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Another politician jumps on the video game platform

The temperature keeps rising on the video game rating system as Kansas Republican Senator, Sam Brownback, reintroduced the Truth in Video Game Rating Act on Tuesday.  The act ensures that video game rating companies play any game all the way through before assigning it a rating.  It also prohibits developers from withholding any content from the game from raters and punishes rating companies that do not follow through with thorough inspections.

Current video game raters do not actually play the games; they watch a video composed of short clips taken from different parts of the video game.  Brownback claimed in a statement that some tapes do not adequately represent the games content and, therefore, is not a proper method to rate the games. He states, "Game reviewers must have access to the entire game for their ratings to accurately reflect a game's content."

The bill also commissions a Government Accountability Office study to determine if the Entertainment Software Rating Board's system is efficient and whether the Board could be controlled by outside parties with no financial interest.  The study would also review the rating system on other entertainment such as television and movies.

The spotlight on video game content has become very intense with the condemnation of violent video games from the Pope to the European Union's investigation into violent video games.  It is no surprise that the ratings system would be on list of politician’s agendas.

The proposition of the bill brought with it opposition from the Entertainment Software Association.  The bill, which was filed August 4, 2006, met immediate criticism from the ESA.  Company President, Doug Lowenstein, commented that some video games would be too long and would require professional gamers with skills necessary to play through games that could take over 100 hours.  He also stated that many games have an indefinite end; it would be difficult for someone to play a video game in its entirety.

Similar bills had been proposed along with the one from Senator Brownback.  One bill was proposed by Rep. Fred Upton and another by Rep. Cliff Stearns.  Neither bill made it to vote.


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Makes sence to me
By GreenEnvt on 2/15/2007 2:59:08 PM , Rating: 3
I could put together some clips that would give Grand Theft Auto an "E" rating if I wanted to. It makes sence the people rating the game actually play it.




RE: Makes sence to me
By slacker57 on 2/15/2007 3:15:08 PM , Rating: 4
While I'm hardly for any more negative political attention being given to video games, it does seem silly that raters don't play the games through. I mean, isn't that their job? Roger Ebert doesn't write a movie review after watching just the trailer (although who knows sometimes with that guy. Maybe I should just say "movie critics").

quote:
The proposition of the bill brought with it opposition from the Entertainment Software Association. The bill, which was filed August 4, 2006, met immediate criticism from the ESA. Company President, Doug Lowenstein, commented that some video games would be too long and would require professional gamers with skills necessary to play through games that could take over 100 hours.


That's just a ridiculous statement. What game has ever been released that required a professional gamer to complete it? I don't think it would sell many copies if under system requirements it read "requires professional gaming ability." Although, I guess there are a lot of people out there in the gaming world that have an overheightened opinion of themselves.


RE: Makes sence to me
By masher2 (blog) on 2/15/2007 3:19:14 PM , Rating: 3
> "it does seem silly that raters don't play the games through...."

It seems even sillier for a rater to not be able to decide on a game's rating simply because he keeps getting killed by Uberboss 417.

What's worse is that, if a game developer wanted to hide content from a rater, they can easily do so whether or not the game is played. Or does Sen. Brownback think a rater is going to magically have access to any hidden codes and 'Easter Eggs' embedded in the program?


RE: Makes sence to me
By stromgald on 2/15/2007 4:04:59 PM , Rating: 3
I agree, the law certainly needs more definition. IMO, the developers should be on the hook to tell the raters which areas are questionable and what they think the rating should be. That should be mandatory, so that if they do hide something that wasn't documented to the rater, the game developer can be fined.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out which areas of the game are questionable and would change the rating, so it shouldn't cost the developers much to make a list of scenes/areas where the rater should focus his/her attention.


RE: Makes sence to me
By crimson117 on 2/15/2007 4:17:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It seems even sillier for a rater to not be able to decide on a game's rating simply because he keeps getting killed by Uberboss 417.


And if killing the boss requires skill beyond the rater's ability, it's not hard to ask the developers to show for example the endgame clip that gets played when you do beat him.

And if unlocking an "ultra blood n gore" mode requires 1000 hours of play, then the developers can easily disclose that, and the raters can take that into consideration.

The whole thing with the hot coffee easter egg, was there was code to allow the player to play what was essentially a sexual mini-game, but that sexual mini-game was not disclosed by the developers to the raters. So there just needs to be more of a penalty once that undisclosed thing comes to the surface.


RE: Makes sence to me
By crimson117 on 2/15/2007 4:21:21 PM , Rating: 5
And of course there's the whole other debate that isn't happening about why - in a game where you can already stab hookers in the face, shoot cops with bazookas, and mow down pedestrians for extra points - something as natural as sex makes the game suddenly inappropriate for children.


