The ESA (Electronics Software Association) weighed in: "The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shares Representatives Matheson’s goal of ensuring parents maintain control over the entertainment enjoyed by their children," the statement reads. "That is why we work with retailers and stakeholders to raise awareness about the proven Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) system, the parental controls available on every video game console, and the importance of parents monitoring what games their children play."
It goes on to add: “However, this type of legislation was already ruled unconstitutional and is a flawed approach. Empowering parents, not enacting unconstitutional legislation, is the best way to control the games children play.”
The new bill from Utah congressman Jim Matheson (R), known as H.R. 287, was introduced to the Senate on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013. It proposed to make video game ratings legally binding, meaning that only those specified for the age groups for games (Mature ratings, only 17 year olds can buy) can purchase them, and that retailers can be held responsible for purchases under the legal limit (they currently are not held responsible). This would resemble the selling of liquor to underage minors; the sellers in those cases are held responsible.
The bill will be discussed at the House of Representatives as part of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which is the oldest-standing committee. The committee’s responsibilities include telecommunications, consumer protection, food and drug safety, energy policy, and interstate and foreign commerce, among others.
“Under the bill,” Makuch writes, “it would be unlawful for any person to sell or rent--or attempt to sell or rent--any Adults Only (AO) rated game to any person under the age of 18. In addition, the bill seeks to make it illegal for any M-for-Mature game to be sold to any person under 17.”
“Further,” Makuch goes on, “the bill would make it unlawful for any entity to sell or rent a game that does not contain an ESRB rating label in a "clear and conspicuous location" on its packaging.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) would have 180 days to enact measures to ensure that illegalities are not found.
Right now, it is optional to have an ESRB rating on a game, but very few developers/publishers push games with no ratings. It is comparable to a film rating: its voluntary to have a film rated, but without a rating fewer retailers/distributors would carry the film.
This measure comes in the wake of the Newtown School Shooting, where 26 people—including 20 children—were killed. This act has sparked new discussion not only for violence in the media—particularly video games—but for gun ownership as well. In addition, the NRA condemned video games as the reason the shooting happened—and then promptly released a video game for ages 4 and up that involves shooting targets and how to properly use a weapon; this move gained criticism from politicians and public from every field. You can read my article on the matter here.
In other news, Missouri representative Diane Franklin (R) is suggesting that games with T (Teen), M, or AO ratings carry a 1% excise tax, which would go to be used for mental health programs.
For more information, check out Eddie Makuch’s article at Gamespot. You can additionally see my article on the Newtown School Shooting, as well as the Southington group that planned on burning violent games, music and movies.