Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Games Government Entertainment Politics

Videogame Decency Act in Congress 73

Posted by Zonk
from the and-there-it-shall-stay-forever-more dept.
GamePolitics reports on yet another attempt by lawmakers to make the world safe from the dangers of electronic entertainment. Entered by Representative Fred Upton, the bill spells out penalties for game companies that try to 'sneak' something past ESRB raters. Says Upton, "I guess I thought the FTC would have had some more teeth than they apparently have... I'm not at all happy... In essence there are no consequences. None... I would like to have thought that (Take-Two and Rockstar) would have been able to be fined for millions of dollars for the trash they put out across this country. I am going to be looking to write legislation giving the FTC the authority to impose civil penalties."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Videogame Decency Act in Congress

Comments Filter:
  • by User 956 (568564) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:27PM (#18433199) Homepage
    Entered by Representative Fred Upton, the bill spells out penalties for game companies that try to 'sneak' something past ESRB raters.

    What does that even mean? Hot Coffee wasn't a 'sneak', it was excised content that required a third-party modification to even view. Yeah it was on the disc, but it wasn't accessible. It's not like you hit a secret code and OMG PORN.
    • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:38PM (#18433377)
      What's more, who's spelling out what "sneak" means? If players can manipulate the game in a way the developers did not really intend (upskirt views come to mind), does this count? What about fanedits? Does this clown even know the difference?
      • by SnowZero (92219) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @04:01PM (#18433697)
        While there may be some difficulties in the law, with harsh penalties predicated on ambiguous undefined concepts in the current phrasing, I feel you're losing sight of the big picture. We have to think of the children, and how we can best protect them in a world with so many dangers, many of which have been caused by violent music and video games (but not movies). So, while there may be some shortcomings in the current law, it is well worth the price. As Benjamin Franklin said, sometimes you have to give up some freedom temporarily in order to gain security. Also, several senators have gone on record promising that they would not abuse this additional power, so I think your fears of abuse are unfounded.
      • Given my years as a tech, I can honestly say that anybody who really doubts how dumb the general populace is about computers can look towards that whole 'the internet is made of tubes.' My solution to this? Ignore the complaints. Kids who have $50 to buy a game either have a job and are adult enough to play a game or parents too stupid to teach their kids regardless. The ratings system is fine. If the parents don't care about it, then tough. Of course, this is all academic since a small minority are w
    • Yeah it was on the disc, but it wasn't accessible. It's not like you hit a secret code and OMG PORN.

      Heres what I think Congress should do.

      They should make it illegal to sell or produce things which can be modified in any way so as to display pornography.

  • by Lightwarrior (73124) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:29PM (#18433217) Journal
    We've seen this before. [wikipedia.org] It sucked - it set the comic book industry back nearly twenty years. *AND* it was self imposed. Let's learn from that mistake, shall we?
    • by amuro98 (461673)
      The major difference here is that if, like comics, such a code were imposed on video games, the response would be to create a sort of "underground" for creating and distributing non-compliant material. The internet excels at this sort of thing, finding all manner of ways to subvert, and circumvent those who would try to censor/control the flow of information.
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by harrkev (623093)
        It ain't about stopping people from buying the stuff. It is just about ratings. To me, the law just reads "We are going to give this game $rating. If there is something in this game that makes it require something more than $rating, you have to tell us." Really, that is all that there is to it. Not a big deal.

        Ratings do NOT create censorship -- they just inform the consumer. It is sort of like complaining that food labels "censor" high-calorie fatty foods and create an underground market for twinkies.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jhantin (252660)

          Ratings do NOT create censorship -- they just inform the consumer. It is sort of like complaining that food labels "censor" high-calorie fatty foods and create an underground market for twinkies.

          Now, if certain retailers decide not to carry any "mature" ratings, that is up to the retailer. But there will always be places on the internet that you can order this stuff from. It is not like www.gogamer.com qualifies as an "underground."

          Only problem here is that the video game business has gone all (RI|MP)

        • by jandrese (485)
          Such rating schemes are tantamount to censorship in the end. The Comics Code Authority proved this decades ago. Once you create the ratings it doesn't take long for municipalities to create laws that criminalize material with ratings above a certain point. Once that happens the publishers who publish material with those ratings (no matter how popular they were before) lose their business or end up dumbing it down to the lowest common denominator.

          Just look at what happens to NC-17 films and how hard dir
        • by Deagol (323173)
          Ratings do NOT create censorship -- they just inform the consumer. It is sort of like complaining that food labels "censor" high-calorie fatty foods and create an underground market for twinkies.

