Tuesday, November 2, 2010

To Senator Leland Yee; The ESRB isn't the problem... you are.

contrary to popular belief, you don't become a Senator by the light of the next full moon if you're bitten by one


And I don't mean that in some insipid little "No you, reversal" way either.. Seriously Governors and Senators like you are the problem, and I'll tell you why. 

The following is taken from an article on gameindustry.biz.

California state senator Leland Yee has attempted to defend the violent games bill he authored, which could pass into law following next week's Schwarzenegger vs EMA case.
The San Francisco democrat argued that the bill was needed because the existing ESRB age-rating scheme was "rather biased."



He claimed to GameSpot that "the ESRB is funded by the industry, so it's like the fox guarding the henhouse.
"Clearly, they're not going to legitimately and appropriately place any markings on any video games, because it's in the interest of the video [game] industry to sell as many video games as possible."
Contrary to fact, he asserted that "You never heard of an AO rating whatsoever, because that would limit your market share."
Although claiming that the bill was "only against this small section of ultraviolent video games," Yee also called upon the spectre of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' 'hot coffee' controversy, in which modders were able to restore a mini-game featuring clothed sex scenes to the PC version.
To defend why the movie industry wasn't undergoing the same scrutiny, Yee argued that "Within video games, content is so embedded that you are unable to look at all the content in one sitting.
"For parents, it's hard to really know what the content is as opposed to a movie. Parents can sit and watch a movie. Within a game, you have to be pretty sophisticated to get to a level to see some of the more atrocious behaviour."
While not addressing the issue of retails likely not stocking "these ultraviolent video games" is his bill passes, Yee claimed that minors would be able to play them no matter the result of new week's rulings.
"Kids can have access to these ultraviolent video games even under my bill. All you have to do is go to your parents, talk to your parents, and if your parents want to get it for you, they can go to the store and get it for you."

Let's break this down into digestible segments, just so I don't miss anything.


California state senator Leland Yee has attempted to defend the violent games bill he authored, which could pass into law following next week's Schwarzenegger vs EMA case.
The San Francisco democrat argued that the bill was needed because the existing ESRB age-rating scheme was "rather biased." 

First of all the irony of a Senator teaming with a Governor who benefited from having millions of dollars thrown at him to star and serve as vehicle for the most ultra violent action and sci fi films in movie history (People are still debating the accurate kill count in Commando for god's sake!) who is now championing the people against violent video games is completely mindblowing. What's next? Marion Barry setting up anti drug legislations? Eliot Spitzer creating legislations against prosititution? I'm still a fan of Arnold's movies, but seriously, this is some ironic stuff going on right here.

He claimed to GameSpot that "the ESRB is funded by the industry, so it's like the fox guarding the henhouse.  


Yes, The ESRB is funded by the industry, but in the same way the MPAA is funded by the movie industry. Yes two wrongs don't exactly make a right, but if you're going to come down on one you should probably come down on both. We have movies like Hostel and Saw which once taken out of the theater have very little to no barrier of entry. This means that little billy and Jenny can watch them all they want on the major cable movie channels as well as any DVDs or even through streaming services like Netflix on their gaming console of choice. 

In this instance we have two foxes guarding two hen houses, and the reason why one is being ignored, is because one is greasing the wheel enough to where attention isn't on it, while the other (The gaming industry) doesn't want to play ball, and of course are made easy targets. The gaming industry is greedy, but the people in control aren't stupid. They're going to fight this tooth and nail and since gamers are very protective of their livelyhood, not too many people are going to take this issue sitting down.

 let's look at the basis for the changes in the MPAA ratings system according to Wikipedia