RE: Makes sence to me
By angryhippy on 2/15/2007 4:35:14 PM , Rating: 2
And of course there's the whole other debate that isn't happening about why - in a game where you can already stab hookers in the face, shoot cops with bazookas, and mow down pedestrians for extra points - something as natural as sex makes the game suddenly inappropriate for children.

Don't you know killing people is ok and sex is immoral. Jeese, I wish America would get over it's puritan hangups. Southpark makes fun of this sort of thing quite effectively. Despite it's gross humor, the show sure makes some good points. I can forgive them for making fun of hippies. :-)



RE: Makes sence to me
By masher2 (blog) on 2/15/2007 5:03:13 PM , Rating: 3
> "something as natural as sex makes the game suddenly inappropriate for children."

That argument is a bit flawed. There's nothing "natural" about hitting cartoon characters over the head with gigantic hammers. But I'd much rather my preteen children were doing that in a game than playing one where they're simulating oral sex...natural or not.

What about you?


Moderated
By NullSubroutine on 2/15/07, Rating: -1
RE: Makes sence to me
By Hoser McMoose on 2/15/2007 5:27:51 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
something as natural as sex makes the game suddenly inappropriate for children.


Keep in mind that it wasn't so much "children" in any typical sense of the word, but rather 17 year olds that they were worried about. Without the mod it was rated for for 17+, with the mod it was rated for 18+. The developer of this game stated all along that the game was NOT appropriate for young children. Here is what Rockstar Games says for the game (WITHOUT the "Hot Coffee" mod):

"Mature 17+
Blood and Gore
Intense Violence
Strong Language
Strong Sexual Content
Use of Drugs"


Yup, sure sounds like a kids game to me! I can't help but laugh at people who let their 12 y/o kids play this and then found the Hot Coffee mod and complained about it.

Personally I can't see any way that the "Hot Coffee" mod requires anything more then a "Strong Sexual Content" rating, it's just badly a pixelated minigame of clothed people having sex. It is to actual porn what Willey Coyote getting an anvil dropped on him is to actual scenes of violence.


RE: Makes sence to me
By theways on 2/15/2007 4:37:25 PM , Rating: 3
A little problem with that comes in areas of the game that truly are or aren't accessible. With the Hot Coffee fiasco, that was a scripted bit of code the was completely inaccesible to players of the game. It wasn't until GTA:SA came out on PC and the code was accessed and essentially brought to the surface by a user made patch that the scripted bit of code even became known.

These little hidden things that are completely inaccesible on consoles as manufactured by their designers and game developers should not be held to such standards for reporting. They should only have to report on the accesible content, and I don't see this as ever having been a problem.


RE: Makes sence to me
By masher2 (blog) on 2/15/2007 4:39:01 PM , Rating: 3
> "And if killing the boss requires skill beyond the rater's ability, it's not hard to ask the developers to show for example the endgame clip that gets played when you do beat him...."

Which is essentially the exact situation we have today-- developers showing raters clips from the game. So where's the benefit of actually having people boot up the game?

Seriously, this is just a kneejerk reaction to a problem. The last thing we need here is yet another government panel.


RE: Makes sence to me
By theways on 2/15/2007 4:54:24 PM , Rating: 2
Lets see...
The Elder Scrolls Series,
Final Fantasy Series,
Grand Theft Auto Series
All require several if not at least 100 hours to access all available content on consoles.

Just about all fighting and action/shooter games (Halo, Gears of War, etc) require a high level of skill and several hours to view all available content if played through. No everyday joe shmoe can beat Halo on Legendary, let alone in a matter of a few hours, to view any additional content, or play Dead or Alive with enough competance to go through time attacks and battle royales to unlock any additional content.

And lets not forget games with usermade content, how would you rate Battlefield 2 when the content shipped in the box is very different than the mods you can download? Or massive multiplayer games such as WoW or EQ2, whose content is constantly changing.

The senator and his bills requirements are way too high. There are hundreds of games whose content constantly changes, require several hours to view, or require a very high level of skill to view all content. I personally don't see a problem with the current standard. Games are rated appropriately as far as I can tell, but would be interested to know any that aren't. Parents finding graphic material in the M rated game they bought for their 12 year old shouldn't be a hardshipped pressed on the game developers or the content rating company.


RE: Makes sence to me
By Etsp on 2/15/2007 11:44:25 PM , Rating: 2
The Final Fantasy Games do NOT require 100 hours to unlock all content. 75 hours is plenty for most of them... but besides that point, do you really think it's that hard for developers to give them a version that is inherantly EASY, as in god mode, to those reviewing the game? Come ON. They don't need to be given a clip of the scene after they beat a boss... they can be given tools that make the game easy, period. They do not base their ratings on difficulty, it is the content they are concerned with.
As far as battlefield 2 is concerned, they have a little disclaimer that says that "Game experience may change during online play" so that the rating doesn't depend on user made mods.


