Latest Video Game Violence Overreach: Rules that Have Already Been Struck Down

By a 7-2 margin, the Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that video games are protected by the First Amendment and struck down a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to children. It would be pretty stupid for any legislator to put forward a bill that attempts the exact same thing. Nevertheless, Rep. Jim Matheson (RD-Utah) has done exactly that. On Tuesday, he submitted H.R. 287, which would attempt to reinstate the ban nationally and also mandates content ratings labels on all video games.

The bill is a slightly amusing read (pdf) in the sense of how tone-deaf it is regarding innovations in game distribution. It requires content labeling on a conspicuous location on all outside packaging. I think it’s been maybe two years since I bought a video game that even came in a package, preferring digital distribution instead. (My console gaming has kind of fallen by the wayside, but even they are shifting more toward digital distribution models.) It’s the equivalent of passing a modern bill requiring warning labels on the physical packaging of porn.

In any event, much like the movie industry, the video game industry has a voluntary ratings program in place, developed in part to respond to complaints about violence. Though it’s voluntary, pretty much every major game is rated. Much like movie theaters refusing to carry unrated films, most stores will decline to sell unrated games, so there’s plenty of market pressure to provide information and get rated. I am going to bet that any game found in Adam Lanza’s room had a ratings label on it.

But he might have had violent, gory indie games on his PC that might not have had such labeling (we don’t know because he apparently destroyed his hard drive pre-rampage). That he may have had unrated games is not the “Ah, ha!” moment Nanny Staters might think it is. The video games market has blown wide in a remarkably uncontrollable fashion that would have been unfathomable even a decade ago. Nearly anybody who has the time and focus can create a video game now. It’s as accessible as making your own movies or music. Gaming platforms have had to develop special mechanisms and marketplaces for indie game content just to help consumers navigate the massive supply.

A couple of years ago I discovered that somebody had made a neat little tool that allows anybody to make text adventures reminiscent of the heydays of Infocom, back in the early 1980s. I fiddled around with it for a week and made my own game and distributed it to some friends. I could have possibly sold it to folks online, asking them to send me money through PayPal in exchange for e-mailing them the game.

The federal government absolutely cannot stop this. They will not be able to restrict the distribution of games through digital means no matter how horrifying the content. As it is, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (the group that evaluates and rates the content of video games) has had to streamline its process for mobile games who want to get ratings and have dropped the price of review considerably for smaller, cheaper games.

Our gun-focused bloggers have repeatedly noted that the advances in 3-d printing technology will make a mockery out of any potential gun control regulations. The government will not be able to enforce a limit in magazine capacity and it is simply willful ignorance of them to think that they can.

Attempting to somehow restrict or regulate the market for video games is even more ridiculous. Video games hardly even exist in a physical format any longer. It wouldn’t surprise me if video games as a packaged product disappear entirely off store shelves by the end of this decade. And because game purchases and rentals will take place in digital space not physical space (there is already a Netflix for video game rentals called GameFly), age monitoring is also utterly impossible.

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  • Pro Libertate||

    Speaking of killing stuff, come get your python-on-a-stick!

  • From the Tundra||

    How is the great Florida python hunt going anyway? I read an article that suggested a captive bolt was the way to go - less messy than a firearm. Can you confirm?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Not good enough. That's why this fast-food chain and a related seeing-eye python program are in development. By creating a demand for pythons, Florida can get rid of them. Or, at least, make them a valuable part of Florida agriculture.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    I read an article that suggested a captive bolt was the way to go - less messy than a firearm. Can you confirm?

    Hah! Nice try, From the Tundra - if that's your real name. You thought you could trick PL into giving away his trade secrets. Better luck next time!

  • Pro Libertate||

    You are wise in the ways of business, Fatty.

  • From the Tundra||

    Dammit, Fatty. I guess I'll have to spring for a franchise, after all.

  • sarcasmic||

    Last I saw they've found 21 snakes.

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's not counting the five thousand reserved for commercial use. The python lobby is growing, too.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Wait, how can you have a python im RCMP gear as a mascot, but no "python poutine"?

