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Bill targets teen gamers

 

William Triplett

Variety

May 7, 2008

With “Grand Theft Auto IV” in the headlines, a bipartisan pair of House members has introduced a bill that would require videogame retailers to check identification in order to prevent minors from buying games intended for adults.

Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act on Wednesday to ensure that children “can only access age appropriate content without parental permission,” according to Terry.

“The images and themes in some videogames are shocking and troublesome. In some games high scores are often earned by players who commit ‘virtual’ murder, assault and rape,” Terry continued. “Many young children are walking into stores and are able to buy or rent these games without their parents even knowing about it. Many retailers have tried to develop voluntary policies to make sure mature games do not end up in the hands of young kids, but we need to do more to protect our children.”

Bill would require ID checks for purchases of games rated M (mature) or AO (adult only). It would also compel vidgame retailers to post ratings system explanations in the store. Retailers found in violation of either requirement would face a $5,000 civil penalty.

Several state legislatures have enacted similar laws, but each has been struck down by courts on First Amendment challenges.

Terry said he remains optimistic because, unlike the state laws, “This bill doesn’t involve itself in content or defining the standards for ‘mature’ or ‘adults only,’” he told Daily Variety. “It simply requires the retailer to post what the industry has defined as ‘mature’ and ‘adults only’ so that parents can know, and requires checking of identification,” Terry added.

“The entertainment industry would have us believe that these brutally violent games have little effect on the player, and that a ratings system exists that supposedly prevents the sale of mature-rated games to minors,” said Dan Isett, public policy director for Parents Television Council, which supports the bill. “Yet the Federal Trade Commission has found that more then 40% of all kids were able to walk into a store and leave with an M-rated game, despite assurances from the videogame industry and retailers that safeguards were in place to protect children from games that are clearly inappropriate for them.”
 

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