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The State of Video Game Regulation 154

Posted by Soulskill
from the rather-overstated,-to-state-the-obvious dept.
Gamasutra is running an in-depth look at the regulation of video games in the US and other countries. They discuss the reasons for such legislation, such as child protection and intellectual property restrictions, as well as what gamers can expect to see in the coming years. "Fairfield also points out combinations of laws, which, when put together make for strange outcomes. The biggest of these, for video games, is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In short, gaining unauthorized access to someone's computer and doing $500 in damages opens you up for criminal charges. It's good for prosecuting hackers, but it makes for a strange fit with social networking websites and user-generated content. That fit was especially strange when prosecutors weren't quite sure how to approach the widely publicized case of Megan Meier. The 13-year-old Meier committed suicide after being deceived and bullied by another girl and her mother, Lori Drew. Unable to find a good way to approach the issue, prosecutors charged Drew under MySpace's End User License Agreement, effectively giving MySpace the power to dictate criminal law."
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The State of Video Game Regulation

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  • by captainpanic (1173915) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:23AM (#26557895)

    There was a case in the Netherlands where kids obtained some items in Runescape through extortion of another kid. This is also punishable just like "normal" theft according to the judge (if you can call theft normal).

    Link to article in Dutch: http://www.parool.nl/parool/nl/7/Misdaad/article/detail/38458/2008/10/21/Rechter-straft-jongens-voor-afpersen-in-computerspel.dhtml [parool.nl]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by captainpanic (1173915)

      I should probably add that the kids didn't do this in the game, but outside the game with actual contact between the kids (they were in the same school)... although the items were only digital.

    • This is also punishable just like "normal" theft according to the judge (if you can call theft normal).

      "This is also punishable just like theft in meatspace, according to the judge" Fix'd

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:24AM (#26557897)

    when you accept it as such.

    I don't see why they should regulate video games any more than they regulate the content of books.

    • by Thanshin (1188877)

      I don't see why they should regulate video games any more than they regulate the content of books.

      Do you think they should regulate movies any more than they regulate the content of books?

      • by rolfwind (528248)

        Do you think they should regulate movies any more than they regulate the content of books?

        No, I don't.

        • I don't see why they should regulate video games any more than they regulate the content of books.

          Do you think they should regulate movies any more than they regulate the content of books?

          No, I don't.


          Would you be interested in a copy of Mein Kampf: The Game?
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sir_Lewk (967686)
            Personally no, though I respect your right to distributed it.
          • How the fuck would you make a game out of Mein Kampf? Or did you just choose that cos it is 'teh eeevil hitler book' without actually considering the stupidity of the statement. Will you follow up with US declaration of independence : the video game, Das Kapital: the video game, the rights of man: hte video game, a brief history of time: the video game, photoshop for dummies: the video game.
          • by Cowmonaut (989226)
            Way to invoke Godwin's Law. By the way, do you think certain subjects should just be censored? Personally I'd rather everyone read Mein Kampf at a certain age so they can see how twisted and evil Hitler actually was. The crazy bastards that'd agree with it are going to anyways even if they know it or not.
          • Mein Kampf: The Game?

            ID software is waaaay ahead of you. By about 17 years. Hitler lost, remember? ;)

          • If it was really good, then maybe? It's possible for good art to focus on truly despicable characters. I remember thoroughly enjoying Lermontov's "A Hero of our Time" despite a persistent sense of revulsion towards the protagonist.
        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          I thought so. We disagree on that.

          The way I see it, innocence protects somewhat from all but the most detailed descriptions in a book. A movie most of the times describes in almost perfect detail anything it depicts.

          As I see it, games should have exactly the same laws (for those kind of things) as movies.

          For reference, my opinion about books (pure text) is that they should have no control at all and that any problem with their free distribution, even a minimal one, should be treated as a serious attack on f

          • by rolfwind (528248)

            The way I see it, innocence protects somewhat from all but the most detailed descriptions in a book. A movie most of the times describes in almost perfect detail anything it depicts.

            As I see it, games should have exactly the same laws (for those kind of things) as movies.

            Who are you trying to protect?

          • As I see it, games should have exactly the same laws (for those kind of things) as movies.

            So none at all, then.

    • by IBBoard (1128019) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:57AM (#26558015) Homepage

      There is a slight difference that puts games more in line with films - graphics and the removal of the need for an imagination.

