Industry is Billed, Reported On

Attempts to legislate the games industry aren't showing signs of letting up. Senator and former first lady Hilary Clinton (D-NY) has announced her intention to present her Family Entertainment Protection Act to Congress in two weeks. The bill will be presented along with fellow Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT), for years one of the more outspoken politicians on the subject of video games. Clinton's legislation has five main points, focusing on both retailers and the ESRB, the industry's voluntary ratings board.

The FEPA puts a prohibition on the sale and rental of Mature- and Adults Only-rated games to those under the age of 17, resulting in fines for violating retailers. It also allows the Federal Trade Commission the authority to conduct a yearly random audit of retailers to guage the effectiveness of retailers in upholding the new policies.

Clinton's bill maintains the ESRB as an appropriate ratings system, though it seems to include provisions allowing for that to change. It gives the FTC a mandate to investigate the problem of misleading or incorrect ratings, such as those found in the Hot Coffee incident. If that is found to be widespread, the FTC may take ambiguous "appropriate action." Additionally, the bill demands an annual analysis of game ratings to ensure that the ESRB maintains its standards and "does not change significantly over time." Finally, it requires that the FTC receive complaints from consumers regarding alleged misleading practices in regards to ratings; such complaints would be presented to Congress.

Of course, the industry responded, and unsurprisingly did so by way of Entertainment Software Industry president Doug Lowenstein:

"While we are gratified that the Senator holds the ESRB in such high regard that her bill would give these ratings the force of law, the courts have made clear that giving a private party governmental powers is unconstitutional. Beyond that, the bill clearly infringes the constitutionally protected creative rights of the video game industry. Thus, if enacted, the bill will be struck down as have similar bills passed in several states. So while this bill is positioned as a pro-family measure, in truth it will leave parents no better off."

One of Clinton's justifications for her bill is the latest annual report card on filed by National Institute on Media and the Family, which gives the industry a 10-year cumulative grade of D-, based on factors such as Ratings Education (C+), Retailers' Policies (B), Retailers' Enforcement (D-), Ratings Accuracy (F), and Arcade Survey (B-). It notes unhealthful effects of games, stating, "Increasingly, it seems that the average gamer is getting heavier," but did not qualify that gamers are also widely known to be getting older.

There was a response to this as well, coming from Interactive Entertainment Merchant's Association president Hal Halpin, who raised doubts as to the scientific validity of sting operations conducted by the NIMF. He noted that yearly requests to the organization to disclose its methods have been denied, and claims that its findings are informed by a poor sample rather than "actual real-world market value." He pointed out that the industry had vast improvements in retail, with underage "secret shoppers" in sting operations being turned down 56% of the time attempting to purchase M-rated games compared with 19% in 2000.

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From The Chatty
  • reply
    November 30, 2005 10:48 AM

    She is so going to loose when she runs for President.

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      November 30, 2005 11:24 AM

      of course she is. Did she stand up for herself when her husband got sucked off by an intern? Whats she going to do when the rest of the world cheats on the US?

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      November 30, 2005 11:29 AM

      It's common enough for politicians to lean on "issues" (valid or not) that pull the emotional strings of joe six-pack. She's just following the leads of past politicians. When the majority of the information people get on a subject is from a segment on TV or Radio or for that matter a biased web article, what do you expect? Rarely do people want to actually look into an issue. They'd rather spout off in agreement with everyone else while adding their own wrinkle to the discussion.

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      November 30, 2005 11:34 AM

      I wonder if she is alienating a larger audience then she is trying to appease. The moral family group that hates video games against gamers. Would gamers vote against her for her stand on video games? I know I hated liberman with Gore because of his stance on media and I'm a florida voter so it did matter.

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        November 30, 2005 11:40 AM

        Actually, *technically* it didn't matter unless you voted in the specific districts that Gore & Co. selected to be recounted. Had they deceided to recount the entire state of FL, Gore would have been elected. Yep. It's true.

        Regardless, I agree with you but not on that issue alone. It's part of the overal determining factor when voting for someone. In my mind, it can't simply be done on a sole issue. There's a possibility that the issue may not directly come to the forefront during that leader's presidency.

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        November 30, 2005 12:38 PM

        I dont think most of the people who will support the kind of things she is saying are the kind of people who would vote for her. Also this is prob going to turn off some of the people who will vote dem. Bad move imo.

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      November 30, 2005 11:54 AM

      I think she's going to loose more because she's a woman than for what she's saying, I don't think that the US is ready for a womam president.

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        November 30, 2005 12:48 PM

        it's *lose* people, not loose. If Hillary was loose, then Bill wouldn't have been cigar banging interns...

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          November 30, 2005 12:53 PM

          Totally hillarious!

          • reply
            November 30, 2005 1:06 PM

            ::groan:: could have chosen any other word meaning "funny". Gah. Not done on purpose.

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      December 1, 2005 3:35 AM

      To lose she'd have to become the nominee first, which will not happen unless the Democratic Party is suicidal. Replacing a President that no one trusts with a Senator that even people in her own party (such as myself) don't trust = not a good way to win. They will run a more moderate candidate, not an extreme liberal with a questionable past and present. Her last name will not win her the election.

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