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GAMING

Hot Coffee, the ESRB, and Government Video Game Regulation
By: Quantum Skyline
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    2005-09-06

    Table of Contents:
  • Hot Coffee, the ESRB, and Government Video Game Regulation
  • Mature vs Adults Only
  • Kill the M Rating
  • When the Government Gets Involved

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    Hot Coffee, the ESRB, and Government Video Game Regulation - When the Government Gets Involved


    (Page 4 of 4 )

    When government Gets Involved

    US Government involvement in the rating of video games by replacing the ESRB is a very bad idea.  Keeping in mind that the ESRB is a “self-regulatory body for the interactive entertainment software industry,” the ESRB is still an independent body.  Also, remember that the ESRB did not fail to do its job with GTA:SA, since for all we know, the source code was changed to say something to the effect of

    if( months_in_year == 13 ){

        run_hot_coffee( );

    }

    There is no way that the US Government would have figured out that the Hot Coffee code existed in GTA:SA if it was running the show when GTA:SA went up for evaluation since they would have used very similar criteria that the ESRB used.  Government agencies do not have time to investigate what happens when you flip a few bits in memory.  That’s all the Hot Coffee mod had to do – change that ‘13’ to a ‘12’.

    Why is the independence of the ESRB important?  Government involvement would invariably lead to lobbying, political appointments and such.  Political appointees are also not likely to be gamers, or know much about games in general.  Looking back at the change in the rating of GTA:SA shows the powerful effect of lobbying.  A conservative government-controlled ESRB would be nearly fatal for the industry in the US, and would be largely ignored abroad.  An independent body can set its own rules, remain knowledgeable about the industry, and make much more reasonable attempts to keep extreme violence or sex out of the hands of children.  The one thing that a government agency might be able to do better than the ESRB is increase adult awareness of the ratings, as demonstrated by the 84 year old who filed suit after buying GTA:SA for her 14 year old grandson.  She claims to have been duped by the M rating. 

    Most of us will readily admit that no system is perfect, but GTA:SA only proved that there is a hole in the rating system, not that the game was incorrectly labeled.  No one can evaluate a device based on what happens when it is used outside of its specifications. Why should we expect the same out of video game reviewers?  There needs to be a change to allow either violence or sex to be labeled as an ‘adults only’ game.  Trying to get the government involved is only going to make things worse, since as a society, we are trying to remove the mixed messages sent to kids.

    Finally, parents need to wake up.  Neither governments nor the ESRB can control what effects video games can have on kids, but parents always do.


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