How Illinois’ New Law Could Change The Game

For the social conservatives who are the self-appointed watchdogs of American culture, video games have supplanted rock and roll music as the great corruptor of the youth. Bill Haley and Ozzy Osbourne, breathe easy; Tommy Vercetti and the Doom Marine, look out. The State of Illinois is about to enact a law that has the potential to turn the gaming industry on its head.

House Bill 4023 is about to become law in Illinois, essentially adding teeth to the tiger that the video game industry itself created with the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). While the ESRB recommends that games rated “Mature: 17+� not be sold to minors, the new law would make such a sale a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000.

In the eleven years of the ESRB’s existence, Doom became the fall guy for the Columbine High School shootings, Microsoft Flight Simulator was nearly banned for its supposed utility as a terrorist training tool, and the Grand Theft Auto series has been blamed for everything from the weak dollar to outbreaks of mad cow disease. A new breed of social conservatives has emerged, spearheaded by Connecticut’s junior senator and erstwhile Vice-Presidential candidate, Joseph Lieberman. The ever-opportunistic mainstream media will lend credence to any 8-year-old’s claim that Grand Theft Auto inspired (nay, commanded!) him to take grandma’s Grand Marquis for a joyride. It is in this atmosphere that HB4023 has been passed by both houses of the Illinois State Legislature and now moves to Governor Rod Blagojevich’s desk for approval. That passage is a forgone conclusion, as the bill was drafted at Blagojevich’s behest in December.

That video games are controversial is far from breaking news. Like any other medium that appeals to rebellious American youths, video games have been criticized for their allegedly malevolent influence. Criticism of video games in the 1970s and 80s had existed as an amusing diversion for years, never ascending to the point of high theatre that Tipper Gore’s battle against obscene music had. Then came Night Trap, an absurd full-motion video game for the short-lived Sega CD. Night Trap’s mild violence and obtusely alluded-to sexuality were tame by any sane person’s standards. Suffice to say that any episode of Bugs Bunny where the title character cross-dresses to tempt a nemesis to distraction would raise more awkward questions from a child than even the raciest bits in Night Trap. Regardless of this, 1992 was an election year, and video games were tied to the whipping post. Sensing blood in the water, the media jumped right on board.

“Corruptors of the youth� have always had one last resort: self-regulation. Faced with government authorities threatening action against them, corruptors throughout history have moved to assuage the fears of the social conservatives: the comic book industry in 1954 produced the Comics Code, the film industry in 1968 with the MPAA, and Socrates (less successfully) in 399 B.C.E. with his Apology. Video gaming responded in 1994 with the ESRB, a similarly voluntary rating system where game makers submit their product to be focus-grouped and assigned a rating. Game retailers, too, wanted to protect their image, and the largest chains self-imposed bans on sales of ESRB “Mature� rated games to minors.

Gamers of every age and stripe have ample reason to fear Illinois’ new legislation. For better or for worse, children are the crucial segment of the video game market in the eyes of the industry. Games that are ostensibly for adults are sold in great numbers to teenagers and younger adolescents. Ask a random sampling of 13-year-old boys in the mall if they own Grand Theft Auto. Couple that fact with the reality of the video game industry’s rapid conglomerization, and you have a recipe for trouble.

Consider the state of popular film-making. By releasing an R-rated film, a movie studio is cutting off a significant portion of its potential ticket sales. For the last several years, the number of R-rated films released has decreased dramatically. If video game companies perceive that making harder-to-acquire mature games will cut into their bottom line, then the government won’t need a Tipper Gore to censor games; the game companies will do it themselves. The game makers are no longer a motley band of privately-funded upstarts; increasingly they are publicly-traded corporations with shareholders to answer to. Taking risks with games that cannot be legally purchased by what they view as their target market will become less and less attractive.

