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Mar 29, 2006



Dmitri must blog ASAP and give the inside story about this afa(h)k (e.g. who organized this, why, and how he fits into the why).


Well, the president just drove back from the Hill not 10 minutes ago, so he must have dropped in to discuss Grand Theft Auto (or maybe that one Sony was going to make using the phrase "shock and awe"?).

He went up around 1:30, just in time for Dmitri's testimony ;-)

(I kid, of course; I have no idea why the President was on the Hill, although he was up there during the appropriate timeframe - my window overlooks his route along Pennsylvania Ave. and the motorcade tends to be pretty noisy)


That wasn't the President, that was Dmitri! He only travels by bullet-proof limo since the incident at GDC last year.


*cough* prediction #10 *cough*


Shocking, just shocking to learn that it's testimony about violence.


10) A Terra Nova author will testify before Congress about virtual worlds
Now, when did you change that ;)


Note to self: Avoid one-day-and-back trips to DC when possible.

The hearing was a way for the Committee to learn why the various state laws have been unsuccessful on both the science and the law. I was on the first panel, which, with the exception of the first witness, was focused on the science.

The first person was a relative of one of the police officers killed by avowed GTA player Devin Moore in Fayette, Alabama. It was an emotional opening, and tough to follow. The speaker, Rev. Steve Strickland, was coping with a terrible personal loss. He was also clearly being guided in his statements by one Jack Thompson, so his testimony was tragic on several levels. I think Thompson may even have drafted it because there were several "Jack is great" lines in the testimony. Svengali-like, and awful to sit through.

The rest of us were social scientists testifying about the evidence to data and whether or not it justified governmental intervention. I was the lone witness suggesting that the evidence is not conclusive to date. And, because the hearing was also partially about the pending CAMRA act that would fund further research, I laid out what the research needed to do next in order to get rid of its more obvious flaws.

Somewhat surprisingly, the other two science witnesses backed me on my particulars of what was needed next, and I think that might have helped the Committee realize I wasn't a lone whacko and that there are in fact a lot of researchers who think like I do. I don't think Senator Brownback heard what he wanted, but I tried to lay out why their laws keep getting defeated. Among the several reasons was the states' reliance on only one set of experts rather than the whole range of people researchering this area. My more qualitative colleagues should be happy to hear that I chided the states for ignoring ethnographic work and suggested that it be part of the CAMRA Act. And I got in a plug for Wisconsin's Education group as being among the best in showing how games can be shown to do good things once you look for results past 30 minutes. It helped that the ranking Democrat there was from Wisconsin.

I don't know if my testimony will make any impact on the process, but I offered to help Brownback's office if they ever wanted to reach out. It might not have helped that I reacted badly to one of his questions, though.

His last question to me and the panel was something like "Would you endorse a system in which we could test for the violent effects of games before they were released?"

I confess that that question caught me quite off guard, and I hope my answer was on target. I said that as a researcher I'd love to have that kind of data, but that these things take a long time to test. Then I said that regardless of what I thought as a researcher, that as a citizen the idea of the government vetting media content for appropriateness before release struck me as creepy. And yes, I said "creepy" to the Chairman.

I don't think that's what he wanted to hear. Honestly, I was dumbfounded by the question and kept waiting for people to shout out from the audience about how the government shouldn't be the thought police. But when you pack the place with law enforcement, show terrible footage from Postal and begin with a true personal tragedy, I suppose you can ask questions like that.

I tell you what I'd really like, and that's to have the idiots from Running With Scissors there to take their own heat. I don't work for the industry, and it bothers me that those kind of human parasites get to leech off the hard-earned protections of the First Amendment. I want them to have their rights, but I don't have to like them.

The second panel was on the law and constitutionality of the issue. It revolved around how much children can protect themselves and when or if the state can jump in with a compelling interest.

If I can get the session transcript, I'll link it. I'll put the prepared statements up on a site shortly.

Oh, and I manged to say "-50 DKP" to the Committee.


And Cory certainly nailed that prediction, but I'm still going to win a quarter from him:


My question is thus--Why did the Movie industry get to have a self regulating commitee that stopped all this nonsence. Yet when we create a regulation commitee (The ESRB) it's not enough? And the ESRB is much harder to slip stuff through then CARA. The process takes longer, and resubmission is not really a production reality. Not to mention that the rules and definitions that govern the Contributers to the ESRB (us as software devs) are foggy at best and often times error on the side of conservative. For example, a game I worked on recieved a rating not for the "Animated Violence" that was expected to put us at a Teen rating, but for the Ash Trey with a smouldering cigerette inside of it, that was located on one of the desks in a back room of one of the maps, that landed us the Mature Rating. This caused a sharp decrease in sales due to companies like Walmart not middle shelfing Mature games. Also to note this was before the Hot Coffee 'scandal'.
Now, I'm not saying anything against the ESRB, I appreciate this sort of board, they regulate a lot of the immature Devlopment houses, *caugh* RWS *caugh*. My problem is that the movie industry gets to run itself, and the laws protect them, rather than prosecute. Why now, do we as responcible and professional game developers need to both use an independant content review board as well as suffer the scrutiny of the same legal system that forces us to use the ESRB.
My opinion stands at this point, whats good for the Goose had better be good for the Gander. Lets have MGM and Warner be forced into the same body of politics. For each movie they make, let the government decide if its appropriete to publish to the people of the USA. I'm positive that Free Speech activists would rally behind video games after that.


Most people think there is a law about movie tickets and age, even though there isn't. Movies also have a longer cultural history and a much more powerful lobying group. To be fair, they've also endured years of censorship (Hayes Code) and have emerged on the other side. Also, many conservatives target games but feel the same way about movies. They'd just as soon fry goose and gander.