      Give someone a book containing a sexual or violent scene and they require some imagination to make an image of it. For some people the same words can provoke lesser or greater images. For games and films you get it laid out in front of you with full colour and everything, so there's less ambiguity to the detail.

      Books tend to self-regulate based on vocabulary as well - put complex words in your books and you're not likely to get many kids reading them, but put it in a film and it's accessible to loads of people who wouldn't have read a text version. Lord of the Rings is a great example - how many pre-teen kids would manage to read LotR and how many like the film? There's nothing terrible in LotR for sexual/violent content (there's violence, but nothing excessively described) but it still aims itself at an audience based on the vocabulary it uses.

      Granted you still get books that are sexual or violent to greater and lesser degrees, but they've never been regulated and since most books are probably PG on content but for older readers based on vocabulary then there'd be a backlash from those used to books not being regulated/age rated.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thiez (1281866)

        > There's nothing terrible in LotR for sexual/violent content (there's violence, but nothing excessively described) but it still aims itself at an audience based on the vocabulary it uses.

        No terrible violent content? People get stabbed to death with swords, shot with arrows, set on fire, drowned, etc. I don't have a problem with these things, but let's not pretend that LotR is not very violent.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hognoxious (631665)

          I don't see how you can equate a simple statement like "Ozgnikt stabbed Frumbumnìr" with a moving image showing blood spurting everywhere and shit and giblets all falling out.

          Now if it was Sven Hassel and not Tolkien it would be closer. But still different.

          • by dyefade (735994)

            Poor FrumbumnÃr, I knew him well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Thiez (1281866)

            > I don't see how you can equate a simple statement like "Ozgnikt stabbed FrumbumnÃr" with a moving image showing blood spurting everywhere and shit and giblets all falling out.

            I didn't. I just said that the books contained a lot of violence. I never in any way suggested that the violence in LotR was the same as people stabbing eachother in a moving picture 'showing blood spurting everywhere and shit and giblets all falling out', although now I feel the need to point out that IMHO books can do a bet

          • I don't see how you can equate a simple statement like "Ozgnikt stabbed Frumbumnìr" with a moving image showing blood spurting everywhere and shit and giblets all falling out.

            That's because you're taking the most minimal text description you can think of and comparing it to the goriest visual film image you can think of, instead of recognizing the fact that both media are capable of the same range of detail.

        • by IBBoard (1128019)

          I didn't say there was no violent content, I said that nothing was terribly violent in that there's violence but nothing is excessively described. As other people pointed out, there's a difference between "X stabbed Y" and an animation of it complete with images of how to do it and the blood, guts, etc involved. That's probably the main difference between film/games and books.

          • Sorry, but what you said was:

            No terrible violent content? People get stabbed to death with swords, shot with arrows, set on fire, drowned, etc. I don't have a problem with these things, but let's not pretend that LotR is not very violent.

            That was in reply to someone who said:

            There's nothing terrible in LotR for sexual/violent content (there's violence, but nothing excessively described)

            I'm not even sure what you're trying to say any more. Are you?

            • by IBBoard (1128019)

              I've got more of an idea of what I said than you, given that the first quote (which you attribute to me) wasn't me and the second quote (which you attribute to someone else) was me ;)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ShieldW0lf (601553)
        Books tend to self-regulate based on vocabulary as well - put complex words in your books and you're not likely to get many kids reading them, but put it in a film and it's accessible to loads of people who wouldn't have read a text version. Lord of the Rings is a great example - how many pre-teen kids would manage to read LotR and how many like the film?

        Considering the project was begun by a professor of literature and mythology for the entertainment of his children, your example is not very good.

        Good
    • Bringing accountability to Government means actually saying what you think [slashdot.org], not just accepting that you have no voice...
      Incidentally - the Internet & Web is the most effective tool for "having a voice" that the Human Race has ever had, why do you think China comes down so hard on it?

      Don't just let Governments (or other people in power) pull the wool over your eyes with crap because it makes their jobs easier... Speak out!! (within legal boundaries)

      Remember people, we live in Democracies (well, alot

  • by retech (1228598) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:33AM (#26557935)
    Yeah, having myspace set legal precedent is a great idea. Since they do such a good job with things like css, (d)html, javascript and the like. I'm sure they'd do incredibly well in the judicial system.