Clearly adults are a significant portion of the market for video games. How seriously this is taken by the industry is another matter entirely. Note that Microsoft’s unveiling of their new Xbox 360 console came on MTV; anyone who saw that program knows full well which demographic they were appealing to there (hint: it’s not comprised of anyone who possesses a driver’s license or shaves regularly). Large corporations, focused as they on the next quarter are rarely blessed mith much foresight. They will alienate adult gamers by attempting to cater exclusively to the 17-and-under demographic if more laws like Illinois' pop up around the country.

When Rod Blagojevich takes up a fountain pen and John Hanc*cks Illinois’ new video game law into reality this week, sit up and take note. It may well be the beginning of the end of the age of big-budget adult-oriented games.

Comments

Well it's about time. Let's face it, some of these video games shouldn't be sold to 12 yr olds. And also did anyone really ever get carded for buying GTA3 at Best Buy? I'm sure some places took it upon themselves to enforce the ESRB ratings, but I think that was the exception rather than the rule.

So I guess I have no problem with this law. WE all pretty much accept movies and their rating systems and the enforcement of those rating systems don't we? I don't see games (or music for that matter) as being any different.

REally shouldn't stores error on the side of not selling questionable content to folks of perhaps too young of an age? I don't think one should error on the other side of things. Parents can later buy the game for the kid if they think it's appropriate.

Great article, Sanjuro.

trip1eX wrote:

WE all pretty much except movies and their rating systems and the enforcement of those rating systems don't we? I don't see games (or music for that matter) as being any different.

The difference, trip1eX -- and it is huge -- is that the filmmakers and movie theaters are not subject to a law restricting the content available to minors. The MPAA gets to decide for itself what counts as R and what counts as PG-13, and theater owners get to decide for themselves whether or not to abide by MPAA rules. Most do, but some independent theaters do not.

Games are hampered by a stigma, as though they were somehow a more dangerous or infectious media than film. Thus, we have to endure efforts at legislation such as this. As Sanjuro persuasively argues, it amounts to an unconstitutional restriction of trade by the government on private industry, since it would render most attempts at mature, provocative subject matter economically stillborn. That is why every similar effort at legislation of games has been struck down; it is why we should hope for a similar outcome in this case.

What about recent demographics showing that most gamers are 20-somethings? Surely if this is truly the case, distributors won't be targetting kids when trying to push adult-oriented games? Under this scenario I don't think we have much to worry about. Indeed, we may actually see the end of the rediculous "Doom made me chainsaw my kitten" mentality if the sale of adult-oriented games is more strictly controlled.

If, however, distributors perceive kids to still be their biggest market, then I can (and will :wink:) concede that we may have a problem. It would be a sad day indeed if something like this ends up affecting the type of games I can buy all the way over here in South Africa.

I keep seeing the same theme at work here.

Where are the parents and when will they be held responsible?

Video games are expensive. I know my buying habits are not the norm and I don't see the kids browsing the racks trying to work out the best deal for the "Buy 2 get 1 free" special. They are there with their parents most of the time.

Parents can figure out what their kids are playing and they can find out what's going on at their friend's houses easily enough as well. It doesn't require any real snooping to figure it out. Most of these kids can't reach into their pocket and buy $200 gaming systems and $50 games on a regular basis. Face it, for the vast majority it is the parents who are bankrolling a minor's video game habit.

Again and again we see the industry put under the screw and gamers themselves scrutinized. All in the name of "protecting the children". Why aren't the parents protecting their children? I have games on my system that are too old for my kids. I won't let them play them and they don't. We poke our heads into the room every now and again just to see what they're up to. We don't watch them like hawks. I'm going to be responsible for what my kids play. I am not going to blame it on an industry that makes a product. This is not something kids flip to on the TV and there it is. No, there has to be a series of events that take place before it ever gets used. At any point, from the time they are at the store till it gets home, parents have control. They don't use it and somehow continue to shirk the responsibility everytime the media reports.

trip1eX wrote:

Well it's about time. Let's face it, some of these video games shouldn't be sold to 12 yr olds. And also did anyone really ever get carded for buying GTA3 at Best Buy? I'm sure some places took it upon themselves to enforce the ESRB ratings, but I think that was the exception rather than the rule.

