Friday, April 23, 2010

California Throwdown!

Today, I got to sit at my desk for roughly 6 hours and did nothing. My computer could not connect to the network, which is needed to access any programs. I am not allowed to do anything but work, so playing my DS was out of the question. I'm not even allowed to read the company magazine that is published every month, because it's not constructive work. So for 6 hours, I sat at my desk. Doing nothing. Getting paid to do nothing can be annoying. I'm the type of person that needs to be busy. So, it's time for another commentary moment!

After reading the news this morning before heading to work, I found a piece regarding the Supreme Court looking into a California law that ban's the sales of violent video games to children. It's been posted on a few websites, which appear to be rehashes of Kotaku's article. The gist of it is California created a law in 2005 that would fine retailers if they were caught selling an "intensely violent" video game to a minor. The law only applies to video games, claiming they would do more harm to children, then explicit movies and television (dvd's, blu-ray, vhs). The bill singled out a few select titles that are super violent, "lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors", according to Leland Yee, a California assemblyman, at the time the law was passed. the games in question would be titles such as Resident Evil 4 and Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6.

The response back from ESA was a violation for the First Amendment, which was upheld by a judge which overturned the law. California legislatures were petitioning the Supreme Court to look at the case while the ESA has been counteracting to keep the current ruling upheld and the case closed.

Here's the bottom line. In an effort to help curb such cases from occurring, the ESRB was created as a means to prevent the gaming industry to be swallowed by the government in the way that film and television was. By creating their own rating system, the ESRB has been helping to keep video games out of the government's hands. It allows both the consumers and the retailers a choice. Seeing how the Hayes Code destroyed films, I applaud the ESRB for creating an easy system, and applaud gaming companies even more for putting in the effort to allow all of their products to go through the system before sale.

That being said, who's fault is it that an M rated game is being placed in the hands of someone under the age of 17? Every major gaming retailer has a store policy to not sell an M rated game to anyone under the age of 17 unless a parent or legal guardian is present to purchase the item in question. I'm 26 and I get carded every time I buy an M rated game. It doesn't matter if you're 8 or 80, you're going to get carded if you're buying an M rated game. The rule applies to everyone, just as it does when you purchase alcohol or cigarettes. And as someone working in a service environment for nearly 3 years for a gaming retailer, I know the rules. If someone breaks that one, it's an immediate termination. You do not sell an M rated game to anyone under 17. No exceptions

I don't place blame on the retailers. I feel that a lot of it goes to the adults purchasing the items. I have heard at least one complaint a week from a parent getting mad that we didn't sell little Bobby God of War 3 while he was in the store by himself. Sorry. He's not an adult. But if you're sitting in the car waiting on him, you can take the time to park, walk into the store, and buy the game yourself.

Which brings me to my next concern, since when was it the retailer's duty to parent the children buying the products? Retailers are not responsible for what happens to that game once it has been purchased. If you decide to give Grand Theft Auto 4 to your 5 year old, that is your call. Wal-Mart, Bestbuy, GameStop, GameCrazy, etc. are not the parents of your children. They don't take over for your lack of parenting skills. If you are "really" concerned about what your child is watching and playing, take the time to research. You'd be amazed what 5 seconds on Google will help you accomplish.

Which jumps into my next issue with the law. Why is it limited to video games? In the numerous of bad studies done on violence, I'm surprised they didn't throw in television and movies into the mix. All would qualify for retail awareness. If Wal-Mart can not sell an M rated game to someone under 17, then they shouldn't be allowed to sell an R rated DVD to an individual under 17. No one has provided a real scientific study which proves unequivocally that video games are detrimental to one's health, mentally or physically. Nor has there been proof that video games are more violent above movies or television. So, take your pick. You can't stick to one entertainment medium over the others. If you're going to pick a fight, go for the gold! Don't wimp out when you have 0 evidence to back up the claim.

My hope is that the Supreme Course will throw out the petition by California and keep the case closed. It's a law that has no fair means of being upheld and discriminates against the video game community. If you are going to apply it to just games, then there needs to be sufficient evidence to coo-berate. That isn't to say that I don't agree with the idea that retailers should not sell M rated games to children. But when company policy is in place to prevent such a thing from happening, it's really up to the parents/legal guardians to do their job.


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