    Before you freak out, please read this post as sarcastic.
    • by mea37 (1201159)

      Yeah, I'm not a fan of the way the Drew / Mayer case played out. OTOH, the summary slips in one important fact that seems to have escaped media attention previously: The law they used is predicated on $500 of damage being done.

      That doesn't make it right, but it is worth paying attention to the details. Those who say "every web site can write criminal law now" are -- albeit perhaps unintentionally -- exagerating. MyEvilWebSite.com can say "you must write a thank-you note to the webmaster every time you a

  • I for one. (Score:4, Funny)

    by stonedcat (80201) <hikaricore [at] gmail.com> on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:41AM (#26557953) Homepage

    Believe that we should start executing people for breaking their EULAs.

    It's the next logical step towards a beautiful future.

  • But the topic is MySpace. That's quite the tangent, unless there's a MySpace video game. Wait, there ISN'T, is there?

    Can you *imagine* what the MySpace game would be like?
     
    ::shudder::

  • by Brad_McBad (1423863) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @06:43AM (#26557965)
    ... Don't buy them for them, and turn on the content rating system, to stop them from borrowing them from friends. Both the XBox and PS3 have these features. Older consoles don't, I admit. But it's a trivial issue. Nonetheless

    Most kids are bright enough to tell fiction from reality, and the ones who aren't are likely to get into trouble anyway.

    I hesitate to say it, but George Carlin was right - "Wait, the kid who eats too many marbles doesn't get to grow up to have kids of his own? Good. Fuck 'em."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IBBoard (1128019)

      Most kids are bright enough to tell fiction from reality, and the ones who aren't are likely to get into trouble anyway.

      Exactly. The ones who have problems with video games are the ones who have problems anyway. I played 18 rated games in my early teens and I worked out okay because I knew that there was a difference between reality and fiction. If you don't know that then films, books and even childhood "role playing" games like "Cowboys and Indians" can have pretty much the same effect and cause you to th

    • The danger is not so much as the child not knowing the difference between fictional and real. But the fact at young ages kids get emotionally connected. Even non-violent games, they get very angry when they loose candy land (a game of chance). But with Video games the child really gets emotionally connected the game, and normally really connects himself with the characters, and when he plays outside of the game he usually plays the video game that he is connected to. Leading them to do dangerous activities,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Brad_McBad (1423863)
        What you've just written is a monument to the mollycoddling that Western (but particularly middle class American) children get put through. It's utterly ridiculous. Little boys have run around with sticks, knocked each other over, fallen out of trees, and got busted nicking candy from the store since time immemorial, these things are an important part of establishing identity and social boundaries.

        If a kid breaks another kids arm when playing with a baseball bat, he's learnt a damn hard lesson and won't d
        • by definate (876684)

          You've got a point. I'm 24, I primarially grew up without many video games, and the ones I had most people would call acceptable due to the shockingly bad graphics.

          When I was a child...
          I grew up without GTA yet I stole.
          I grew up not watching violent tv/movies/games yet I got in fights... a lot.
          I crashed bikes, fell in black berries, teased kids, got teased and put myself in all sorts of dangerous situations.

          People and children have always done this and always will. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, I

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hatta (162192)

      I never hesitate to say that George Carlin was right. He was always right.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Brad_McBad (1423863)
        Yeah, IRL, me either. Just don't want to get modded down for being seen to slap down someone's kids...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Boo the Dictator Bush at several events while dodging Sheeple, Cronies and Zombie Service agents. Victory at the end of each round is celebrated with a pitcher of ice cold beer, a big fat blunt and a porn magazine.

    Rated "E" for Everyone as everyone should know IT IS JUST A FUCKING GAME FOR CHRIST SAKE!

    Brought to you by Trollcom.

  • "effectively giving MySpace the power to dictate criminal law." is a load of rubbish, people need to read TFA before making statements like that. Lori was prosecuted for using a fake account to ILLEGALLY HARASS and VICTIMISE A MINOR!

    The prosecution used the available and existing laws to ensure some sort of punishment for this crime as it generally fell into a non-existing law area. No laws were changed, no laws were trampled on. Unless people sign terms of agreement anywhere, AND intend to mis-represent th

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)
      But wasn't the "using a fake account" the key part? That's a violation of the ToS, which is (or was before this case) a purely civil matter.
      • The key issue here was that she did this in order to commit the crime of inflicting severe emotional distress on another. The first amendment has never protected people who want to do that. What really got Drew was the fact that she broke the ToS in a serious way in order to commit another crime.

