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The assault on video games

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E3: Study shows majority of parents oversee game purchases

Peter Cohen - MacCentral

New data published Wednesday by the Entertainment Software Association shows that a majority of parents are present at the time games are purchased or rented. Eighty-nine percent of the time, parents are present. The study is also giving rise to a new term — the “gamer parent:” Parents who play games themselves, often with their kids.

The survey, conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, also showed that a majority of the parents — 61 percent believe that parents believe games have a positive influence on their children’s lives. And 87 percent of the time, kids are getting their parents’ permission before purchasing or renting the game.

The numbers help bolster the ESA’s position that legislation is not the answer to restricting minors’ access to video games. The ESA — an industry trade group representing video and computer game publishers and hardware makers — has opposed legislative efforts to restrict the sale of Mature-rated video games to minors, and has actively fought against them in federal courts, overturning several state laws over the past several years.

Other results of the survey showed that the majority of parents — 79 percent — play games with their kids simply because they’re asked to. Parents also consider it a good opportunity not only to socialize with their kids, but also to monitor game content.

The typical gamer parent, according to the report, is 37 years old. And 47 percent of gamer parents are women. Gamer parents are experienced, as well — on average, they’ been playing for 13 years.

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And 47 percent of gamer parents are women.

I really hope there was at least a 3% margin of error.

I also wonder how this survey was conducted. 87% of the time they give the child permission to buy a game does not equal 87% of the time an underaged gamer gets a mature title, the parent approves.

Was there any sort of link to the study itself?

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Unsure if this is the right place for this, but here it is.

Minors Get $25 Fine for Adult Games

Minnesota is the latest state to pass an 'Inappropriate Games' bill.

by Daemon Hatfield

May 19, 2006 - It's the hottest trend in state government, and it's sweeping the nation! Following similar bills passed recently in Oklahoma and Louisiana, the Minnesota House has passed its own 'Inappropriate Games' bill.

Proposed by Republican Representative Jeff Johnson, the bill, HF1298, requires retail outlets to put up signs explaining the ESRB rating system. And in a new twist, instead of fining retailers for selling M or AO-rated games to minors, the bill levies a $25 dollar fine on the minor. Of course, Johnson noted he is not trying to criminalize video games, and as such the offense would not go on the minor's record.

According to Minnesota Public Radio, Representative Barb Goodwin of DFL-Columbia Heights tried, unsuccessfully, to amend the bill so it would also punish retailers for the offense: "It's the retailers that know what these games are. It's the retailers that buy the games or rent the games that know what they've got there. If they choose to rent those to children then they ought to pay the fine. They are the ones profiting off of it."

Nearly every other video game-related bill has been struck down on First Amendment grounds. Representative Johnson commented, "We were trying to pass the narrowest bill possible just to try something different from a constitutional challenge standpoint." He conceded, "There are two potential constitutional problems. One is that we are using the ESRB ratings. I can see a court saying you can't use private industry to create the law, but there's no way around that because everything else anyone has tried has been unsuccessful. The other piece is that so far no court has found a strong enough link (between game violence and youth violence)."

http://revolution.ign.com/articles/709/709443p1.html

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I'm not really getting this, how would they catch you to make you pay the $25 fine? Would the store just let a minor buy the game then say "Gotcha!" and make them pay the fine? I mean, if a store is lax enough in security to let an kid buy an M or AO game, they aren't going to be vigilant enough to keep track of the age of customers.

And I do like the idea of retailers putting up signs explaining the rating system.

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Yeah, it just seems wierd. How will they enforce it, have the store clerk call the cops when the kid brings a M-rated game up to the counter. It's just stupid and another example of politicians trying to affix a "solutuion" when there isn't a problem to begin with.

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Hilarious. How are you going to fine a 10-year old anyway? They don't have ID (other than maybe a social security card, but that's not photo).

And no court has found a strong enough link between violence and video games because there isn't one. Movies are stronger, as though there is no interaction, the images are more realistic.

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Gamers Shoot People in Face

Jack Thompson says the activity is unique to gamers and hit men.

by Daemon Hatfield

June 5, 2006 - Remember a time, roughly 30 years ago, when video games were just getting started and people weren't being shot in the face? Florida lawyer Jack Thompson is on a crusade to return the world to that time—when the only threat of having your face blown open came from your local hit man, not those young punks hanging out on the corner.

Thompson needs no introduction to the gaming community. For years he's been vocally condemning games as the cause of youth violence, global warming, hurricanes, bird flu, and teen pregnancy. The opportunist has recently seized on another violent crime to evangelize his message to the world: usually some variation of "video games will be the downfall of society!"

After two teenagers in Florida were arrested on suspicion of murder, Thompson suggested to the authorities that they search their homes for gaming paraphernalia. Deputies seized several games rated "M" from one of the homes, but West Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Capt. Spence Dilworth was a bit skeptical as to whether the games provoked the boys to commit murder.

"I think it goes beyond video games, but who's to say?" Dilworth said of the crime. He went on to say that the question of whether games cause violent behavior is "more of a debate for the living room rather than the courtroom."