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's a fair criticism. What would be in python poutine?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    From what I remember of my poutine foraging in Toronto it would just be regular poutine with some of that yummy python added on - I saw beef and other additions to the gravy, cheese curd and fries.

    See something like http://www.montrealpoutine.com/

    for better descriptions, recipes, etc.

  • Pro Libertate||

    With python gravy, too, or would that be gratuitous?

    Maybe I should add this to the press release.

  • nicole||

    I was just thinking python gravy and cheese curds over fries. NOM

  • Pro Libertate||

    Done! Welcome, Canada!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Just normal poutine, but with curly fries.

  • ||

    Every single game I play has come through digital distribution (including the game in the graphic). I have no idea what rating, if any, any of my games have.

  • pmains||

    Whaddya know? Utah has TWO congressmen named Jim Matheson. One Democrat and one Republican.

    Matheson was the guy who defeated Mia Love.

  • Scott S.||

    Oops. Fixed. If you can't trust the gaming press to properly label politicians, who can you trust?

  • An0nB0t||

    Don't be a tease, Shackford. Upload your game and let us proles have a shot at being eaten by grues.

  • sarcasmic||

    Doom? Come on. Quake was so much better.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    but Doom was first.
    Actually Wolf3d was first.

  • Loki||

    Quake was the first to feature truly 3-D gameplay. IOW it was the first one that you had to actually aim up and down. IIRC, in Doom and Wolfenstein you could only pan left and right, so they weren't truly 3-D.

  • Harlequin||

    Ultima Underworld had true 3D gameplay, not only before Quake but before Doom too.

  • Loki||

    I have many fond memories of playing Quake MP during my college days until all hours of the night. That and the original Team Fortress mod. Good times.

  • JW||

    I think my first time on a Quake server is one of the best moments of my life. Holy fuck, was that awesome.

  • ||

    Much later, but Unreal Tournament servers for me.

  • MJGreen||

    It was all about Duke Nukem 3D for me.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Doom seemed so awesome when it came out. Now? I shudder in horror thinking of the hours I wasted playing it.

  • sarcasmic||

    I think my favorite game ever was Silent Death. That cost me more than one exam.

    Then it died a silent death.

    *sniff*

  • Fatty Bolger||

    It was awesome when it came out. We used to play multi-player Doom on the network at work. After hours, of course, and with the blessing (and participation) of our manager. Great times.

  • ||

    I just finished playing Doom and now I'm in the middle of Doom 2. I like to play the whole way through a series if I'm going to play any of the later games. The first 2 games are still pretty hard on the higher difficulties.

  • The Other Kevin||

    We used to stay late and play Quake on our office LAN. Those were the days.

    I just found Quake Live, where you can play for free. It's browser based. Haven't tried it yet but I hear good things.

  • RandomJackass||

    I was going to comment about that Doom screenshot too, until I read the alt-text for the graphic.

  • RightNut||

    I can't remember the last time I bought a game from a brick and mortar store. I think I got a physical copy of fallout 3 as a gift when it came out, so maybe 2008ish?

    Also, I've been commenting on reason all morning to avoid doing work on my indie game, so thanks a ton reason!

  • RBS||

    What is your game?

  • RightNut||

    SNES style JRPG, with cyclops and possibly homicidal porn actress robots.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    "homicidal porn actress robots"

    Sounds like a win to me.

  • MJGreen||

  • Lord Humungus||

    I'm a multi-player FPS kind of guy. It's about the only time I can dedicate to gaming - a quick round or two after supper.

  • RightNut||

    ever try dota?

  • Hugh Akston||

    So am I the last man on earth who uses/prefers my games on physical media?

  • nicole||

    Well, I'm not a man, so maybe.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Hey speaking of which, what does it mean when a woman says she wants a man, not a little boy? Is that just a euphemism for wanting to get married, or is there like a rough sex thing involved as well?

  • nicole||

    It means she wants to get married and she also wants you to not leave wet towels lying around on the floor anymore.

  • Hugh Akston||

    And maybe not be such a churlish, distant, drama queen?

