fact, since the premise of the doping inquiries was ‘professional sports can’t police themselves, we’ll do it for them’, a similar idea which says ‘the gaming industry can’t police itself, we’ll do it for them’ is starting to get traction.
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