Or, parents could take some time out of their busy work lives/social hiatuses to #1. Take time to talk to their kids and actually parent them and #2. Check out their video game collection and see what they are playing. We are getting to the point where the parents grew up on video games and should have a clue as to what is going on when the kid turns on the console. There is no excuse for this. It is not the retailers nor publishers responsibility, it is the parents'.

Just because some segment of our country can't be bothered to actually parent their kids and needs the nany state to help them does not mean that the rest of us have to be censored for it. Now if you excuse me I will go back to watching the violence and curse words all over prime time television that apparently have no effect on our youth, but video games do.

The point is that quality adult games will probably go by the wayside. It took almost 50 years for the comic book industry to recover to the point where they could make good adult oriented comic books and there's still the giant stigma. Although we've all seen censorship affect markets and reduce their artform, it's sad to see it again. History does repeat itself.

Well it's about time. Let's face it, some of these video games shouldn't be sold to 12 yr olds.

That may be true, but similar laws have already been struck down in other states. This one will not likely stick.

The difference, trip1eX -- and it is huge -- is that the filmmakers and movie theaters are not subject to a law restricting the content available to minors. The MPAA gets to decide for itself what counts as R and what counts as PG-13, and theater owners get to decide for themselves whether or not to abide by MPAA rules. Most do, but some independent theaters do not.

Not so huge... the ESRB is voluntary.

I'm on the fence on this one. Should parents be more involved? Probably. Should they have legal recourse when a retailer participates in contributing to the delinquency of a minor? You betcha. Similar to how you must be 16 (or is it 18 now?) to buy tobacco and 21 to buy alcohol, I don't see any good reason not to give parents another tool. Assuming they are involved in the first place, what's so bad about putting in legal restrictions that would put at least a little responsibility on the shoulders of the retailers? When I was 16, there were plenty of times I was out of my parents' direct supervision, and without laws preventing sale of alcohol, I would probably have experimented. The laws were a gentle reminder to me to "be good" and a not-so-gentle reminder to retailers that some things are more important than the dollar.

On the other hand, more government is bad.

A couple of years ago Washington State earned to dubious distinction of becoming the first state to ban the sale of violent games to minors, proof positive that gaming-related paranoia is not strictly the domain of conservatives.

However, the law never went into effect, because a federal judge issued an injunction based on his opinion that the law was likely unconstitutional. One of the main issues the judge had with the Washington law was the vague language defining the boundaries of the offensive content, and I don't see that the Illinois version is appreciably better in that regard. I predict that if this bill makes it into law it won't get far--the game industry will once again be poised to bring all of its financial and legal weight to bear, and the lawsuits be filed before the governor's ink has dried.

Where are the parents and when will they be held responsible?

Heres something you often forget...first...parenting in this day is not easy, and this catch all phrase, while I agree with it, is often a copout from expecting the movie or gaming industry to be responsible merchants as well. [btw...I would support this law].

Here's the example - and I would warrant I'm not an atypical example. I am divorced, with 3 kids. My ex-wife is often more concerned over her social calendar than her kids gaming or viewing habits. I'm not geographically close to my kids, but even if I was...well...kids learn quickly - if I can't watch it/play it at mom's, maybe dad, and if not dad's (since i communicate with the b**** pretty well quite frankly ) how bout Johnny down the street, since his parents are focused on money, and don't care what he watches / plays.

Then, you reply, the divorced parents should communicate, and they should know who your son's friends are, and what they do - but its not easy btw in getting to know (really know) other parents. Now, toss that into the realm of not just video/pc games, but movie, and music and TV - what are the kids reading or listening to in their rooms, etc...NOW>>> multiply that by 3, toss in a job (whether you include deployments or not is moot), and sports, etc (for instance, if I'm with little Suzie at her gymnastics, I can't be watching Jebas, can I). Now, take that above, and remember we live in a media SATURATED world...PSP's and download chips and CD's and the internet...

OK, keeping that in mind - lets add that the typical kid is active in sports/outside stuff, and...you have to make dinner and do house chores and such. Additionally, you have to take one on one time with each child, to instill values and morals in them in hopes they don't tease, fight, make the wrong choices.

