Andygoes to Capitol Hill

Filed under: by: Andy Robinson

You have spoken, American gamers, and you have chosen well - in my opinion, anyway!

But, the presidential election isn't what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the branch of government that has a little bit more to do with us gamers - the legislative branch.

If you remember back to your childhood, you might remember the popular episode of Schoolhouse Rock with the bill that was trying to become a law. In case you don't remember, shame on your parents for depriving you, check it out here. Several of these lawmakers that that where up for re-election yesterday have had a bit to say about how we as gamers get to access our games. I wanted to check out's comments on these legislators and see what they've done. Here's my commentary - bear in mind that I have no political education, nor do I really care about politics at all. All that aside, I still have an opinion!

With one bill in mind, I want to look at a couple of the races from yesterday. The Video Games Rating Enforcement Act was originally introduced to the House by Jim Matheson (D-UT) and co-sponsored by Lee Terry (R-NE). Both representatives were up for re-election last night, along with Roger Wicker (R-MS) who introduced the Senate version of the same bill. Matheson and Wicker were both reelected.

Terry, having sat on the House of Representatives for Nebraska, got "Esched" out by Jim Esch last night. Terry's claim to video game fame was co-sponsoring the Video Games Rating Enforcement Act that was proposed at the house. Good news for gamers about Terry's loss - Esch is a 33-year-old bachelor who, we can only hope, grew up playing video games!

Nevermind, Terry was reelected as well. I guess Esch will have more time to play games.

If this bill becomes law, age-based ratings must be applied to video games before they can be sold. Currently, video games are not required to be submitted to the Electronic Software Rating Board, but many major retailers require ratings on the games that they carry. Also, it would mandate that companies couldn't sell to anyone under the age indicated on the label. My question is this - when was the last time you bought a game that didn't have a rating slapped on it? I understand the nature and intent of the bill, and I agree with it; 12-year-olds don't need to play World of Warcraft and they certainly don't need to bust out any Gears of War 2 this Friday!

Don't get me wrong, I really do agree with the nature of this law, but I think that this gives parents one more way to ignore their children and not pay attention to what they are doing. This also doesn't do anything for the parents that buy games for their kids without screening them first. I remember pleading with my parents to buy me Duke Nukem 3D when I was a kid and they refused. I was mad at the time, but I was also a 13 year old brat.

The big box retailers are trying to make a buck, and the developers are trying to make content that will appeal to their markets. Most developers or publishers already submit their content to the ESRB for rating and many retailers have rules about video game sales (I've had to show my id before), so it doesn't seem that the legislation would effectually change anything. All it will do is add laws to methods that are already being practiced.

How about we do something to support, or enforce, these rules with the parents. Maybe have a cap - word on the street is if you are buying booze with friends, everyone gets carded. If junior is with mom and dad when they pick up Left 4 Dead, maybe the whole family needs to get carded. If violence is mind-altering like alcohol, perhaps the family needs to treat it like booze (which, unfortunately, doesn't give us much hope).

Alright, America, we've made history together. Now, if you want to keep your games flowing and not get interrupted by old gray hairs from Washington, write your senator or representative, get involved with or the Entertainment Consumers Association and be a proactive (and responsible) supporter of the video game industry!


On November 12, 2008 at 4:16 AM , kimrennin said...

Capitol Hill became a collective term for the entire complex of buildings that house and serve Congress, as well as for the neighborhood of shops and homes within sight of the Capitol. Capitol Hill also came to mean Congress itself, just as the White House has become synonymous with the President who occupies it.
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