The Hays Code, in place since 1930, was deemed by Jack Valenti, who became president of the MPAA in May, 1966, as hopelessly out of date and no longer appropriate for the current film and cultural environment. He felt compelled to this position by the release of major studio films such as "Blow Up", "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?", and others which were among the first to feature nudity and profanity.[3] Valenti felt action was required on the part of the respective studios to edit their films appropriately, but that having to deal with each film one-at-a-time in this manner was awkward and inefficient.[3] The Code was revised in 1966 to include the "SMA" (Suggested for Mature Audiences) advisory as a stopgap measure, but Valenti realized that a new approach to film rating was needed in response to "the irresistible force of creators determined to make 'their films'", and to avoid "the possible intrusion of government into the movie arena",[3] and on November 1, 1968 the voluntary MPAA film rating system was established, with three organizations: MPAA, the National Association of Theater Owners[3] (NATO), and the International Film Importers & Distributors of America (IFIDA), as its monitoring and guiding groups.
The original movie ratings (used from 1968 to 1970) were:
  • G: General audiences - all ages admitted
  • M: Mature audiences - parental discretion advised, but all ages admitted
  • R: Restricted - children under 16 not admitted without an accompanying parent or adult guardian
  • X: Children under 17 will not be admitted
[3]
This content classification system originally was to have three ratings with the intention of allowing parents to take their children to any film they choose. However, the National Association of Theater Owners urged the creation of an adults only category, fearful of possible legal problems in local jurisdictions. The "X" rating was not an MPAA trademark: any producer not submitting a movie for MPAA rating could self-apply the "X" rating (or any other symbol or description that was not an MPAA trademark).[3]
With MPAA's introduction of its rating system, the U.S. was a latecomer as far as film classification was concerned. Countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom had begun this practice earlier in the 20th century.[4]

The M rating was changed because parents were confused as to whether "M"-rated films or "R"-rated films had more intense content. This led to the "GP" rating in January 1970[5].
The ratings used from 1970 to 1972, were:
  • Rated G: All ages admitted. General audiences.
  • Rated GP: All ages admitted. Parental guidance suggested.
  • Rated R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
  • Rated X: No one under 17 admitted.
Also in 1970 the ages of viewers admitted to R- and X-rated movies was raised from 16 to 17.[6][7] However, the age on the X rating varied per the jurisdiction.[citation needed]
By 1972, parents perceived the "GP" rating as not indicative of a film's true content. In 1971, the MPAA added content advisories such as: Contains material not generally suitable for pre-teenagers. In February 1972 the MPAA replaced the GP rating with the new PG rating.[8]
The ratings used from 1972 to 1984 were:
  • Rated G: General Audiences—All ages admitted.
  • Rated PG: Parental Guidance Suggested—Some material may not be suitable for pre-teenagers.
  • Rated R: Restricted—Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
  • Rated X: No one under 17 admitted.
By late 1978, the PG rating was reworded; the word pre-teenagers was replaced with children.[9][10]

So if Wikipedia is to believed, The MPAA was established to keep government regulation out of the movie industry, by creating a means of regulating what content was viewable to children via the decision of the parents. Wait!.. you mean to tell me that someone put something in place so that the parents can make informed decisions of their own choice as to what their children can and can't view? Amazing!

"Clearly, they're not going to legitimately and appropriately place any markings on any video games, because it's in the interest of the video [game] industry to sell as many video games as possible."
Contrary to fact, he asserted that "You never heard of an AO rating whatsoever, because that would limit your market share." 

Although claiming that the bill was "only against this small section of ultraviolent video games," Yee also called upon the spectre of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' 'hot coffee' controversy, in which modders were able to restore a mini-game featuring clothed sex scenes to the PC version. 

 Clearly, this is another instance of someone not doing their research. The AO rating is on the ESRB list which is readily available on the ESRB website . Anyone can access the site and read the Frequently Asked Questions and find out for themselves to be a more informed parent. Secondly, There are two games that recieved an AO rating for Blood and gore; Thrill Kill, (which was cancelled and ultimately reworked into the largely ignored WuTang: Shaolin Style. The engine was repurposed for the slightly better, yet equally forgotten Xmen: Mutant Academy games) and  Manhunt, which was pretty much in the same league as the movie Saw. The AO rating is mainly given for both nudity and sexual situations which happened during the whole "Hot Coffee" debacle (despite the fact that there's no nudity in the minigame at all ), but games like Mass Effect and God of War do have nudity and sexual situations and have M ratings for either taking the sex off the screen, or toning it down to where it's about as non-issue as a steamy soap opera scene.