But Jack Thompson doesn't need to have that debate anywhere. Of the suspects, who reportedly beat their victim to death and shot him in the face, Thompson said: "Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer."

IGN has launched an extensive investigation to determine whether or not anyone has ever been shot in the face by someone other than a hit man or a gamer. Stay tuned for our results.

credit to http://cube.ign.com/articles/711/711311p1.html

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But Jack Thompson doesn't need to have that debate anywhere. Of the suspects, who reportedly beat their victim to death and shot him in the face, Thompson said: "Nobody shoots anybody in the face unless you're a hit man or a video gamer."

That is the greatest thing I have ever read, and by greatest I mean stupidest.

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Yes, sadly its true. The day Pong came out people around the world slapped their foreheads when they realized that they too could shoot somebody in the face. Even if you were a hitman it took you 2-3 years before you realized that was an option. </sarcasm>

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Umm...wow. Jack Thompson can go no lower.

Sure he can. (And that's pretty scary if you ask me.)

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June 8, 2006 - After boiling over for a good part of last year, the notorious Grand Theft Auto "Hot Coffee" hubbub is reaching resolution. Today the Federal Trade Commission announced a proposed settlement with Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games, the companies behind Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

According to the FTC, Take-Two and Rockstar failed to notify the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and consumers that San Andreas contained otherwise-hidden nudity and a sexually-themed minigame which could be revealed through the third-party "Hot Coffee" hack.

The FTC originally charged that the companies violated the FTC Act by representing San Andreas as a "Mature"-rated game, failing to disclose the hidden sexual content.

The ESRB responded to the Hot Coffee content by switching San Andreas to an "AO" (Adults Only) rating, rather than its initial "M" (Mature) rating. Though Rockstar eventually produced a Hot Coffee-free version of the game for consoles and a Hot Coffee-removing patch for the PC version, thus regaining the "M" rating, many retailers meanwhile pulled the AO edition from shelves, leading to a loss of $24 million for Take-Two.

http://ps2.ign.com/articles/711/711788p1.html

eyeroll.gif

I've made this comparison before, but here I go again.

The video game rating system is pretty close to the movie ratings system. an M-rated game would theoretically be an R-rated movie.

So, is the hot coffee scene in GTA:SA worse than the nude scene in Monster's Ball? Both Monster's Ball and GTA:SA carry warnings for "Strong Sexual Content"?

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I actually saw this a couple days ago and never thought about posting it. Figured it might get a good laugh from some people.

Jon Stewart Hurts Congressman's Feelings

Rep. Joseph Pitts defends his anti-videogame message.

by Kathleen Sanders

July 10, 2006 - Most people have already seen The Daily Show segment "Player Haters," which mocks several congressmen for being out of touch -- even going as far as calling them "insane."

The segment features comments from Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-PA., to the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. Stewart and co., in typical Daily Show manner, ridiculed Pitts for the following astute observation: "It's safe to say that a wealthy kid from the suburbs can play 'Grand Theft Auto' without turning to a life of crime, but a poor kid who lives in a neighborhood where people really do shoot cops and steal cars and deal drugs might not be so fortunate. There's almost certainly a child somewhere in the America who is going to be hurt by this game. Maybe his dad is in jail or his big brother is already down on the corner dealing drugs."

Even those who didn't see that episode of The Daily Show saw it via YouTube, or heard about it from multiple sources in the days that followed as it flew around the Internet.

According to Gamepolitics, in a statement issued last week Pitts claims the show misrepresented his words and belabors his stance against video game violence.

"I regret that Comedy Central's 'Daily Show' portrayed my words the way they did. I believe that gratuitously violent video games are inappropriate for all children. However hard it may be to prove their effect in any given instance, tragedies like the killings at Columbine High School and more recent events closer to home clearly show that children from every neighborhood and income level can and do get into trouble -- sometimes quite seriously," he said.

Democrat Lois Herr, who is challenging Pitts in November, agreed with his concerns about video game violence, but called his comments an "embarrassment" and believes that Pitt has "lost touch with his constituency."

Credit to http://wii.ign.com/articles/717/717730p1.html

And here's the footage of the show they were talking about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMwJFrlRcNU...y%20Show%20June

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A new House Bill.

From ArsTechnica.

Congress seeks truth in video game ratings

8/7/2006 6:13:59 PM, by Eric Bangeman

Ever since the infamous Hot Coffee screwup by Rockstar Games, video game content has been a hot-button topic for many of our elected officials looking to score points with their constituencies. That's the best way to explain the glut of legislation intended to hinder the ability of minors to buy certain video games, despite their lack of constitutionality.

A group of congressmen have decided to join in the fun by introducing the "Truth in Video Game Rating Act" (PDF). Sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL), Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC), and Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), the law would give the Federal Trade Commission broad powers to regulate video game ratings and force some significant changes to the game rating system.

Changes to the ratings system

In particular, the ESRB would have to make some costly changes to its ratings process, as rating games on partial content would be verboten. The FTC would devise rules that "shall prohibit any person or entity from providing a content rating of any video or computer game that is to bear a label containing such content rating when sold or distributed in interstate commerce unless such person or entity has reviewed the content of the video or computer game in its entirety."

