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Games legislation still an option, says Sen. Feinstein

Games legislation still an option, says Sen. Feinstein

Fri 05 Apr 2013 4:52pm GMT / 12:52pm EDT / 9:52am PDT
Politics

US Senator says industry should cut back on violent games before Congress steps in

The Supreme Court struck down the last major attempt to legislate the sale of violent games in the US, but the threat of government intervention still looms over the gaming industry. As reported by the Associated Press, US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) this week said if the industry continues to churn out games that glorify guns, Congress could intervene.

Speaking in San Francisco on Wednesday, Feinstein said games currently play "a very negative role for young people, and the industry ought to take note of that." She was discussing possible legislative responses to last December's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which a 20-year-old man shot and killed 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself.

"If Sandy Hook doesn't do it, if the knowledge of these video games this young man played doesn't, then maybe we have to proceed, but that is in the future," Feinstein said.

Feinstein also discussed gun control measures as a response to the Sandy Hook shooting, but said the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers have intimidated legislators, threatening to fund their opponents heavily in future elections if they support attempts to ban assault weapons or high-capacity ammo magazines.

12 Comments

Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software

111 257 2.3
*rolls eyes*

Many folks, when Newtown happened...said, "There's no harm in just meeting and sitting down with legislators about this issue". Without a clear, firm and well structured message though...with no real direction on the issue...well to those folks now I say:

This is what happens when you take a conciliatory stance about these issues. I'm looking squarely at you, IGDA and other trade groups, and weak kneed developers who looked to pacify these people rather than actually engage them. When Newtown happened, you had the chance to frame the debate fairly and equitably. Where did we wind up?

I'll tell you: games are once again threatened with legislation, the NRA (You can bet the NRA had a clear, firm, and well structred message.) has a lot of control over the debate and has successfully obfuscated the whole issue. Parents want a pass on you know, actually parenting their children...

...and the game industry is once again the whipping boy.

Guess just meeting with Biden and other legislators really helped you out there, didn't they? Too bad you folks didn't have a plan beyond being dragged out on the carpet for another whipping session. This is completely ridiculous. If the current trade groups won't, you know...actually be a voice for developers, and creativity and actually *lead*...a great deal of time, money and effort is going to go attorney pocketbooks to fight these ridiculous laws.

This, more than anything is the tragedy of this situation: we should be rehabilitating the industry with facts, with healthy debate, and using that money to get the word out ... get noticed, and visible. Now we can just wait till Feinstein introduces a ridiculously worded bill, and when it gets passed, pay lawyers to hash it out in a court. Make no mistake either, Feinstein is one of the queens of ridiculous legislation.

Posted:A year ago

#1

Caleb Hale Journalist

157 238 1.5
Popular Comment
The industry needs an active voice in this country. It's dangerous to go one without one, given the political climate of scapegoating involved with violence, children and guns.

You've got games out there with names like "Bulletstorm," "Gears of War," "Dead Space," "Anarchy," "Grand Theft Auto" - they are filled with over-the-top depictions of violence. The general public is collectively stupid enough to believe you are marketing this stuff to kids and dimwitted enough to believe if government puts a stop to it school shootings would end.

Why is this industry so introverted and awkward as to be unable to tell the public what it is and what it isn't?

Posted:A year ago

#2

Axel Cushing Writer / Blogger

109 134 1.2
@ Caleb
The industry isn't that introverted or awkward. It's that nobody outside the industry cares, with exception of folks like Feinstein and Leland Yee who seem to think that legislation is inherently noble and can solve anything they deem to be a problem. "If we pass enough laws, everybody will be happy!"

Back in college, I did a research project regarding video game ratings and their effectiveness. It was kind of weird. People wanted the ratings, but they couldn't find them on the packages. And this was back when you had both ESRB and RSA ratings floating around on boxes. The ESRB's is simpler and contrasts sharply with pretty much any piece of box art, but the RSA's was more detailed and broke things down more thoroughly. Either way, people didn't see them, and they weren't small or cleverly hidden.