Logically, an AO rating does hurt your market share because you're severely limiting your audience, much like say if a movie makes an R rating, the directors try to reduce the amount of nudity or violent content to acchieve a PG-13 rating to rope in a larger audience. These instances are largely the same, but again it's ignored because that would mean an attack on both the movie and game industry in the interest of fairness.

To defend why the movie industry wasn't undergoing the same scrutiny, Yee argued that "Within video games, content is so embedded that you are unable to look at all the content in one sitting. 

And yet the job of the ESRB is to figure out the entirety of the content provided in a particular game in order to help parents make a educated decision on whether to let your kids play that particular game. Again. This is something that can not be stressed enough.

"For parents, it's hard to really know what the content is as opposed to a movie. Parents can sit and watch a movie. Within a game, you have to be pretty sophisticated to get to a level to see some of the more atrocious behaviour."

This statement also insists that parents are incredibly stupid and are unable to understand what their kids are playing. Many parents today are actually people who grew up with video games in the earlier generations. To make a statement such as this would show how completely out of touch Yee is. I'm a generation zero gamer (Atari and colecovision) who plays and writes about video games, and has a child who plays video games. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone here. My eleven year old asked me to get him Saw for PS3 a while back, and I've been kind of on the fence about doing that, because I know the movies, and I've done my research on the game itself. Even if I were to give him the game we would still have a long talk about the content of the game and how movies largely aren't real (something he already knows, despite being a budding horror buff like his father).

To hear something like this is pretty much insulting on a very personal level, because this insists that as parents we can't possibly be capable of doing our jobs, and have to have someone step in as the 'middleman' to do our jobs for us. Again, Mr Yee, I got this. I'll deal with it, myself. Thank you.

While not addressing the issue of retails likely not stocking "these ultraviolent video games" is his bill passes, Yee claimed that minors would be able to play them no matter the result of new week's rulings.
"Kids can have access to these ultraviolent video games even under my bill. All you have to do is go to your parents, talk to your parents, and if your parents want to get it for you, they can go to the store and get it for you."
So what you're saying is that this bill is ineffective.. So ineffective that it shouldn't even be taken seriously enough to be passed, meaning even you think it's not going to have an overall effect on things? Then why don't you revoke it and we'll all be on our merry little way then? I mean if you, the brave and self-sacrificing senator who thinks that we should have more limitations on what we allow our children to play think that this isn't the way to solve this problem, then why are we even here having this discussion or even going through the process of trying to even pass this bill? Is there another agenda hidden in this bill that we should know about?
And hopefully this doesn't end up like the last time a person in power decided to make violent video games their problem .

There's so much wrong here that I couldn't just stand idly by and not address it. This isn't the first time video games have been under attack from government, and it surely won't be the last time, either. We clearly don't need someone stepping in and telling us that we have to be more vigilant in the free time activities of our kids. That's a given. It's understandable that Parents are increasingly busy trying to eek out a living to ensure that their children are well provided for, and that's fine, but for the amount of time taken to do that we have to make sure that there's equal amount of time spent in knowing what our kids are doing, and what they're seeing and experiencing.

Then again, it's not always a sure thing that negative stimuli is indicative of kids running out and killing people. I grew up watching R rated horror movies and movies with questionable content in terms of nudity and sexual situations and I turned out just fine (depending on your definition of 'fine' is). It's not just the content, it's the premise of establishing a sense of right and wrong within children, as well as establishing consequences for their actions. As a child, when I broke something I got punished for it. I stole a pack of gum from the store once, and I got spanked and then sent back to the store to return the gum I stole. That taught me both humility and respect of property. Now I can't even find a quarter on the ground without asking someone if they lost it. That sounds like good morals were established with positive reinforcement to me, and yet we can't even do that anymore without someone else getting involved.

 This song is something that I've been holding onto for just this situation. It's a little ditty I've been singing in my head ever since I read this article..

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