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    because that's her job

  • nicole||

    Yeah, although I think "distant" can still work for you as a man. Less so with the drama queen part. Maybe you should start negging or something?

  • Hugh Akston||

    Maybe you should start negging or something?

    That's a pretty smart idea considering it came from you.

  • nicole||

    So you, uh, said something about rough sex?

  • ||

    There's a joke about that:

    Q: What's common in rough sex and tabloid news-writing?

    A: You've got to know where to stop.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I should note that this isn't actually about me. I was talking with a friend last night who is considering ending a seven-year relationship with her millionaire TV star boyfriend because he is apparently a little boy and not a man.

  • SugarFree||

    her millionaire TV star boyfriend

    Cut him loose! There are plenty of rich celebrities in the sea.

  • Brett L||

    Code for small penis.

  • RightNut||

    It means she wants to get married and she also wants you to not leave wet towels lying around on the floor anymore.

    WTF, is complaining about wet towels hard wired into the female brain??

  • nicole||

    I don't know, is not wanting anything to ever get dry again hardwired into the male brain?

  • RightNut||

    Its just going to get wet again when you put it in the washer!

  • Brett L||

    We've been trying to get to the wet spot all our lives.

  • ChrisO||

    She likes moobs and ear hair?

  • Hugh Akston||

    If there were women who were into that I'd be up to my ankles, man.

  • JW||

    what does it mean when a woman says she wants a man, not a little boy?

    It means that you should be packing her things up into a nice little box and leaving it on your doorstep for her to pick up at her earliest convenience.

  • ||

    It means you can't afford her spending habits.

  • An0nB0t||

    You mean, like, board games?

  • LTC(ret) John||

    I believe the term is "table top game"

    /Simpsons Comic Book Guy

  • An0nB0t||

    Crossbows and Catapults is considered a board game, and I challenge you to play that atop your table.

    Boom. Out-nerded.

  • LTC(ret) John||

    That is more of a "any flat surface game". Besides, I have access to tables that could seat 30 feasting Vikings.

  • An0nB0t||

    Bastard. LMK if a spot opens up in your GURPS group.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    "30 Feasting Vikings" sounds like a movie Warty would make

  • Loki||

    "30 Feasting Vikings" sounds like a movie snuff film Warty would make

    FTFY

  • Mint Berry Crunch||

    No, I prefer my PS3 games on disc.

    In fact, the only ones I have that are not on disc are the 2 free downloads Sony gave me after the PlayStation Network went offline for a month.

  • flye||

    Same here, with the exception of Limbo. Fantastic game.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Crokinole?

  • ||

    I'm with you. I like actual books too.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I still get DVDs/Bluerays for the Xbox 360 and the PS3.

  • Brandybuck||

    I don't have a 99Gigabit connection like the rest of the world apparently has, so I prefer physical media if I can. I would rather spend six hours downloading the updates than 24 hours downloading the game.

    And yeah, I don't stream HD movies on demand either. Call me a luddite. Or rather, call the industry a luddite for failing to roll out any non-cable high speed internet to my neighborhood.

  • np||

    Nannies here, nannies there, nannies everywhere! Arrrgh

    When I first read this, I too also wondered how H.R.267 would fare given that the same sort of bill was struck by the Supreme Court. Apparently, from http://thehill.com/blogs/hilli.....-to-minors

    Matheson argued that his bill is different than the law the court struck down because California had tried to define violent video games, whereas his measure relies on the industry's own rating system.

    In addition, not only would it place an addition burden on online retailers, as well as the used marketplace (e.g. ebay, craig's list; private transactions), but being prohibited from releasing an unrated game would kill the Indie game market, for PCs, for mobile, for Stream or any of the smaller digital distribution outlets

    It's sad, but probably not unexpected, that see the lots of statist support from the commentariat on some gaming sites like Kotaku (though that might be from being part of Gawker)

  • RightNut||

    Actually I find that fairly surprising. Most gamers I know are liberal, but are fairly suspicious of government attempts to control or prohibit things they care about. I can see them getting all pissed off at any attempt to limit the amount of blood in a game, and being perfectly fine with any type of gun control. Not realizing that it's one in the same.