          It's the first step to censorship, though. First, the government not-so-gently pushes for "voluntary" ratings and labeling (see MPAA ratings and the PMRC [wikipedia.org]-induced content warnings for music). Next step is to enforce penalties for selling/showing content of certain ratings, like when Utah tried to introduce legisl

      • Creating a good "underground" comic can be done by one talented artist and one talented writer. The amount of effort required to make a game is significantly more - especially if you want it to be available to consoles. A particularly stringent Videogame Decency Act would gut this billion dollar industry.

        But, hey - maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we'll come out the other side into a video game "Bronze Age"/"Modern Age", where new creative talent can revolutionize the way America looks at games.

        Maybe.
        • by jandrese (485)
          Yeah, but who wants to sit through 20 years of gold/silver age shlock to get there?

          The best example of how badly the CCA gutted the comics industry is to consider how America had a vibrant and thriving comics industry that was larger than Japan's before the CCA came around. Shortly afterward it was reduced to a sad husk of its former glory while the Japanese Manga industry flourished and produced works that are to this day considered classics of literature.
  • That's right... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:30PM (#18433233)
    Let someone else be the parents. We're too busy scarfing down Starbucks and watching reality TV and can't be bothered to know what our kids are doing.

    Didn't someone buy GTA:SA for their 11 year old kid? Yeah, great way to be a parent.
  • by XenoRyet (824514) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:33PM (#18433297)
    Everyone loves to tie the "Hot Coffee" scandal into these types of discussions, including the author of the bill apparently, but it looks like Rockstar would not be punished under this law.

    It shall be unlawful... to... distribute... any video game that contains a rating label... for that video game where the person, with the intent of obtaining a less restrictive age-based content rating, failed to disclose content of the video game that was required to be disclosed to the independent ratings organization...
    I think you'd have a pretty hard time proving that Rockstar intentionally hid the Hot Coffee content with the intent of obtaining a less restrictive rating. It makes you wonder how much legislators actually know about the things they try to legislate.
    • by Lockejaw (955650)

      It makes you wonder how much legislators actually know about the things they try to legislate.
      Series of tubes. 'Nuff said.
      • by Sancho (17056) *
        I have yet to be told why the 'series of tubes' metaphor is so terrible. Perhaps you can?

        I mean, as an analogy, it's not really so bad. True, there are no real tubes, but as Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] points out:

        The term pipe is a commonly used idiom to refer to a data connection, with pipe size being analogous to bandwidth.[13]

        Routers use a data structure called a queue to buffer packets.[14] When packets arrive more quickly than can be forwarded, the router will hold the packets in a queue until they can be sent on to the next router or be dropped.[15] On congested links packets typically spend more time waiting in the queue than they do actually moving down wires or optical fiber. It is the delay of packets in the queue that causes the latency problems that make certain types of services impossible to use (see Network Neutrality).[16]

        References available on the Wiki page.

        • by FLEB (312391)
          I agree on that particular point, but it's clear from the context that the "tubes" analogy was less "insightfully spot-on" than "correct by way of flailing wildly and actually randomly hitting something".
          • by Sancho (17056) *
            And yet, the 'spot-on' analogy is the one that is constantly referenced and belittled. How amusing.

            At least I've gotten some confirmation that I'm not crazy, that my degree did not go to waste--that the specific, ridiculed analogy is actually reasonable. Thanks for that! :)
          • by monkeydo (173558)
            Could you please explain QoS to my grandmother without using the tubes or highway metaphors?

            TIA
            • by FLEB (312391)
              Well, let's see, it's been proven time and time again that anything relating to computers can be analogized to a car... we just need to find which part.

              Damn, it's probably a hose or a pipe.
    • by stratjakt (596332)
      Hot Coffee wasn't even pornographic by their standards. It would be unlikely to have had a harsher rating if it did (it was already M).
  • It shall be unlawful... to... distribute... any video game that contains a rating label... for that video game where the person, with the intent of obtaining a less restrictive age-based content rating, failed to disclose content of the video game that was required to be disclosed to the independent ratings organization...

    Content that was required to be disclosed? Would the Hot Coffee mod have been required to be disclosed? You can't view it through gameplay alone. There is no (demonstrated) bug that woul

    • by Sancho (17056) *
      Ratings systems are far too subjective. Ratings systems for interactive content are far to difficult to manage. Most video games aren't like movies, where there is a linear path to follow and all of the content is clearly displayed if the film is viewed from beginning to end. A game is likely to have hundreds of diverging paths based upon player decisions. It's difficult for the creator to say exactly what the player might do that could be considered "for mature audiences only". Someone mentioned the '
    • by monkeydo (173558)
      Remember Howard Stern getting fined by the FCC for saying essentially the same thing that Oprah said on her show?

