Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Law of the Game on Joystiq: Video Game Laws (abort/retry/fail)

This week's Law of the Game on Joystiq is all about video game laws.

Read more here.


Andrew said...

Hypothetically, were one of these “don’t sell uber violent games to minors” laws to somehow survive a constitutional challenge, how would they be enforced?

Would someone have to sue the retailer? Could the person in line behind the minor buying the game call the cops? Would a judge have to examine each game on a case by case basis to determine if it’s violent enough to be covered by the law? Maybe a jury trial?

Could retailers fall back on a defense of “we didn’t think game x was violent enough to be illegal to sell”?

Andrew Eisen

Mark Methenitis said...

Enforcement would depend on the particular of the law, but I imagine it would be like alcohol sales laws are enforced. They would be criminal, and the penalty could be either against the store, the store management, or the individual clerk. Fines or prison time could be enforced (I would think fines would be more appropriate), and it would have to be based on the game's ESRB rating (i.e. sale of an M rated game to a Minor would be the defined offense). You would likely have to create an entire regulatory agency to deal with these issues as they arose (like a casino gaming commission or a alcoholic beverage commission, but for video games).

I'm not sure how well using a private rating system would stand up to scrutiny, though. And I don't think you could even "lose the right to sell games" like you can with alcohol.

It's a pretty far-fetched process for enforcement, in my opinion.

Andrew said...

"...and it would have to be based on the game's ESRB rating."

Isn't that impossible because that would be giving a private organization the force of law?

On second thought, the gov't might be able delegate to the ESRB the authority to define a video game as violent (and therefore harmful to minors) but doesn’t it first have to clearly define the guidelines by which the ESRB assigns ratings?

Andrew Eisen

Mark Methenitis said...

That's what I meant by "stand up to scrutiny." The whole idea is a bit of a stretch unless we allow the government (or at least a government agency) to rate media. And if that's the case, then why only games and not movies, music, books, etc.

Toby said...
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