Outside of that, past a certain point, nothing but political blood will satisfy some folks. We could have the reincarnation of William Shakespeare, Aristophanes, Rumi, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning all working for the industry as a PR dream team and it still wouldn't matter. Even if the public does understand, the legislators ostensibly representing them do not. Or worse, they understand but they see an opportunity to improve their political fortunes by "taking a stand" against the "evil" videogame industry.

I hate to say it, but this probably isn't going to be solved by a charm offensive or "Million Gamer March." This one's going to be a slog, and it's going to be a long time. The good news is that as gaming grows in the popular culture, it'll reach a point where we really will be electing gamers to office.

Posted:A year ago

#3

Paul Jace Merchandiser

955 1,449 1.5
"If Sandy Hook doesn't do it, if the knowledge of these video games this young man played doesn't
Did Senator Feinstein interview the shooter of Sandy Hook? Did anybody? Then how does she or anyone else even know he played any kind of video games? There was one mention of him having video game posters in his room and that came from the completely unreliable source of a plummer.....in a UK tabloid story.

Feinstein also discussed gun control measures as a response to the Sandy Hook shooting, but said the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers have intimidated legislators, threatening to fund their opponents heavily in future elections if they support attempts to ban assault weapons or high-capacity ammo magazines.
So because politicians are "intimidated" by the NRA and gun manufacturers those two get a free pass and thus there will be no new gun control legislation? Meanwhile these same politicians continue to try and "intimidate" the gaming industry by their threatened legislation. Makes perfect sense.

As for the title....
"Game legislation still an option"
No, no it's not. What is still an option is wasting more taxpayers dollars going after laws that you know have no chance of passing thanks to all the other past failed attempts, including that one in 2011 that was kind of a big deal. I really hope the people of California have enough good sense to vote Feinstein out of office before she can really do any permanent damage.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 6th April 2013 12:32am

Posted:A year ago

#4

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
Axel,
The industry isn't that introverted or awkward. It's that nobody outside the industry cares....
What, and so many people outside the industry represented by the NRA do care about gun rights?
So because politicians are "intimidated" by the NRA and gun manufacturers those two get a free pass and thus there will be no new gun control legislation?
Correct. And trade groups within our industry should be doing the same thing. While amongst ourselves we can have reasonable discussions that examine both sides, doing that for the rest of the public in the political world won't play because nobody else is playing that way. The NRA is perfectly happy to heap as much blame as necessary on video games if that will get legislators or the public off their backs; we should be using spin and whatever else is necessary to avoid getting excessive blame dumped on us.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend

292 704 2.4
Bottom line is the games industry doesn't 'play the game' and therefore has no protection or leverage when it comes to legislative posturing and implementation.

What we really need is a mass of lobbyists who have very deep pockets so we can grease enough palms in government to get some on our side. I am afraid it takes cold hard cash to make decisions fall your way, no amount of logical arguments or factual data will ever change that.

Want to be respected as an industry?? Well it's gonna cost us....

Call me cynical, but you only have to look at how the world works to know that I am probably right.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Darren Adams on 7th April 2013 10:03am

Posted:A year ago

#6

Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis

400 219 0.5
I don't get why some people are so against ESRB having legal backing similar to the BBFC or PEGI. It doesn't affect buying habits, it makes parents take a moment to think about what they are buying for "little Timmy" because they have to be in the game shop and that time can be used to educate the parents about what the ratings mean and what content is in the games.
The problem comes that if the ESRB ratings were to have legal weight behind them then who would be blamed for societies problems then? Would gaming still get it because ESRB didn't go far enough? Would the focus go to gun control (unlikely)? Would *gulp* parenting come under the spotlight? Or, how society affects different people? Or *insert any other topic*

Of course, as a 20 year old, the shooter could have bought any game he wanted, just like he could buy any movie he wanted.