What I'm trying to say is, my kids are my 1,2,3,4,5 and 6 (I have 3) priorities - but you probably aren't a parent if you think you can monitor your kid(s) 24/7 for what they are viewing/doing - no matter how good a parent you are. THUS - I would argue that any help like this Illinois law is most welcome...MOST welcome to MOST parents. Because, if you choose, and you don't mind your child playing GTA3 or whatever mature game - great, run over to walmart with him and pick it up...and you'll get some good bonding time doing it...but if not, it sure helps as one 'small' measure to assist overburdened parents. And you keep putting on small measures like this to help, giving the parents some help - and eventually you become a more responsible society imho.

And if you think, [with the hefty gaming market for 17+ year olds, college students, etc...not to mention the amount of 'disinterested parents' who would go buy Johnny 'Playboy Mansion' at age 9 because Johnny wants to play it] that you will affect the mature games development market seriously, you are hitting the peace pipe hard. [yeah...its the media industry crying...just like they lose billions each year to illegal video/music downloads...NOT]

From the right...I'm Pigpen

Except that I am a parent and I do understand you can't know what your kids are always doing.

At the same time, a vast majority of these kids don't buy these games on their own. You have to be at least 16 in most states to get a job as it is. There are maybe 2 years where kids are going to be old enough to have the finances to be able to purchase these themselves before they are considered adults. Usually a 2 year span where they are given quite a bit of room to make their own decisions.

We're trying to foist responsibility off onto a party that is probably the least responsible. Certainly the least culpable. At the same time, the group that probably has the most responsibility continues to get a free pass everytime. It's not that parents should be omni-potent, but apparently asking the average parent to put forth some effort is too much. Your ex-wife being an excellent example of what I am talking about.

It's not that I'm against any kind of enforcement. My protest is that we seem to be continually ignoring the elephant in the room. The media won't touch it, the industry barely acknowledges it, and you know the parent's groups aren't going to bring it up. Gaming is a hobby for a demographic that is mostly made up of adults now. We keep treating it like it's some kind of kid's domain that is somehow being corruptted. It is as if they don't even realize that games like Grand Theft Auto were actually designed to be played by *gasp* adults!

So until an honest dialogue has been had about the real problems and the real impacts, I'm pretty much against penalties against retailers who represent the smallest part of the problem.

I view this not as an attempt to censor video games directly, but as an unfortunate event which will lead the industry to self-censorship. I think this is far far worse then any type of censorship the government itself might be capable of (just ask Bulgakov). As Sanjuro so wisely pointed out, the industry-tageted demograph of teens isn't going to be abandoned - instead, they will be catered too. The moment the game industry feels sales would be hurt by a ban on sales of M games, they will stop making M games. It might be something as simple as dropped out an RE cutscene involving one character smoking a cigarette, or it might be the removal of blood in a WWII shooter. Regardless of the change, it still amounts to self-censorship. If we feel that the artistic aspects of gaming is in pain now, just wait until every new games must go through a litmus test to make sure it's acceptable for the ratings systems. I thought the likeness to the comic instrudy was right on the mark (good call Mix!) - it took decades to get back on track just because one idiot published a homophobic book.

I'm not gonna blame the industry this time - they do what they do, and that's try to make the big bucks. The potential outcome of this legislation is to poke the game industry into producing games which will continue to sell - if one segment of the market is cut of, they'll start making games to include everyone, to the exclusion of adult themes.

Well said Bot.

I honestly can't see what's the biggie. A state legislature moved to prohibit sales of violent video games to minors. In my book, this is a triumph of "let the states decide for themselves" stance which many people here deploy ever so often. If state of Illinois wants stop violent videogames sales to minors, or state of Lousiana wants to stop businesses from selling flowers without a license, or state of Florida prohibiting married couples from non-vaginal intercourses... It's all good, I figure, since it's "states freedom" at work, folks! Running to big ol' Uncle Sam for some so-called Free Speech protection is a shameful, precedent-setting cowing to federalism!! /sarcasm

Seriously, though. Who cares? If minors want to watch/play/otherwise consume obscene/violent/morbid forms of entertainment... They still can. It's just that their parents will have to do the buying. I don't see a huge trampling of free speech going on here.

