Our View: Enforce video game ratings

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 10:24 AM

Editorial Board

Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, has reintroduced a bill that requires clear identification of ratings of video games and also requires vendors to check the ID of those who buy video games with mature or adult content. The legislation failed in 2006 and 2008 but may now have more steam because of the Newtown massacre.

We agree that more advisories and restrictions should be placed on violent video games, as long as the games are not banned. Any legislation should not be construed as taking away the responsibilities of parents and guardians to oversee the types of games children are playing. Matheson’s bill does not claim to be a substitute for parental responsibility.

The nation is grappling for solutions to prevent gun violence. Whether violent video games can motivate some mass killers is being debated. The Obama administration has called for studies on media and video games’ influence on gun violence. The Entertainment Software Association claims that Matheson’s bill violates the First Amendment. In 2001, the Supreme Court struck down a California law that banned the sale of violent video games to minors, citing the law’s infringement on speech.

In our opinion, the issues are different in this case. Matheson’s bill would not prevent the sale of mature video games. It asks video game producers to obey their own guidelines, which is making sure that games with mature content have clear warnings and that retailers don’t sell the games to minors.

As for the ratings that Matheson wants to put on the video games, the bill would defer to the Entertainment Software Association, which already rates the games.

No government entity plans to rate the games, an action we would oppose.

Under Matheson’s bill, retailers or producers who fail to impose the ratings on the game box or sell mature games to minors could be fined $5,000.

The stiff fine is probably what rankles the industry, which makes its guidelines voluntary. In other words, they are toothless. Matheson’s bill would provide some teeth to the video game industry standards.

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