    • Unless people sign terms of agreement anywhere, AND intend to mis-represent themselves AND harass and victimise minors to the point of physical/mental harm or death, they have NOTHING to fear.

      No. If people sign terms of service anywhere AND break them in any way causing a minimum of $500 damages they have to fear criminal charges for unauthorized access.

      intend to mis-represent themselves -> Not limited to that. More generally, break a ToS.
      victimise minors to the point of physical/mental harm or death

  • Solution is simple (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 22, 2009 @07:02AM (#26558033)

    Seriously, the solution is simple. Just do it like they do in NZ. Exactly the same system for video games as for movies. Effectively it just becomes the following:

    R18 - Sexual content / Drugs / Extreme violence - GTA
    R16 - High levels of violence - UT
    M - Medium level violence, alcohol, etc - Baldur's Gate
    G - Everyone - Tetris

    It's illegal to supply anything with an R rating to someone under the R rating age, even if you're their parent. Nice and simple, and you never have problems with people claiming they didn't know what their kids were playing.

    • by Thiez (1281866)

      Dude, that sucks. Why should the government dictate what games parents are allowed to give to their children? I played many games that would be considered R16/R18 when I was younger than 16, and many of my friends did the same, and none of us became crazy drunken women-beating drug-dealing axe-murderers.

    • Wow, that's a great solution, let the government be your kid's nanny so you don't have to be concerned about ever making decisions for them.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      I don't follow. What problem is this rating system intended to solve? Can you demonstrate that there is a problem to begin with?

    • It's illegal to supply anything with an R rating to someone under the R rating age, even if you're their parent.

      We could do something like that in the US, but first we would have to change the Constitution.

    • There are a couple problems with using that approach in the USA. First, the G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17 ratings are owned by the MPAA. They won't let anyone else use them. That's why games and television have their own ratings. Secondly, in the USA no medium has their ratings enforced by law. Film ratings, just like videogame ratings, are enforced by the industry itself.
    • by PitaBred (632671)
      What's completely insane to me is that the ratings are VOLUNTARY. They're made by an industry board... and now it's written into law.

      But hey, I'm ok with some random industry group effectively having censorship powers over an entire class of media, aren't you?
    • Seriously, the solution is simple. Just do it like they do in NZ. Exactly the same system for video games as for movies.

      The film and game rating systems in the United States already have a one-to-one correspondence: E==G, E10+==PG, T==PG-13, M==R, and AO==NC-17. The only way I can see that it could be made more like the OFLC systems in place in Australia and New Zealand would be if the ESRB were to refuse classification to any video game that would be rated R if it were a film.

      R18 - Sexual content / Drugs / Extreme violence - GTA
      [...]
      G - Everyone - Tetris

      But how would you rate Dr. Mario or Lockjaw: The Overdose [pineight.com]? They're Tetris-style puzzle games with thinly veiled drug references.

    • by definate (876684)

      And if it has content which is more extreme than the R18? Should it be banned? That's effectively what has happened in Australia.

      Government has no place in dictating what ANYONE can and can't expose themselves to.

      The laws don't stop them, they just inhibit business, and reduce the freedom of the law abiding citizen.

      How's about we try and get equality for everyone, and stop treating people differently.

  • Why are needed "new" laws for "online"?

    The current laws for "offline" would work as well, so why???

    • by IBBoard (1128019)

      Because a) the law makers don't understand the Internet and think it is somehow a completely different entity where existing rules don't fit*, b) they want to look like they're doing something and c) a good proportion of the general populace are in the same boat on point a) and demand or fall for point b).

      .

      * This is the same for parents who treat the Internet as some big nasty that'll cause their children to become drug-addicted psychopaths who get molested when the real-world rules of "avoid the bad bits"

  • New medium, new fear (Score:5, Informative)

    by sam_v1.35b (1296319) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @07:24AM (#26558123) Homepage

    Different societies have different value systems, and so different countries regulate different media in different ways.

    What's important is that games get treated fairly against other media and regulated for what they are, not what scared, ignorant people worry they might be. The problem is that governments and legislators don't yet "get" games, and so fear and ignorance reign supreme.

    As an example, in Australia, the government has a Classification Board that rates books, TV, movies and games. The Board is supposed to represent the values of the community and it generally does a pretty good job. Very few movies are refused classification (eg: banned).

