Two outspoken critics of the video game industry — Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY) are expected to announced plans to help the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) raise awareness about its rating system for video games.
GamePolitics.com reports that Clinton and Lieberman will appear with Entertainment Software Association (ESA) president Doug Lowenstein and ESRB president Patricia Vance to announce a new nationwide television campaign to help educate parents and others on video game ratings. The ads reportedly will also feature executives from electronics retailers Best Buy and GameStop.
The ESRB rates most games sold in the United States with a descriptor that tells potential buyers what content they may find inside, and assigns an age rating of anything from E (for Everyone) to AO (Adults Only) depending on the suitability of the content. Although the ESRB ratings system is voluntary, much like the motion picture industry’s ratings system, most retailers will not carry software without an ESRB rating on the box.
The video game publishing and retail markets have been under increasing pressure to make it more difficult for kids under the age of 18 to buy games that feature Mature-rated content — extreme violence or gratuitous sexual content. Several states have attempted to pass laws restricting such access, but the ESA has successfully overturned them on First Amendment grounds once they’ve taken lawsuits to federal courts.
It’s a fascinating turnabout for these two politicians, who have previously criticized the video game industry for making it too easy for minors to get Mature-rated games. Lieberman and Clinton are both sponsors of the Family Entertainment Protection Act (FEPA), video game legislation that’s currently before the United States Senate.
The news comes only days after the ESA delivered another significant defeat to those who would restrict access to video games — a federal judge put the final nail in the coffin on a failed Louisiana law that would have criminalized the sale of violent video game to minors. The ruling comes several months after the same judge imposed a preliminary junction preventing the law from being enforced, after it was passed by Lousiana’s legislature and signed into law by the governor.