      No I don't. But any comparison between the two is like comparing an 8th grade sex ed. class to a porno movie. The same words can be obscene or not, depending upon whether or not they are intended to "titilate". Did Stern play a clip of Oprah's show, or did he "act out" a transcript?
  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:35PM (#18433329)
    Distributing a video game without rating from the ESRB is completely lawful, just that some stores won't stock it. They are a private organization. Defrauding them is a contractual matter between 2 private enterprises. Mr Upton, STFU and GBTW.
    • by pembo13 (770295)
      No offense, but the "how" is a bit of a stupid question: overprotective, ignorant parents being courted by do-anything politicians is the "how"
    • Distributing a video game without rating from the ESRB is completely lawful, just that some stores won't stock it.
      The console makers won't approve a title that is not rated by ESRB.

      They are a private organization.
      And the console makers hold an oligopoly on video game systems that encourage more than one player per machine.
      • The console makers won't approve a title that is not rated by ESRB.

        I thought that was settled with Tengen and Gauntlet. You can't tell someone they're not allowed to make something for your product. Ipod doohickies are all over the place, as long as they don't use trademarked names. Same thing, no?
        • by tepples (727027)

          I thought that was settled with Tengen and Gauntlet.

          That's still a legal gray area. Nintendo won Atari Games v. Nintendo, forcing Tengen (Atari Games' home division) to stop making games compatible with NES using its lockout defeat method, but Sega lost Sega v. Accolade, allowing Accolade to continue making games compatible with Genesis.

          You can't tell someone they're not allowed to make something for your product. Ipod doohickies are all over the place, as long as they don't use trademarked names. Same thing, no?

          It's not exactly the same. All video game consoles currently sold in the United States use digital signatures, mangled sectors, and/or other authentication measures to prevent unapproved binaries from executing. Ever try cr

          • by jonwil (467024)
            Nintendo won the Tengen case because Tengen illegally obtained proprietary information about the NES lockout chip. Several other companies found ways to defeat the lockout chip without using any proprietary information and Nintendo couldn't shut them down (IIRC Nintendo tried to shut down Color Dreams and failed)
            • by tepples (727027)

              Several other companies found ways to defeat the lockout chip without using any proprietary information and Nintendo couldn't shut them down (IIRC Nintendo tried to shut down Color Dreams and failed)
              But the protection schemes on modern game consoles are far more sophisticated than that of the original NES, often involving digital signatures. It would probably take more capital to understand and defeat them than to just start a company selling gaming HTPCs.
              • by Lectrik (180902)

                Several other companies found ways to defeat the lockout chip without using any proprietary information and Nintendo couldn't shut them down (IIRC Nintendo tried to shut down Color Dreams and failed)

                But the protection schemes on modern game consoles are far more sophisticated than that of the original NES, often involving digital signatures. It would probably take more capital to understand and defeat them than to just start a company selling gaming HTPCs.

                But wouldn't circumventing a protection scheme (esp

  • by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:37PM (#18433375) Homepage
    Seriously, it's about time Congress did something that affected me, and what could be better than making sure we get some decent games? I'm sick of all the shite games on the shelves these days, which based solely on their packaging are indistinguishable from the good games sitting right next to them. They cost just as much, but are complete crap, blatant shovelware designed to sucker people into buying them. The makers of garbage like Turok: Evolution should be held accountable. Good for you Congress for supporting decent games.

    Uh, wait, I think I missed something...
    • by GroeFaZ (850443)
      Yeah, I agree that "Turok: Intelligent Design" should get equal shelf space. Evolution is just a theory!
  • keep it up. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pezpunk (205653) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:55PM (#18433605) Homepage
    go ahead, continue to alienate a large and growing segment of the voting public. more and more every day, gaming is a passtime engaged in by adults of voting age. when a politician calls a perfectly good game "trash", he just looks like an out of touch relic. i mean, we all played GTA. it was good clean ludicrous fun (if a bit monotonous by the fifth iteration or so). by the way, i'm an avid gamer ... no, not an obnoxious pimply-faced 15 year old, as this politician probably assumes all gamers are, but a 30 year old married guy -- and i'm far from unusual. politicians going off like this remind me of strom thurmond types from the 50's railing against the black man's devil music, swearing that the evil jungle beats will corrupt the morality of our children.