After yesterday I can tell you that Senator Brownback doesn't realize that the ESRB is a separate entity from the industry itself. He kept telling Pat Vance that she should be proud to have sold so many violent games to kids. She kept saying "I work for the consumers." Total disconnect.

I even related in my panel that devs are constantly butting heads with the ESRB over ratings, but it clearly didn't register.


Jesse: My question is thus--Why did the Movie industry get to have a self regulating commitee that stopped all this nonsence. Yet when we create a regulation commitee (The ESRB) it's not enough?

While the game ratings system may be more strict at the developer/studio end, I'd suggest that the movie theatres have done a better job than game stores at making any rating system have a VISIBLE PUBLIC effect. Even without laws requiring as much, most theatres enforce a "we won't let you in to an R movie without an parent or guardian present" policy more visibly than any gaming store's policy of not selling an "M" game to a minor... if they even have such a policy.

We know that this is all an illusion, but it's a publicly accepted illusion. Despite the issue of video stores renting "r" movies, or unsupervised DvD sales, it still APPEARS that self-regulation at the retail-end is "protecting kids" from bad movies, but not bad games.


Chas : Actually, its more effective then you might imagine. Walmart, who are potentially (this is not a direct fact but an informed estimate) about 60% of our North American Sales, will not sell Mature games to minors. Heck they even have Shelfing policies that suggest now that many M rated games may be encased in a class case. Here in Canada (eh!) a number of major Rental outlets (Blockbusters and Rogers) do under policy rent Mature rated games to minors, but WILL rent 14A (the Canadian Version of PG13) movies to people under 14.


I'm posting the written comments, but only mine for the spoken as well:

The official live transcript won't be out for another couple of weeks.


Jesse: Chas : Actually, its more effective then you might imagine.

That's the strange part- while I do see alot of action (walmart, as mentioned) and my local EBGames retailer regularly even asking PARENTS if they're aware of the rating system, I believe the system works better than people perceive it to.

That's the problem: public perception- the perception that leads people to believe that it IS necessary to require age restrictions by retailers.


Thanks for posting those, Dmitri. The legal half seemed pretty evenly balanced actually. Who got the tougher questions: Kevin Saunders or Paul Smith?


Neither got particularly tough questions. Both Senators were at that point swapping out to go take votes and such on the floor, so the whole last half-hour was pretty gooey (the day was all about immigration, really). Feingold was there for most of the legal questions if I recall and he was asking for clarifications and for info rather than trying to make points, I thought.

Saunders and Smith both agreed on one thing in the Q&A, and that was the fact that Saunders' approach had been uniformly rejected by the courts: Ginsberg =/ violence.


I still don't understand why no one has thrown the obvious back into these lawmaker's faces.

A president of the United States was severely wounded and almost assassinated over one whackos obsession with a movie.

A thirteen year-old boy in Florida was sentenced to life in prison after acting out World Wrestling Federation moves he saw on TV on his 5 year old cousin, killing her.

I'm sure someone can come up with a print version of the tragedies above. Probably audio versions as well.

In the late 50's Elvis' pelvic thrusts were going to be the end of society as we (well not me) knew it.

Only the courts seem to realize that this is just a new form of media and its destiny is to be protected the same way as movies, TV, CD's and print are now.

Games involing extreme violence are here. Those involving pornography are on the brink. Games are going to even be protected if they involve child pornography in the future because you can make one without harming a child (that is the rule involving child pornography in print as I understand it). Its all virtual you know.

I'm pretty sure I saw such a thing in a link. Something about a child princess in a 'full length 3D film' advertised in a banner so it may already be here.

The point is that it is perfectly OK under current law to write a fictional story involving sex with a 12 year old. Why can't you make a game about it? Media is media, I don't see how you can seperate them in a free speech context.

D. Hall


Of course, if a child porn game was made it would come with a rootkit from the feebs. I honestly don't think anyone would publish such a thing, except for Running With Scissors.


Depends on your definition of 'publish' I would think. There certainly is a reluctance between mainstream brick and mortar outfits to sell even adult rated games now and there is certainly a disconnect between adult game makers an traditional storefront porn distributors now (now this is another assumption, I haven't been in an 'adult' store in years).

But online distribution is an entirely different matter. It will happen if it hasn't already.

I feel we have stolen Dmitri's thread already but my point remains that the sex and violence issue is going to get a lot worse (depending on your point of view) and no amount of congressional posturing can do anything about it.

Games are yesterday's television which was the other day's movies, which were yesteryear's print. You can't censor it legally. None of it, I don't know why they even keep trying. I can go to the public library and check out a copy of 'Lolita'. Why is 'Grand Theft Auto' so offensive?


It's not my thread. Go bananas.

I would note that obscenity/pornography is viewed differently than violence is in media regulation. Obscene speech has an exception from the 1st Amendment (Ginsburg), where violence does not. So I wouldn't expect obscenity to get a free pass, especially if cultural conservatives have any sway.


Dmitri, all this stuff about quantitative analysis, enthography, CAMRA, and the First Amendment is great. But obviously what we care about is "-50 DKP". How the hell^h^hck did you work that in?

Don't force me show them your Game Politics photo, you know, the one with ye olde coin op machine ( http://gamepolitics.livejournal.com/246997.html )


Ug, publicity photos FTL.

Well, I read my oral statement pretty well verbatim from the file posted here:

so you can see how I worked it in. Note that I wasn't actually penalizing the committee 50 DKP, although individuals may have deserved it . . .

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