Turning to the second point of the argument, which essentially is "but then GTA:5 sales figures will suffer, and as a result there won't be a big-budget GTA:6 to follow up!!", I am responding with a resounding "good riddance!" to that.

P.S. BTW, Sanjuro failed to give a full disclosure of the fact that he's employed (gainfully, I hope) by Gamestop Corp, NYSE: GME.

DrunkenSleipnir wrote:

As Sanjuro so wisely pointed out, the industry-tageted demograph of teens isn't going to be abandoned - instead, they will be catered too.

The problem with this prediction is that it presupposes that a significant amount of M-rated games are sold to minors. If, as the current research suggests, the "average" gamer is above age 18, then sales of M-rated games may not be hurt that much by a ban on sales to minors [edit: especially if their parents are buying the games for them to begin with]. I wonder if there is any real information on this out there.

And something else...

From the full text of the bill:

"Nudity" means the showing of the human male or female genitals, pubic area or buttocks with less than a full opaque covering, or the showing of the female breast with less than a fully opaque covering of any portion below the top of the nipple, or the depiction of covered male genitals in a discernably turgid state.

I know they're just covering their bases, but what do you figure the odds are of turgid wieners showing up in video games any time in the near future? Would that be part of the campaign to appeal to that elusive female demographic?

Podunk wrote:

The problem with this prediction is that it presupposes that a significant amount of M-rated games are sold to minors. If, as the current research suggests, the "average" gamer is above age 18, then sales of M-rated games may not be hurt that much by a ban on sales to minors [edit: especially if their parents are buying the games for them to begin with]. I wonder if there is any real information on this out there.

That's a good point, but I would be more likely to buy it if I didn't see a huge attempt to avoid the Adult Only rating as if it were the plauge. The reason why there are hardly ever any NC-17 movies is that they don't make much money - a whole potential market catagory is being excluded. Instead, an R rating will still allow minors to see the film, and as such is a far more desirable rating. The logic would apply to game developers. Sure, there might be a lot of gamers over 18, but why exclude the < 18 demograph when you don't need to?

I fully agree that a 12 year old shouldn't be allowed to buy GTA, if his parents feel it's inappropriate for him. And, for the most part, he isn't. Someone is buying it for him. But even so, if the industry thinks that they will lose money by having an M rating, they are going to stop making games with M ratings, which is where my fear of self-censorship comes in.

How will this change anything? Its not like the majority of 12 year olds even have $50 to buy a game, its the parents buying them this stuff, and this law won't change that at all.

How is this the 'beginning of the end'? Even if this were to be adopted by more states, this is a non-issue. If you think that the regulation of selling 'mature' things to minors is bad, do you think we should lift the bans on alcohol sales, cigarette sales, and lower the driving age?

Society decides what the acceptable age for a minor to gain access to things all the time. This is no different. And if you choose to make a living selling those items, then living within the regulations is not onerous.

As for this being censorship, that is ridiculous. Nothing is preventing the creation of any content whatsoever. If your argument is that revenues are going to fall because 12 year olds can't go buy GTA, you aren't going to get a lot of sympathy from me. I take it you were against the laws saying that tobacco companies can't target children with their ads then?

Mature rated games shouldn't see any real impact at all. Their buyer is supposedly above 18, which is a known demographic. Eliminating the people that shouldn't have access to their game shouldn't impact their business projections, which are used to get the 'green light' for development.

Oh, and 'R' rated movies seem to be doing just fine, according to your own article:

Still, most agree that the bolder, more mature R-rated cinema remains on solid ground.

"R-rated movies are a very specific brand," New Line's Schwartz said. "Certainly the world of R is in itself a very distinct world and a very profitable world."

Wow, it's about damn time.