  • Loki||

    "Government regs for thee, but not for me." Sounds pretty typical prog-tard to me.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Doom. It all starts and ends with Doom.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Doom sucked. I preferred Duke Nuke'em.

  • Loki||

    "Hail to the king, baby."

  • ||

    Okay, since this article is about anachronistic video game legislation, let's all list our favorite old school video games. Probably the best game on the Atari 2600 was Pitfall II: Lost Caverns. Incredibly high tech compared to the rest of the console's catalog: the music, the animation, and just a ton of fun.

  • An0nB0t||

    Combat (atari 2600)
    Mail Order Monsters (C64)
    California Games (C64)

  • ||

    That Mail Order Monsters one sounds pretty cool, especially the ability to keep your monster on a disk. Very advanced concept for that 80s.

  • An0nB0t||

    It really was. I was a wee tyke when I played them, but MoM and Auto Duel provided a lot of early lessons in economics. They were still around on emulators as of a few years ago.

  • nicole||

    Baseball Stars (assuming NES is old school enough)

  • Hugh Akston||

    Ducktales FTW

  • ||

    PFFT. Mickey Mousecapades.

  • KDN||

    Baseball Stars

    I second this. It also properly educated me on wrens.

    I'm also partial to River City Ransom and Dodgeball. Oh Technos Japan, the world needs you now more than ever.

  • nicole||

    I'm not alone! THERE ARE DOZENS OF US!

  • Hugh Akston||

    River City Ransom was pretty awesome.

  • mr simple||

    Dodgeball. That was a fun game.

  • Brandon||

    River City Ransom was awesome. I'm amazed there hasn't been a remake. Maybe on the Skyrim engine?

  • Ska||

    RCR is the best beat 'em up of all time. There were rumors of an RCR2 in development as of last year, but I don't think it has panned out. And here I am waiting to use my stone hands again.

    As for Baseball Stars - When isn't it? When it is.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Colossal Cave Adventure, large mainframe.

  • robc||

    Q*Bert
    Yar's Revenge
    Missile Command
    Pitfall

  • SugarFree||

    I'm with robc.

  • ||

    Atari. Craze maze. Don't ask why.

  • ||

    *Maze craze. Damn my 5-year old brain.

  • ||

    I loved that one. It was more fun when getting hit by the cops just slowed you down instead of killing you.

  • ||

    Just remembered that we had nicknames for the three different colored police squares, but I can't dredge up the actual names, other than that they were ridiculous in the way only names chosen by the under-10 set are.

  • Zeb||

    Super Mario Bros. and Tetris. Still the only video games I have any interest in playing.

  • mr simple||

    Now I'm going to have the Tetris theme in my head all day.

  • Brett L||

    Tetris on iPhone is sucking up my spare time. I'm nowhere near as good as I was at age 13.

  • $park¥||

    Crush, Crumble, and Chomp (C64)
    Bard's Tale II and III (C64)
    Dungeons & Dragons (Intellivision)
    Sea Battle (Intellivision)

    To name a few.

  • An0nB0t||

    Can't believe I forgot the holy grail: Hitchhiker's Guide.

    First time I played it, I got nearly all the way to the end of the game, then realized that I had forgotten to snag the all-important towel. That was my first pre-MTG instance of pure, adolescent nerd rage.

  • MJGreen||

    Old for me:

    Wing Commander: Privateer
    Tie-Fighter
    A-Train

  • Brandon||

    TIE Fighter and X-Wing were awesome games. Rebel Assault was great too. Aces Over Europe, likewise.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Breakout!

  • mr simple||

    I spent many an hour in my youth on our C64 with A Bard's Tale, Jumpman and Summer Games, to name a few.

  • $park¥||

    Ah yes, Jumpman. That game kicked ass.

  • Wastelander||

    Anyone remember Jumpman Jr. or Gateway to Apshai on the ADAM?

  • Charlotte Sometimes||

    Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (Apple IIe). . . and so began my love of turn-based RPG's.