RE: Makes sence to me
By ZmaxDP on 2/16/2007 2:04:12 PM , Rating: 2
And are you willing to pay for the increased rating fees charged to the developers through higher video game prices? Don't get me wrong, it would be great if they could play out every scenario before making a rating. It would open up a whole lot of "professional gaming" jobs on the market. I could become a professional!

(I like the irony of them saying it would take "professional" gamers when they'd essentially be hiring and paying people to play the games and thus using "professional" gamers. - as in people who are payed to play games. Back to the subject...)

Seriously though, I think it is a matter of setting responsibility. If the game developers make slanted videos to misrepresent the games to the reviewers to get a "better" rating than they should have gotten, then it is the game developer that should be liable. Instead or writing a new law every time an old one doesn't work, maybe they should try fixing the old one. Make the penalties for essentially lying to the review board serious enough to prevent developers from doing so.

Duh...


RE: Makes sence to me
By Regs on 2/16/2007 3:41:43 PM , Rating: 2
I think what they meant is that they would have to pay a lot more for people to test the games. I imagine the people who test them now are only volunteers and I would also assume you couldn't force a volunteer to work more than they had too.


RE: Makes sence to me
By Hoser McMoose on 2/15/2007 5:10:24 PM , Rating: 2
While you are correct, I can't help but think that this is just excess bureaucracy that will actually accomplish nothing. I mean honestly, how many times have we *EVER* had a situation were a developer lied about the content in a game? Zero? Unless the government can provide a real and valid demonstration of how the current process is or is likely to be violated, then what's then what's the point?

Even the retarded incident with GTA:SA wouldn't be affected by this because the code was not accessible. There was absolutely no way to play though the game and get the ohh-so-dirty badly pixelated sex scenes that everyone was so scared about. Customers had to download a third-party patch in order to raise it's rating from 17+ (as rated by the developer) to 18+ (as some consumer groups wanted it rated post-patching).

Legislation is designed to fix REAL problems. The purpose of it should not be for make-work projects!


RE: Makes sence to me
By walk2k on 2/15/2007 7:55:13 PM , Rating: 2
Job Opportunity!
By edge929 on 2/15/2007 2:52:07 PM , Rating: 2
Finally! My chance to become a "Paid professional gamer". As opposed to now were I'm just "professional gamer".




RE: Job Opportunity!
By therealnickdanger on 2/15/2007 3:04:11 PM , Rating: 2
Don't count on it, this will probably not succeed since this would serve only to delay the process of game development and cost all parties involved even more money. There's a certain level of trust that has to be given to developers. They don't want to hide graphic content any more than 8yr-old Billy's mom wants to find it!

The current system is fine, parents just need to stop asking Uncle Sam to do their job for them.


RE: Job Opportunity!
By crimson117 on 2/15/2007 4:25:07 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
They don't want to hide graphic content any more than 8yr-old Billy's mom wants to find it!
Uh, they DID want to hide it, and they hid it in GTA with the Hot Coffee thing. They hid this secret content from the raters and it was only discovered (by a player) after the rating had been issued and the game was already on the shelves.


RE: Job Opportunity!
By therealnickdanger on 2/15/2007 4:36:32 PM , Rating: 2
Too bad it was only accessible by hacking the game with a MOD - which is beyond the control of the developer. Even if they had a legion of gamers play-testing the full retail version of the game for all of eternity, they never would have found the hot coffee material - you have to HACK the game to get access to it, which is outside the realm of responsibility for a developer.

Remember the DOA "nude code"? Sure, you can hack the game and add nude skin packs to the models, but does that mean the game should be rated AO for nudity?


RE: Job Opportunity!
By therealnickdanger on 2/15/2007 4:40:24 PM , Rating: 2
By "hiding" content, I now realize I probably wasn't clear enough. Developers don't want to intentionally mislead ratings councils. As stated above, lots of games have broken or deactivated content included on the disc that a typical gamer will never see - nor a ratings coucil. Stepping outside the intended use of a product falls under personal liability. You buy a knife to cut bread, but you can kill with it as well.


RE: Job Opportunity!
By Flunk on 2/15/2007 4:06:33 PM , Rating: 2
The word professional means you get paid for it. You can't be an unpaid professional anything it's an oxymoron.


RE: Job Opportunity!
By masher2 (blog) on 2/15/2007 4:14:04 PM , Rating: 2
On the contrary, a lawyer doing pro bono work or a doctor volunteering services are both still professionals. The term "professional" has dual meaning: either "the member of a profession", or person who accepts payment for services.


