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Legislators Lagging Behind Media - By About Fifty Years
2005.07.27 (Wed) 18:19
Another good post from Les Jenkins — yes, we've been catching up on our SEB after a busy week — directs us to a press release regarding the recent ESRB rating change on the extremely popular game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas:
Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO) announced today that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on all platforms from "Mature 17+" (M) to "Adults Only 18+" (AO) because of the so-called "hot coffee mod," an unauthorized third party modification that alters the retail version of the game. Take-Two cooperated fully with the ESRB's investigation.
If you've missed this particular merry-go-round, here's the skinny: a mini-game containing explicit sexual content can be accessed in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas by using a special third party modification provided by some enterprising hackers. Originally, Rockstar Games claimed that the third party modification created the sex mini-game; it has since been proven that the mini-game was already included in the software, and was simply accessed by the mod.
All this is not the crux of our Rant.
Okay, so the ESRB has re-rated the game; assuming that vendors follow the rules, kids won't be able to buy the game unless their parents or guardians buy it for them. Done — right?
...[Hillary] Clinton said she would soon author a bill to create a federal law that would "put some teeth into video game ratings." Reminiscent of a California bill introduced by Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and similar measures in several other states, the legislation will "prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors" and make such action a federal offense. Clinton said the penalty for violating the law would be a mandatory $5,000 fine.
Whoa, there, Hillary. Down, girl.
$5,000? Five THOUSAND dollars? A federal offense? For selling a video game?
As Les pointed out, it's not a federal offense to sell a minor a ticket to an R-rated movie, nor to sell music with a "parental advisory" to a minor. Nor is it a federal offense to sell a pornographic magazine to minor. Yes, it should be up to a minor's legal guardian to determine the propriety of materials their children can have. Yes, regulations reflecting that should be in place. But five thousand freaking dollars?
Once again, we see legislators lagging so far behind modern media technology that, when they finally catch up, they overshoot the mark and come up with outlandish legislation that simply isn't in line with the scale of the crime. It's like killing a fly with an atomic-powered supersonic planet-smashing axe. (And yes, major bonus points for that reference.)
We think part of the problem here is that the current crop of young adults (in that cherished 18-35 demographic) is the first generation of adults that frequently play video games. Video games first came out when we were kids — so we played them. We're adults now — and we still play them. The majority of the people who were already adults when video games first came out in the seventies do not play them — they believe that video games are a "kid thing."
So basically, it never occurred to the current generation of legislators (who are generally one or two generations older than us) that video games could have "adult content." They were made for kids, right? Who would ever put out video games aimed at adults, right?
That was their mistake. They didn't get into the gaming industry early enough; now they're struggling to catch up, and overcompensating severely in so doing.
Legislators: stop with the "outcry" bullshit, the "oh, it's offensive" bullshit. Just make sure the ratings system is up to snuff, and rework and enforce the laws regarding the sale of "adult-rated" video games (the ones with "objectionable" content) to minors. Just like a bar, or a movie theatre, or a porn shop — if you walk into a gaming store to order an adult-rated game, you get carded. Pretty damn simple!
Then: stop blaming the creators of these games. If "those-who-shouldn't-see-it" play these games, either their parents or guardians got it for them — in which case, no foul, shut up, parents do get to decide these things — or the vendor mistakenly gave it to them, in which case it's just like a bookseller giving porn to a kid. Seriously, how fucking simple could this be?
In a perfect world, all entertainment media should be rated by the same organization. Movies, books, magazines, television, video games, music...all of it. There is no intrinsic difference between these things; set up a system that covers it all!
We think it's just ridiculous that the legislators are "Shocked! Shocked, I say!" at the idea that there's "Dirty stuff!" in video games. It's just another entertainment medium. Violence and pornography have found their way into every medium since the dawn of civilization. A medium is born...and, eventually and inevitably, it is used to convey pornographic content. This is true of song, stage, prose, poetry, painting, sculpture, photography, movies, television, video games, the internet...all of it. Seriously, people — there are pornographic coloring books and candies! That's just how human civilization works, and it's nothing new! These laughable legislators are cut from the same cloth as Bernard Goldberg (who we'll be Ranting about soon), who thinks the culture is just now going down the tubes. What, are you legislators blind? None of this is new.
This seemingly deliberate blindness may stem from the fact that these folks grew up in the fifties. That decade was just a huge steaming pile of repression, with an "idyllic" façade that covered up the fact that the nasty stuff was still going on, just as it always is. Just because nobody was acknowledging it publicly doesn't mean it wasn't there. If nothing else, the Kinsey report should make that point clear. (We've discussed this before.)
It was a stupid, silly decade. It was such a socio-psychologically immature period that it stunted the growth of these people's brains. It created a false morality and behavioral model that didn't actually exist in reality. And now the folks who were indoctrinated by the Fifties Mentality are the ones in charge of our government. No wonder the Religious Right folks are finding such sympathetic ears in legislation these days.
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[ Filed under: % Computers & the Internet % Government & Politics % Media & Censorship ]
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The Two Percent Company, 2005.08.04 (Thu) 17:09 [Link] »
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