  • ||

    I was a Dragon Warrior fanatic on the NES.

  • Charlotte Sometimes||

    I have a Nintendo DSi specifically for Dragon Quest games (and Okamiden). :)

  • Brandon||

    Turn-based RPG's. Would that be like Shining Force?

  • thom||

    I can't wait to see how the government ends up dealing with 3D printers. My guess is that whatever they come up with will make a mockery of several of the amendments that make up the Bill of Rights.

  • Archduke Pantsfan||

    Old school games you say?

    Stay awhile, stay forever!

  • Hyperion||

    If you can't buy it on GOG, it's too old to bother with, except for maybe a brief glimpse of nostalgia.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Anyone else get an infected file downloading Master of Orion from them?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I always put condoms on my dongle to prevent that sort of thing.

  • Ska||

    I have a C64 emulator for that, Jumpman, Jumpman Jr., and Space Taxi.

    Apple II - Pirates! is where it's at.

  • Hyperion||

    This BS is NEVER going to happen. Not sure why it's even being talked about.

    The problem with this country is that we have elected a bunch of deadbeat parasites who have nothing better to do than sit around all day and think up worthless legislation to propose, mostly concerning banning 'something'.

    We have too many laws now. The only job they should have is to meet once a year to discuss which worthless laws we are going to repeal. And they should not be paid for it. The other 364 days of the year, these worthless shitbags need to get a real fucking job and actually contribute something valuable to society.

  • Zeb||

    I've asked this before, but I am still puzzled. Do you people just not sleep or what? I can't imagine how anyone finds time to play all these fancy games while having any kind of actual life.

  • $park¥||

    Who needs an actual life when you have all these fancy games?

  • Hyperion||

    I play when my wife is watching her evening soap operas, if I'm not doing anything else. Generally that gets me about 6-8 hours a week of gaming time. Sometimes I might get 10 hrs. in a week, sometimes none.

    I don't watch more than 2-4 hours of TV in a week, if that. So compare this to a lot of people who watch 20-30 hrs of stupid TV a week and it's not that extreme, at all.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, I suppose that is true. I don't watch much TV either.

  • ||

    Yeah, I watch almost no TV. All my leisure time is computer time, whether it's games or Internet.

  • Jordan||

    I don't have kids.

  • JW||

    This was the first video game I ever played.

    Now get off my lawn.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I remember the later one (Space War?) that was strictly two-player. My brother and I loved it.

  • Hyperion||

    My first one was that pong console game. It really sucks, but we would play that for hours.

  • Sevo||

    Ha! You lose!
    Pong was the LAST video game I ever played.

  • Hyperion||

    If that is true, I think it is you that loses!

  • ||

    The dumbest of all the responses to Sandy Hook.

    Hmmm. We can't discriminate against everyone with a mental illness. And we can't ban guns. Um er. What else can we blame? .....I know! VIDEO GAMES! Let's bitch about video games!

  • Hyperion||

    I know! VIDEO GAMES! Let's bitch about video games!

    That one's going somewhere about as fast as continental drift.

  • Sevo||

    The brain-dead Chron has been all over games and 'violent TV' for the last couple of weeks.
    Pretty boring; 10 leftist twits talking to each other about how they know A1 'doesn't include X'.

  • Hyperion||

    It all goes back to what I just wrote a few posts up in the thread. What exactly do these people do that is of any value?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I blame Ozzie.

  • Hyperion||

    That's like, sooo 80s. dude. Now instead of Ozzie and D&D board games, it is FPS games that will send your childins to Hell.

    Oh, and now it's only the gubmint, instead of only Jeebus, that can save them.

  • ||

    Oh man, I remember seeing some cheesy movie once, where the main character was obsessed with playing D&D and it turned him into some sort of deluded psycho. I can't remember what it was called exactly. He started imagining that he was his character in the game, if I recall correctly.

    Anyone remember this film?

  • mr simple||

    Mazes and Monsters starring a young Tom Hanks.

  • mr simple||

    And it wasn't until one of his friends insisted they LARP that he went crazy. LARPing ruins lives!

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