Video Game Legislation Defeated in California and Utah

Apr 01, 2009

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Over the last month or so, we have seen a law in California about selling violent video games to minors being upheld as unconstitutional, as well as a veto by Gov. Hunstman of Utah Bill H.B. 353, which also sought to regulate the sale of violent games to minors. The defeat of these attempted measures has clearly left parents with the responsibility to be involved in their childrens video game purchases and playing.

In both of these cases, the voluntary rating system established by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was pointed to as a system that is already in place that helps retailers, parents and kids understand what content is found in a particular video game and why the rating has been applied to these games. Nearly 100% of video games sold through retailers today has the ESRB rating clearly printed on the packaging. Responsible parents should learn to use these ratings in the same way they have for movies using the voluntary movie ratings system.

Besides the well known ESRB ratings like E for Everyone, T for Teen, M for Mature, the ESRB goes into greater detail about the content found in the game by using 'Content Descriptors'. Here is a look at what categories these fall into:

  • Alcohol Reference - Reference to and/or images of alcoholic beverages   
  • Animated Blood - Discolored and/or unrealistic depictions of blood    
  • Blood - Depictions of blood    
  • Blood and Gore - Depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts    
  • Cartoon Violence - Violent actions involving cartoon-like situations and characters. May include violence where a character is unharmed after the action has been inflicted    
  • Comic Mischief - Depictions or dialogue involving slapstick or suggestive humor  Crude Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving vulgar antics, including “bathroom humor    
  • Drug Reference - Reference to and/or images of illegal drugs    
  • Fantasy Violence - Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations distinguishable from real life    
  • Intense Violence - Graphic and realistic-looking depictions of physical conflict. May involve extreme and/or realistic blood, gore, weapons and depictions of human injury and death    
  • Language - Mild to moderate use of profanity    
  • Lyrics - Mild references to profanity, sexuality, violence, alcohol or drug use in music    
  • Mature Humor - Depictions or dialogue involving "adult" humor, including sexual references    
  • Nudity - Graphic or prolonged depictions of nudity    
  • Partial Nudity - Brief and/or mild depictions of nudity    
  • Real Gambling - Player can gamble, including betting or wagering real cash or currency
  • Sexual Content - Non-explicit depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including partial nudity
  • Sexual Themes - References to sex or sexuality    
  • Sexual Violence - Depictions of rape or other violent sexual acts    
  • Simulated Gambling - Player can gamble without betting or wagering real cash or currency    
  • Strong Language - Explicit and/or frequent use of profanity    
  • Strong Lyrics - Explicit and/or frequent references to profanity, sex, violence, alcohol or drug use in music    
  • Strong Sexual Content - Explicit and/or frequent depictions of sexual behavior, possibly including nudity    
  • Suggestive Themes - Mild provocative references or materials    
  • Tobacco Reference - Reference to and/or images of tobacco products    
  • Use of Drugs - The consumption or use of illegal drugs    
  • Use of Alcohol - The consumption of alcoholic beverages    
  • Use of Tobacco - The consumption of tobacco products    
  • Violence - Scenes involving aggressive conflict. May contain bloodless dismemberment    
  • Violent References - References to violent acts

These detailed breakdowns of what a consumer can expect to find in a game are a great tool to help parents make decisions on not only if a games rating is appropriate, but why it is rated for that age.

Parents should also use valuable video game reviews at Web sites like:

What They Play
GamerDad: Gaming With Children
Common Sense Media

In attempting to help parent manage these game playing decisions, Net Nanny is proud to be the first parental control software solution to set age-based gaming restrictions using the ESRB rating system and the first to block desktop PC games based on the above content descriptors.

This new feature is continuing to involve and improve as Net Nanny is continually updated, as always your feedback on this new feature is valued and appreciated. You can leave a comment or send us an email here.