Can't sell M-rated games, industry stops making M-rated games on the same volume, and SUDDENLY, we can have a resurgence of creativity!

No, stop a moment and listen to me.

When was the last time any M-rated game was actually creative or interesting? Think about it. They're always the same testosterone-filled, vapid games full of guns and explosions and other crap.

And the new version has bigger guns and more powerful explosions.

Pariah, for instance. Does anyone remember that that shipped? It was Yet Another Stupid Shooter, and was completely ignored. But it had bigger guns! And the hero was a DOCTOR! That's creative! Really!

Limit the ability to do stupid, wasteful things like that, and you'll get a resurgence of real creativity and real gameplay, since you suddenly have to find a way to distinguish yourself from your competitors that DOESN'T involve who can create the biggest gun or the baddest explosion. Good and interesting gameplay might actually become more valuable.

Hell, I can dream.

JohnnyMoJo wrote:

As for this being censorship, that is ridiculous. Nothing is preventing the creation of any content whatsoever. If your argument is that revenues are going to fall because 12 year olds can't go buy GTA, you aren't going to get a lot of sympathy from me.

This isn't censorship, in that there will be no outside force restricting content. However, I believe that it will lead to self-censorship in the industry, which will be harmful to every aspect of gaming.

I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think a law restricting the sale of M rated games is going to hurt revenue - I think instead it will make developers make fewer M rated games (or even worse, making an M rated game into a Teen game by cutting out certain parts, censoring lines, and generally altering it to make it more available to a larger consumer base). As an adult gamer, I see this as being undesirable.

duckilama wrote:

I'm on the fence on this one. Should parents be more involved? Probably. Should they have legal recourse when a retailer participates in contributing to the delinquency of a minor? You betcha.

However, you don't see parents filing criminal complaints against movie theaters every time they find out their kid snuck into an "R" rated movie.

As an Illinois attorney (near Chicago), I've been following this legislation closely. It most likely will not stick, and it's just another example of the stunts the Illinois legislature loves to pull. They pass a law like this, which goes over great with parents, knowing full well it is most likely unconstitutional. However, when the courts strike it down, they get to argue that they "fought" against video game violence and took a stand, but the "activist" courts have struck again.

In stumping for this law, Governor Rod went around to suburban towns and had "town meetings" where he showed highly edited footage of games like GTA, and kids "reactions" to the game, to rooms full of ignorant mothers. It was a joke. But the moms ate it up.

I can't speak for everyone, but I don't think a law restricting the sale of M rated games is going to hurt revenue - I think instead it will make developers make fewer M rated games (or even worse, making an M rated game into a Teen game by cutting out certain parts, censoring lines, and generally altering it to make it more available to a larger consumer base). As an adult gamer, I see this as being undesirable.

If the content that makes the game 'Mature' is needed, as opposed to gratuitous, then it won't get cut. There will never be a 'Teen' rated GTA. As an FYI, I don't think that my videogaming pleasure has been damaged by Electronic Arts doing exactly as you have described.

I like AzureChicken's idea. I was browsing Abandonia and HotU this weekend and thinking back to how many cool and varied games I used to play. Never happen, but what a great dream Chicken...

Great article sanj.

Lately at my store I've been noticing that many parents are becoming a little more savvy when it comes to the games their children are playing. Some are a little more leniant towards the games they can play, allowing them to grab a Rated M game if it is not overly violent or includes graphic language/sexual themes. Then again, I've seen the complete opposite... Parents that are complete psychopaths, in my opinion, over what games their kids can play. I remember one parent who wouldn't allow her child to get Star Fox, because it said mild violence. I've seen some really cool parents too. There was this one lady who was grabbing her kid the last Ratchet and Clank and confessed to me how she beat the first one like 3 times and beat the second one too.

There's always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, from my perspective, I've seen better informed parents than when I first started working 2 years ago.