Beyond that, the bill would also make failing to disclose game content illegal as well as the "gross mischaracterization of content" within a particular title.

The Truth in Video Game Rating Act would also study the "problem" of online ratings. Under another provision of the Act, the Comptroller General would have to conduct a study to determine the effectiveness of the current ratings system with regard to online play. That same study would look also look at the ESRB's rating system as a whole and explore the possibility of an independent rating system for video games as an alternative.

This is not the first attempt by the federal government to establish oversight over the video game ratings system. Late in 2005, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act. FEPA, which is currently languishing in committee, would punish retailers for selling M- and AO-rated games to children, establish an annual review of the ESRB ratings system to gauge its effectiveness, and require the FTC to take complaints from consumers about deceptive ratings.

Prospects

The new legislation is problematic on a couple of fronts. First of all are the ever-present First Amendment issues. The ESRB's rating system is purely voluntary, and as such, it would be problematic for the government to intervene in the ratings process.

Perhaps even more alarming for the ESRB is the prospect of having to look at every frame of a video game in order to issue a rating. Currently, developers submit a reel with representative game content to the ESRB. Once that video is screened, the ESRB issues a rating. Watching the entirety of an epic motion picture like LOTR: Return of the King is one thing; looking through the tens of hours of footage that could be accessible from within a game is another thing entirely.

Given that FEPA has never made it out of committee, the prospects for the Truth in Video Game Rating Act are probably not too stellar during the current session. Besides, the ESRB seems determined to ensure that another Hot Coffee incident never happens. Misrepresenting game content to the board will cost the developer $1 million and developers are already required to document all hidden content. However, it is an election year and video game violence is always a popular hot-button issues for elected representatives to fall back on, so anything can happen.

Making raters view EVERYTHING in the game is beyond retarded.

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More on the Illinois thing:

Illinois Ordered to Pay in Game Ban Case

From Associated Press

August 11, 2006 8:10 PM EDT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The federal judge who ruled that Illinois unconstitutionally banned the sale of violent or sexual video games to minors has another message for the state: Pay up.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly this week ordered the state to pay more than $510,000 in legal fees to three business groups that sued over the Safe Games Illinois Act: the Entertainment Software Association, the Video Software Dealers Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich and others who pushed for the measure argued that children are harmed by exposure to games in which characters use violence or engage in sexual acts. But shortly before Jan. 1, when the law would have gone into effect, the judge barred the state from enforcing it.

Kennelly ruled in December that the law would violate the First Amendment and that there was not a compelling enough reason, such as preventing imminent violence, to allow it to stand. He added that state officials came "nowhere near" demonstrating that the new law was constitutional.

The state has appealed the judge's December ruling but will pay the companies' legal fees, Blagojevich spokesman Gerardo Cardenas said.

Blagojevich complained Friday that the video game companies are being represented by Jenner & Block, a law firm that works for the state on other matters. He objected to a firm simultaneously working for the state and suing the state and said he wants to study prohibiting such situations in the future.

Blagojevich said trying to ban violent or sexual games still was the right thing to do, despite the cost.

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, issued a news release saying the judge's rulings "send two irrefutable messages - not only are efforts to ban the sale of violent video games clearly unconstitutional, they are a waste of taxpayer dollars."

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Ugh. From Ars Technica (link):

Take-Two dealt setback with Hot Coffee lawsuit

10/29/2006 5:22:08 PM, by Eric Bangeman

A federal judge has handed Take-Two Interactive a setback in its fight against one of the lawsuits filed after the Hot Coffee incident. Ruling in a case filed by 86-year-old grandmother Florence Cohen, Judge Shirley Wohl Kram denied Take-Two's attempt to bar Cohen's lawsuit from seeking class-action status.

Cohen sued Take-Two after buying Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for her 14-year-old grandson. Apparently untroubled by the violent nature of the videogame, she was disturbed by the sexual content unlocked via the Hot Coffee mod and sued Take-Two, accusing the developer of violating consumer protection laws by misrepresenting the game's content.

Cohen seeks class-action status for her lawsuit, which would allow all of those who bought GTA: SA prior to the disclosure of the Hot Coffee mod and subsequent recall of the game to join in the litigation. There have been four other cases filed in federal court making the same allegations, and Take-Two is fighting to keep them from being consolidated into a single, class-action lawsuit.

In her opinion, Judge Wohl Gram wrote that "If class certification is granted, the Court will have the benefit of a well-defined class and a more fully developed treatment of potential choice of law questions. As such, the Court will be in a better position to analyze the various laws that are actually at issue in the instant case and to determine whether the Class has standing to assert claims arising thereunder."

Judge Wohl Gram will make the determination on whether Cohen's lawsuit will be class-action status at some point in the future.

Beyond Cohen's lawsuit, Take-Two still has a couple of other pieces of unfinished business relating to the Hot Coffee mod. A Manhattan grand jury is investigating the Hot Coffee patch and has issued subpoenas to Take-Two with an eye towards possible criminal charges. Out in California, the company is battling a civil suit filed the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office that accuses Take-Two of unfair business practices by not disclosing GTA: SA's sexual content and avoiding an AO: Adults Only rating.

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