    Not so with video games. Games are regularly refused classification in Australia, largely because the highest classification for games is MA15+ - so if a game is considered only suitable for adults, then it can't be classified.

    Yes, this is ludicrous and there's been a huge response from the local industry [abc.net.au] and a lot of local gamers. You can read more about it here [wikipedia.org] if you are interested.

    The point I'm trying to make, though, is that games are not treated on the same level as other forms of media in Australia, because they're poorly understood by government as a medium - mainly because the people in government didn't grow up playing games. I'd bet there are similar issues to varying degrees in other countries.

    Give it a decade or so and things will be different. Until then, we're going to have to keep putting up with emotive comments and costly ineffective legislation from politicians looking for cheap popularity amongst their ignorant and fearful dull-eyed constituents.

  • frackin gov't. When will people get it through their heads that gov't is NOT the answer, it's the PROBLEM. Leave us alone like the founders intended.
  • by mcgrew (92797) *

    Fairfield also points out combinations of laws, which, when put together make for strange outcomes. The biggest of these, for video games, is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. In short, gaining unauthorized access to someone's computer and doing $500 in damages opens you up for criminal charges.

    Sony rooted my PC, resulting in loss of hours of my time, well over $500 worth. Why aren't any of Sony's executives in prison?

    It's good for prosecuting hackers

    And another slashdot story asks about hackable digital co

  • by moxley (895517) on Thursday January 22, 2009 @12:34PM (#26561073)

    Firstly I (and many others) feel that the verdict in the Drew case was a travesty, set a horrible precedent and was the one of the absolute worst uses of the judicial system in recent years - the implications are huge and could affect all of us who spend a lot of time online. It was an abuse of the legal system in my mind, tapping into people's emotions about a tragedy to get a dubious legal ruling passed - it was a judicial lynch mob.

    Secondly I am so tired of the double standard in video games in how any type of the most gruesome violence is permitted (with the rating system) but even a minor mention of sex or nudity and the game can;t be made. Sex has to be sanitized, yet you can blow someones brains out.

    I love violent games as much as the next person, the generally are some of the best games out there - well made shooters are especially up my alley - loved GTA, but damn, it would be nice not to have to tiptoe around any sex or nudity (if it's appropriate). In games made for adults this should be an option. I am not talking about having those things just for the sake of having them, but am referring to the ability for a designer to make a game truly geared towards adults that isn't a lame excuse/attempt at porn. I would like to see the ability for AO titles to be viable, what that would be I don't know, but take the sex scene is GTA4 - they could have made those a lot more fun or funny had they had a little visual latitude.

    As a parent I totally understand how and why people are concerned about violent games. I play a lot of games I wouldn't want my daughter to play until she is old enough to understand certain things. The biggest issue I would have with these sort of games is the same issue I have with TV and some movies when it comes to kids, and it the desensitization to violence and the pain and suffering of others. I think that can do a real disservice to the humanity inside a person if they grow up constantly witnessing violent acts.

    However, with all of that said I think that it is a parent's job to monitor what their kids see and buy and put it in the proper context.

    I do think that the voluntary ratings system is the way to go....The absolute worst thing that could be done is censorship of game content by the government - it would especially be pointless because it's not like it would have an effect on TV (which is much worse). Censorship doesn't solve anything - it's bad enough that the industry self censors based on what they think will sell or be controversial.

    Parents who aren't digitally literate could use a little education about these ratings and what they mean, but all in all determining what is appropriate for a child or the market isn't a government job, it's a parent/industry job, and for the record if given the choice between my child seeing explicit violence or explicit sex it's my feeling that sex is much less harmful.

    • It won't effect any of us who are online. People on here need to quit over-reacting to these things. If this case ever effects your life I will give you a million dollars (obviously, this doesn't count if your harass some poor kid to self harm). The woman is sick and got off with less than she deserved.
      • by moxley (895517)

        I'm sorry, but you're wrong - certainly you're entitled to your opinion about whaty happened to Lori Drew, I agree that she was sick and deserved a lot of things - but don't pervert our legal system to try to turn something that isn't a crime into a crime ex post facto.

        The verdict on the other hand could affect a lot of people, it could affect me, so on that count you're just plain wrong.

  • It's bad enough when the general media smears the name of Hackers, but we really should know better on /.

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