A Relevant Thread of Relevance

First Ammendment FTW: Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association

Really, why did they even bother with this when there’s already a rating system?

That’s what I’ve always wondered. Some people accuse the ESRB of being in the pocket of the industry because it is funded by the industry to regulate the industry. While conceptually its a conflict of interest, there is no evidence that it has led to any impropriety. I also wonder if it is the same with the movie rating system and if so, there is a long standing precedent for this. Furthermore, the accusations that video games cause violence in kids is not only founded on bad science, but video game sales are the best regulated out of any form of media by vendors. Even this doesn’t stop parents from buying their kids the next GTA.

The MPAA is a problem, but in the other direction. They hold a black box-like criteria that has producers groping blindly for ways to magically get the rating they aimed for and tend to crack down on independant producers that don’t grease the wheels (Trey Parker and Matt Stone got a NC-17 for Orgazmo, which they produced independnatly, yet got R for the South Park movie they made with Paramount. According to them, the only difference they saw was that the latter was behind a big-name studio). Comparatively, the ESRB tends to be relatively more straightforward and less full of dicks. [STRIKE]Some years ago they even took some flack for giving a low (I think T) rating to a game that could be modded by third parties to have sexual content, and[/STRIKE] they had to defend themselves by explaining that they couldn’t fucking know what someone else may eventually hack into a game at the time of rating.

EDIT: I remembered wrong. This was the mess with the Truth in Video Game Rating Act on 2006, a bill that demanded a set of pretty ridiculous criteria for the ESRB to follow, and thankfully went nowhere.

As often, PA helpfully summarized the issue. Also, the last panel pretty much sums up how the MPAA works right now.

The crucial question was why video games should be less protected by the First Amendment than movies and books, and California had no good answer.

The state argued that video games were more interactive, and that it was problematic to let a child take on the role of a killer. The court replied that the best literature also leads the reader to identify with the actions and motives of villains. The court admitted that sex is treated differently from violence, but basically deflected the question of why by saying it has always been that way–which, in legal terms, is true.

I agree with the decision. Private stores are still free to adhere to the ESRB system, and I expect many will do so to preserve their reputations. More fundamentally, I believe sheltering children from violence produces adults who don’t know how to deal with violence. In centuries past, children slaughtered farm animals and regularly witnessed deaths by disease and warfare. Surely modern children can cope with simulated violence on a screen.

All California had to argue was that maybe a video game could let a child do something like simulate gay marriage or perform an abortion, and the court would have voted 9-0 to uphold the ruling.

I’m sure there’s a game in Japan that let’s you do that.