Congress wants ID to buy M-rated games

by Paul William Tenny

It's always nice to see people look to see if there actually are problems, rather than insisting they exist with no proof and no interest in finding out why, or if they exist at all. One the one hand you've got the House of Representatives trying to fix the "problem" with legislation that would require adults to show photo identification in order to purchase 'M'-rated video games. It probably didn't occur to Representatives Terry or Matheson that such laws might not be required in the first place, nor do they care if it places an unconstitutional and unreasonable burden on adults trying things they are entitled to have.
One must look no further than another Ars story posted less than an hour earlier to find a report by the Federal Trade Commission, putting a big, fat, leaky hole in the cry for censorship and unncessary regulation.

Using a group of 13- to 16-year-old undercover shoppers, researchers tested numerous stores across the US by attempting to purchase M-rated games intended only to be sold to customers aged 17 years and older. Results indicate a 22 percent drop in the ability for underage gamers to buy M-rated games over last year: only 20 percent of the testers were able to get an M-rated game.

The best path to regulation without actually regulating is nothing more than good, old fashioned shame. Retailers don't want bad PR hanging around their necks even if there isn't anything wrong with young adults getting these games anyway. Wal-Mart in particular is a very morally conservative company and would be unhappy to find out that their stores are handing out inappropriate material to minors. In fact, Wal-Mart came in second with an unfortunate, yet still respectable (in comparison) 18% failure rate -- still more than triple what GameStop and EB games managed.

Those numbers are a drop in the bucket compared to Circuit City and Hollywood Video, failing to restrict M-rated games properly 38%, and 40% of the time, respectively.

What I see here isn't the need for legislation forcing companies to obey what is supposed to be a self-regulating rating system -- I see a handful of corporations with lax enforcement policies that allow stores to get away with crap that ought to get managers fired. The best course of action is to go to the Kmart's board of directors, showing them their failure rate is nearly double that of Wal-Mart, and then just sit back and watch. Additionally, what about movies? Kids aren't supposed to get in alone to see R-rated films, what is the rate of that? Don't we need laws to regulate that too?

What about buying R-rated DVDs, how are the big retailers handling that? Are they even trying?

Ultimately, as Ars points out, this legislation will probably fail. Regulation of video game sales on the state level have a near-universal failure rate, often proving a significant financial burden when cash-strapped states end up having to pay legal fees for passing unconstitutional laws that were challenged by civil liberties and entertainment interest groups. I'm surprised, though, that Senator Clinton hasn't jumped all over this bill, given her censorship-friendly policies when it comes to games. I wonder what her stand is on this?
in Games


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