ESRB Overhaul Won't End Political Grandstanding

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Legal

Gta_7Don't think for a minute that the extensive new measures that the Entertainment Software Association, ESRB Retail Council (ERC) and Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) agreed to with outspoken politicians Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) in Washington, D.C. today will end the political grandstanding that seems to occur on a weekly basis at both state and federal levels. It seems that one state after another, Louisiana being the latest, seems the government's best role is to ban the sale of violent videogames. I honestly believe that the only way these politicians will ever shut up--election year or not--is if our First Ammendment rights are ignored and violent videogames are banned by states or by our entire country.

The latest round of measures that were agreed upon today by the above-mentioned parties includes two mystery shopper audits a year to measure and track the level of sales enforcement of Mature and AO-rated games to minors. Employee training will require stores to teach game sellers about the ratings. Said ratings will be displayed in advertising for games in circulars and online. The creation of a management-level representative from each ERC company (this includes Best Buy, GameStop, Blockbuster and Circuit City) and open and regular discussion among these members about ratings going forward.

These measures are on top of the carding of all game purchasers that the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (now the EMA) implemented a few years back. More signs and circulars will be available explaining game ratings in stores, as well.

When politicians get on their soap boxes to bash all videogames as violent, they always target small children. It's as if there are millions of 8 year-olds playing "Grand Theft Auto" out there. We all know the numbers. According to the ESA, the average age of a gamer today is 33. The average age of the most frequent game purchaser is 40. Forty-four percent of gamers are ages 18 to 49, while an additional 25 percent are 50 or older. These numbers don't show many kids buying Mature-rated games.

Hollywood movies have been through this before, and no one even flinches with movie violence any more. TV violence seems to be fine, as well, especially on the cable channels. So all of the attention focuses on games. Only 15 percent of games sold last year were Mature-rated. That means the majority of games are rated Everyone, with Teen rated games coming in second place. The picture this paints clearly shows that the state and federal governments don't have a clue when it comes to who's buying games and what kind of games they are buying.

Common sense has never had any place in politics. So despite the positive steps that have been taken, yet again, with game ratings, I expect to be writing about yet more lawsuits and legislation that attempt to ban videogames. It's just the way things will be until gamers continue to grow older and reach deeper into powers of position in the government. Then we'll see those old politicians who don't understand games put out to pasture, or buried six feet under.

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