Brownback
By mydogfarted on 2/15/2007 3:27:09 PM , Rating: 3
Can someone PLEASE get this shithead out of office. This guy has been a constant pain in the ass to the gaming industry and other parts of the entertainment world. This waste of my federal tax dollars is as useful as tits on a dead hooker.




RE: Brownback
By Uthar Wynn on 2/15/2007 4:00:49 PM , Rating: 3
Finally someone with some sense. I can't believe other people are trying to defend this guy and his idiotic proposal. Thank god the American political system is just sane enough to kill this type of retarded bill.


RE: Brownback
By angryhippy on 2/15/2007 4:28:46 PM , Rating: 2
Finally someone with some sense. I can't believe other people are trying to defend this guy and his idiotic proposal. Thank god the American political system is just sane enough to kill this type of retarded bill.

Amen, I just as soon keep Government involvment out of video games. It makes sense for the raters to actually play the games, but it's in game developers own best interest to be accurate with their ratings so they don't piss off parents. If I were a parent I would just check out game reviews before buying. I thought Republicans were supposed to be for small government. I'm pretty liberal on environment and war, but our government wastes enough money micromanaging our lives as it is.

What games take more than 100 hours to play aside from online RPG's? Can't be many. Most single player RPG's can be completed in 30-40 hours, and I suck at violent action games, but can usually beat those in even less time.


RE: Brownback
By Toebot on 2/16/2007 12:20:49 AM , Rating: 2
No kidding, I was just wondering how different the reaction would have been if Hillary Clinton had attached her name to it.


Play all the way through?
By pauldovi on 2/15/2007 3:16:25 PM , Rating: 1
Games like BF2, BF2142, WOW, ect, ect do not really hav endings... How do you play them all the way through to satisfy this law?

Let parents decide what their kids can play, not the government.




RE: Play all the way through?
By stromgald on 2/15/2007 3:59:25 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Let parents decide what their kids can play, not the government.

Um, did you even read the article? It isn't about controlling what games kids play. The issue is with the rating system. Parents would still have to decide whether it's acceptable.

It's just like the movie rating system. It probably wouldn't be acceptable if the movie ratings were based on trailers or the first five minutes. Parents shouldn't have to watch a whole movie or play a whole game to determine whether its suitable.

Honestly, I think it should be on the game developers part to map out all the different routes/scenes in a game and give it to the raters. A few cheats would probably help too. The game developers need to step up IMHO and help the ratings people by telling them what areas may be questionable so that they can save time.


RE: Play all the way through?
By crimson117 on 2/15/2007 4:35:59 PM , Rating: 2
BF2 may not have an ending, but it has a finite amount of graphics and animations.

Even WoW has a finite number of graphics and animations.

If there are any "secret" graphics and animations, the developers should be required to disclose them to the raters. Such as "you can unlock 'extra gibs' mode by typing in this cheat code", and the rater would know to type in the code to evaluate the secret content.

Any subsequent official patches or expansion packs should be also reviewed to make sure it doesn't affect the rating.


By encryptkeeper on 2/15/2007 4:29:29 PM , Rating: 2
I really think this state is starting to make itself look more backwoods than South Carolina. They don't want evolution taught in classrooms, now one of their senators has nothing better to do than bitch about video games. Here's a tip parents. If the person checking out your copy of Grand Theft Auto, or Scarface knows the game is inappropriate for your kid, what does that say about what kind of parent you are??




By angryhippy on 2/15/2007 4:40:20 PM , Rating: 2
I really think this state is starting to make itself look more backwoods than South Carolina.

Where's Superman when you need him? Kansas could use some spandex-wearing freaks.

Is it that hard to spend 10 minutes skimming reviews online to find out what a game is about?



By masher2 (blog) on 2/15/2007 3:07:08 PM , Rating: 2
When will the public learn?




Time limit
By bombledmonk on 2/15/2007 3:26:01 PM , Rating: 2
It wouldn't be that hard to impose a time limit or rather goal for being able to rate the game. 20hrs, 40 hours or to entirety whichever is shorter, just something that makes sure the game was actually played.




Unlocked
By Tuor on 2/16/2007 12:46:13 AM , Rating: 2
I'm generally against this whole rating system thing, but since we have it and it wont go away...

Game publishers are going to have to give the reviewers a copy of the game with ALL CONTENT UNLOCKED and put it in God Mode so that the schmucks who review the games can see all the content regardless of how badly they suck as gamers.




By Gooberslot on 2/16/2007 2:29:22 AM , Rating: 2
This is just dumb. We don't need government mandated rating systems. I think the current rating system works just fine it's just the idiotic, lazy parents that won't learn what the ratings mean and then complain.

Video games don't cause violence but idiotic politicians like this sure make me feel like punching someone.




Proposing a better way.
By Cincybeck on 2/15/07, Rating: 0
"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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