Posted:A year ago

#7

Curt Sampson Sofware Developer

596 360 0.6
I don't get why some people are so against ESRB having legal backing similar to the BBFC or PEGI.
Just off-hand I can think of two problems that can arise when a ratings system gets entangled with the law, rather than being merely a standard adhered to (or not) by industry members.

First, it's not untypical for the non-voluntary requirements to spread to cover pretty much everybody, rather than the relatively narrow segment of the industry covered right now. There's the potential there to severely hurt a lot of indiie developers who would find it difficult or impossible to afford the extra cost of rating their games.

Second, when enforced by law, ratings systems can turn into censorship systems, as seen in Australia until recently where games such as GTA were illegal to sell.

I suppose the more general problem is simply that, once things like this are pulled into the domain of law-makers rather than people in the industry, the people making the decisions know less about the products and are more swayed by moral panic.

Posted:A year ago

#8

Adam Campbell Associate Producer, Miniclip Ltd

1,219 1,055 0.9
"Industry" should be afforded the same rights as any others like it.

We need parents and ratings boards to go a good job of censoring violence in various forms of media rather than using laws to destroy expression and material designed for adults and to put blame on designers who make it.

Posted:A year ago

#9

Mark Laurel Developer

9 3 0.3
UGH! NRA can suck it!

Posted:A year ago

#10

Axel Cushing Writer / Blogger

109 134 1.2
Curt,

Actually, yeah, a lot of people outside the gun industry care about gun rights.

Let me say, up front, I've been increasingly disenchanted with the NRA for several years now. This business with Sandy Hook and Newtown was just the last straw. A calm, thoughtful response would have been appreciated. Instead, we got something only slightly better than a monkey screeching and flinging crap through the bars of its cage. Worse, it's precisely the same sort of scare tactics that have been used not just for guns, but comic books, alcohol, and pretty much every other moral panic I can easily think of. I know a lot of gamers who are also gun owners and they are all manner of displeased with Wayne LaPierre and the NRA right now.

Historically, the question of weapons ownership outside of the military or security forces of a city, province, or nation has been going on for centuries. There were probably monied Babylonians arguing over whether or not the common rabble should be carrying those new fangled "bows" or not. In the same vein, the question of who should have access to information (not just seeing it, but understanding it) has probably been around since the first people started scratching in clay tablets. The scenarios are ancient, it's just the specifics that are fresh.

If we stoop to the NRA's level, screaming FUD at 200 decibels across the 57 channels, we're no better than they are. Yes, it works in the short term, but the long term damage isn't worth it. If SOPA/PIPA could be stopped by a unified voice that didn't resort to lambasting, demonizing, and shifting blame, we can do the same.

Posted:A year ago

#11

Bryan Robertson Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Toronto

86 210 2.4
I don't get why some people are so against ESRB having legal backing similar to the BBFC or PEGI. It doesn't affect buying habits, it makes parents take a moment to think about what they are buying for "little Timmy" because they have to be in the game shop and that time can be used to educate the parents about what the ratings mean and what content is in the games.
Personally my main objection to it, is that other forms of media aren't being subjected to the same rules. As a Brit, I feel that if you want to make age-ratings on games legally binding, then I don't think that's a massive problem, but don't single out one medium for this kind of treatment.

My only other issue with this, is that rating bodies can potentially censor games they don't like by refusing to rate them, or be given the power to ban games. I strongly disagree with this, because I'm of the opinion that adults should be able to make those decisions for themselves, and it's not the government's business to be telling grown adults what games they can or can't play. See for example, the BBFC trying to ban Manhunt 2. Personally I find Manhunt 2 to be distasteful, but I don't think anyone has the right to tell grown adults that they're not allowed to play it.

But if it affects all media, and doesn't have banning power (e.g. any unrated games are automatically 18 rated), then I have no problem with it.

Posted:A year ago

#12

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