Friday, June 13, 2008

How to Regulate Games: A Guide for Legislators - A Followup

I've noticed that a lot of people have commented on the various reproductions of my How to Regulate Games: A Guide for Legislators since its posting a few weeks ago. There are, however, a number of points I'd like to clarify about that post and with regard to some of the comments I've seen on the stories about that article.

1. I am not pro-video game legislation. In fact, I think it's largely unnecessary and that most of the proposed bills have been a wast of the taxpayer's money in terms of legislative and judicial effort.

2. The main point of the piece was to point out the flaws that bill after bill have had. I generally expect people to learn from the mistakes of others rather than continue to repeat them.

3. Based on the FTC statistics on game sales, the ESRB and retailers are basically accomplishing the end goal of any sort of reasonable legislation pretty well. Is it perfect? No, but even items which are regulated (alcohol, tobacco, p0rnography) still end up in the hands of minors.

4. The 'AO' rating, unless stores begin to sell the games, is akin to classifying a game as pornography. Hence, that is why I said it had to reach the level of sexual simulation.

5. There was significant concern over 'delegation of authority' by Congress to a non-governmental body. The system I proposed is a quasi-hybrid of the FCC TV content system and the regulations on, for example, franchising. While an independent body is rating the game, the government is merely limiting the sale of a designated product ('M' rated games). Right now, all content on TV (other than sports and news) must be rated, broadcast or cable. Of course, the hybridization comes in from that being regulated on the basis of spectrum and this being regulated on the basis of commerce. Given that an actual sales transaction is involved, I think this has a much better tie to commerce than, say, Lopez. It's my personal opinion that it would pass judicial muster, but only an actual test would tell. I have not run across a case that follows this closely enough to be able to tell. The only alternatives would be government game rating, which seems like an additional waste of taxpayer money, or a government absorption of the ESRB and MPAA, which seems unlikely. What hasn't been proposed, but may also pass muster, would be a statutory definition that is then applied to the rating, which could then be applied to each title, but this is fairly complex and convoluted and lacks a resolution if the statute and the game rating don't agree.

6. Some question was brought up as to appeals. The only place I would see an appeal is when a consumer feels the rating to be too low, thereby seeking a judicial remedy to have the game rated higher. Any squabbles between the ESRB and the game maker would be handled as they are now.

7. To those who cite the First Amendment, I think the argument can be made that restricting access to children is, at best, similar to other content restrictions with respect to children or, at worst, a time-place-manner restriction. Remember, no games are banned under those 9 points.

8. Some of the citations to the First Amendment and delegation of authority points cited Engdahl v. City of Kenosha, 317 F.Supp. 1133 (E.D. Wis. 1970), which didn't allow the city to use MPAA ratings to bar kids from movies, but this case and statute were based on obscenity. There is no basis in obscenity in my 9 points.

I hope this clarifies some of my previous ambiguities.

11 comments:

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Tzigane said...

I'd agree that video game legislation is largely unnecessary. It's not the government's job to protect your kids from video game content - it's yours.

What do you think about studies (I remember reading about one awhile back) which show no significant correlation between violent video games and violent kids?

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Kelly said...

as a mass communication major, i was really 'into' communication law, and i've always felt that regulation of video games is pretty pointless. needless to say, i enjoyed this read!

Captain Mary said...

All the attempts to regulate everything is almost riduclious. Well it is. The government wastes so much time and money. I bet our stimulus checks could have been a lot bigger if they didn't waste so much money. Lets make the dicision making back in the hands of the consumer, who really cares anyway.

Lorna said...

Agree that video game legislation, for the most, part is not needed. There are far too many other factor to consider. Example: in-game advertising is becoming a major player.

If they push for legislations in gaming, they need to consider the fact that there are other industries deeply effected by this.

Gaming is too huge to be slapped in the face with a rule-book - more thought is needed.

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