The problem of gratuitous violence in video games and poorly made redundant titles are seperate issues from the problem of game quality being dimished by self-censorship. My own qualm is with the later. There are mature themes which exist outside the realm of gratuitous. Resident Evil for the Gamecube recieved an M rating, and justly so, as it contained Mature themes. Demoting the game to Teen by cutting content would have reduced the quality of the game experience, in my opinion. This is what I wish to avoid. I'm of the opinion that any censorship on any artform is damaging to that form, and should be avoided. But, I fear I'm starting to repeat myself (that is, ramble on and on :)). I really understand the arguments in favor of the legislation, but I think there are better ways of reaching the same result.

It's funny that people keeping talking about movie theaters when a much better example is movie SALES.

If a minor goes into a Wal-mart and purchases an R-Rated movie, what is the legal penalty for the store? In most states and provinces, probably nothing. Civil liability? Possibly.

Of course, we're also talking about something that is cheaper and often more readily available. Many stores have a policy of not selling an R-Rated movie to minors, but it's self enforcement. Many video game stores have a similar policy in regards to Mature rated games.

I'm not FOR the sale of mature games to minors. What I am for is the end to the hold of hands over ears and screaming "I can't hear you!" everytime someone brings up parental responsibility. I am not talking specifically about the people of this forum, but rather of the media, the industry, politicians, and parent groups.

Passing this law only makes this worse. It is a continued divergence away from the real problem. Where are all these corruptable youth getting the hundreds of dollars it takes to support a video gaming hobby? I was pretty well middle-america growing up, and I was lucky to have $20 to my name after I had a part-time job in high school. Chances are these kids are much more likely to receive these games from their parents than they are to get them from a store. I watched a mother buy her 12 year old son Grand Theft Auto: Vice City while the Gamestop clerk tried hard to talk her out of it. I wonder how often this is the case?

The ESRB is not all that new anymore, it's been around since before I graduated college. Do parents who check the ratings of movies not check the ratings of games? Or maybe they do neither, but it's trendy to demonize the video game market right now.

There are some serious problems with how society is viewing gaming and gamers. Laws like this are not advancing anything in a positive direction.

Excellent article, though any thoughts I had have already been stated by several people here.

But definitely a good thought-inspiring article.

Azure Chicken wrote:

When was the last time any M-rated game was actually creative or interesting? Think about it. They're always the same testosterone-filled, vapid games full of guns and explosions and other crap.

Within the last year or so:

Half Life 2
God of War
Jade Empire
Doom 3
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Unreal Championship 2
Resident Evil 4
GTA: SA
Vampire: Bloodlines
UT2k4
Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War
Halo 2
The Suffering
Thief: Deadly Shadows
Psi Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy
Fable
Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Full Spectrum Warrior
Ninja Gaiden
Far Cry

Not to mention some older games like:
Max Payne
Deus Ex
Any of the Black Isle RPGs, esp. Fallout 1 & 2 and Planescape: Torment
The Mark of Kri
No One Lives Forver 1 & 2
Silent Hill
Devil May Cry
Diablo 1 & 2
Undying
Sacrifice
Giants: Citizen Kabuto

Call me crazy, but just in the offerings from 04-05 there seems to be a fair amount of innovation and variety. Someone who simply doesn't like shooters, American RPGs or violent RTS games might be tempted to stereotype entire genres with the broad brush of "the same testosterone-filled, vapid games full of guns and explosions and other crap." There are plenty of other people who might charactize many of the above games as "creative or interesting".

Sheer market forces will render this law, impotent. With it's local jurisdiction and controversial anti-libertarian slant in the face of an accelerating, vital and most importantly -global industry, it will probably be relegated to "unenforceable and embaressing" status rapidly. Even if the rest of the US were to follow (as if) I very much doubt it would spell the end of the "adult" money genre, with the accereration of take up in other markets.

You're probably right illum.

My biggest concern is that it continues to encourage scare-mongering and finger-pointing about video games in general. Something I've really had enough of. I doubt it will have a real impact on the market itself.

Podunk:
I won't argue whether or not those games are fun, because a great many of them are.
But creative? Hardly. You run around and you hit stuff. Newer, bigger guns and better ways of hitting stuff != creativity.

Interesting is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.