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Video Game Decency Act: saving the children, or one-way ticket to tyranny?

Tony Carnevale

As Congressman Fred Upton's Video Game Decency Act continues to percolate through Congress, Upton (R-MI) is singing its praises to the press, telling his local paper, the Niles Daily Star, "This legislation will restore parents' trust in a system in which game makers had intentionally deceived the ratings board to deliver violent and pornographic material to our kids."

This whole foofaraw kicked off when Rockstar Games tucked away some sex-related gameplay into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and, while the content was only accessible by using hacking tools, it was there for the minigaming. When word got out, lawsuits flowed like coffee, and Rockstar rushed out a "clean" version in order to avoid the dreaded "Adults Only" rating. The Video Game Decency Act would make it a crime to hide such content from the ESRB, the independent ratings board created by the industry in 1994 to avoid federal regulation.

Seems pretty reasonable, right? Well, it is. Whether you believe all sexual content deserves an "AO" rating or not, developers who want a rating from the ESRB should fully disclose anything that might affect that rating. But if the bill passes, the government will finally have its paws in the game rating pie, in a very official (and probably irreversible) way -- exactly what the ESRB was founded to prevent. Fine by you? Or is this the next step on a slippery slope of governmental control that will end with a dystopian, 1984-style wasteland?

[Via GamePolitics]

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