    WE are the children whose parents swore to us mario would rot our brain and corrupt our souls. we will reject that notion as wholeheartedly as our parents rejected the same assertion back when it was aimed at the Beatles and the Stones.
    • I somewhat agree with what you said, even though I didn't play GTA. Not into open-world "sandbox" games. This same thing happened with *every* form of media before this. Books, music, movies, and now games. It's a natural cycle that happens when everyone believes that the generation coming up is going to be the last, because society keeps going down the tubes.
    • By the time we all reach that age, we will think differently.

      The current generation of Congress critters were teenagers in the 1960's. If it worked as you said, why aren't drugs legal now?
    • by db32 (862117)
      Not that I really disagree with much of any of what you said. I think the Hot Coffee nonsense is a tad different, because not only should it have not been on the disc in the first place, those asshats tried to blame it all on the eeeevil hackers putting it there. They knew full well what they were doing and should be slapped around. Now on the flip side Oblivion should never have been bothered with since their 'evil sex stuff' was entirely user created and was not actually put there the same way Hot Coff
  • What happens now? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by RingDev (879105) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @03:57PM (#18433639) Homepage Journal
    So IF a publisher fudged their way past the ESRB, and got caught once the boxes were on the shelves, what happens?

    (almost) Every distributor returns all of the merchandise at the publishers expense. Production facilities have to be retooled for a new release, and new production runs made. All those boxes have to be shipped out to the distributors again. Some of those companies may not be interested in selling the product any more though. Consumers may be less interested in the watered down version. Future releases from that publisher may have difficulty securing distribution.

    So... Aren't they already being fined millions of dollars? What's the point of this bill, let capitalism drive the market.

    -Rick
  • what? (Score:2, Insightful)

    The whole purpose of the VOLUNTARY rating system is because the first amendment prevents laws like this (rightfully so) Game companies voluntarily have their games rated because they fear a legal battle and stores like Walmart wont sell them otherwise. These politicians are just going after the "think of the Children vote" or they are fascists. Maybe both.
  • If you commit fraud, you deserve to be punished. Why we need a new law to cover fraudulent behavior is another issue. However, if you hide sexual content in the game, then make it accessible (yes, I know Hot Coffee didn't do this SO DONT KEEP BRINGING IT UP!) easily through a cheat code or something, you should get at least a slap on the wrist. However, if you really want to change the behavior, make the people who conspired to put the content in there surreptitiously bear the legal costs, not the company.
  • The intention of the law doesn't sound all that bad, but why does it have to be a law in the first place? Can't a little line in some ESRB contract accomplish the same? And why make all the fuss about it anyway? HotCoffee was totally harmless and as far as I know the only case where it ever happened, but even then only by accident and not on purpose (unused/disabled data and code in video games is pretty common).

    If those politicians actually want to protect the children they should better try to make ESRB r
  • Apparently, Mr. Upton has never played any of the modern Grand Theft Auto games. I'm personally insulted that he called my favorite series of games "trash". He should probably realize that calling one of the best selling games in video game history "trash" is equivalent to alienating (or just plain pissing off) a very large percentage of his constituents. I can't imagine a politician calling a mainstream music act "trash". Ann Coulter is trash. Grand Theft Auto is a very good video game for adults.
    • I'll back you on that. GTA is a perfect blend of silly adult humor and one heck of a game plan, combined with little touches that keep old-time gamers like me coming back for more. Sure, the graphics could be better, but other than that the games are just really fun to play.
  • Coincidence (Score:5, Funny)

    by prockcore (543967) on Wednesday March 21, 2007 @04:23PM (#18433957)
    What a coincidence. I was just drafting legislation that would fine Fred Upton for being a douchebag.
  • I propose a new version where you go on a rampage thru DC. Killing Senators, children, lawyers, ect.

    All those in favor say "Hell yea".
  • I say we do away with this terrible organization once and for all. They keep on screwing up over and over again, then point the finger squarely in the opposite direction. They (Meaning the suits at the ERSB) support those who are down on the gaming industry; and in essence helping keep the industry stifled. The ERSB likes to blame developers for what are very clearly PARENTAL CONTROL issues (There is NO reason you should buy your kid GTA. My parents only played solitare; but they knew enough to not let
    • Yes, I'm dyslexic and ALWAYS manage to switch the R and S around in ESRB. Sorry if it causes any confusion.
  • The FCC (may as well be called the Federal Censorship Commission) would be wiped out for being 100% unconstitutional.

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion

Working...