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Gamers Unite to Take Political Action

The Video Game Voters Network, formed just a month ago, is a project sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) who, in case you?ve had your head in the sand, is a trade group representing America’s video game publishers, based in WashingtonD.C. 

According to Carolyn Rauch, Senior Vice President of ESA, ?The Video Game Voters Network exists to empower Americans who play video games to take action against threats to this entertainment medium and to stay informed about the latest issues that could affect our choice in video game entertainment,? and adds, ?The Video Game Voters Network is a place for American gamers to organize and defend against threats to video games. The Network opposes efforts to regulate the content of entertainment media, including proposals to criminalize the sale of certain games to minors, or regulate video games differently from movies, music, books, and other media. The Network also enables gamers to stay educated about issues, reach out to federal, state, and local officials, and register to vote.?

The project, was created in response to The Family Entertainment Protection Act, proposed in November 2005, by democratic Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh after Rockstar Games? Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game was found to have sexually explicit material embedded within the program. 

The Family Entertainment Protection Act, in a nutshell, will put government regulations the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors, in addition to the ESRB ratings system.  More specifically, the bill has five parts. First, is the Prohibition on Selling Mature and Adults Only video games to minors, the cornerstone of the bill, which prohibits businesses from selling or renting Mature, Adults-Only or Ratings Pending games to kids under 17.  Second, is the Annual Analysis of the Ratings System, which puts federal checks and balances on the ESRB ratings system to make sure they?re still rating games appropriately.  Third, is the Authority for the FTC to Investigate Misleading Ratings.  This portion of the bill requires the FTC to investigate whether incidents, such as the one with GTA: San Andreas, are a pervasive problem and, if so, gives the FTC the authority to take action if necessary.  Fourth, is the Authority to Register Complaints, requiring the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the FTC to make sure customers can file complaints if they don?t agree with a game?s ratings.  And, last but not least, is the Annual Retailer Audit, which authorizes the FTC to conduct annual, random audits of retailers with ?secret shopper surveys?. 

Regarding the bill, Rauch says, ?We are opposed to it. This bill will do little to keep violent video games out of the hands of minors, it thrusts government into parenting, and moreover similar proposals have been ruled unconstitutional by several Federal courts in the last few years. FEPA unfairly targets video games for regulation while other media with violent and sexual content, such as movies, magazines, and books can and are legally sold to consumers of all ages, including minors. There is no law banning kids from buying or getting into R or NC-17 rated movies, or watching TV shows with adult content, and there is no reason to treat video games any differently. Courts have already struck down similar legislation in Michigan, Illinois and California. We believe that if it were to pass, it would be found unconstitutional and would thus never be enacted.?

According to a press release from Senator Clinton?s office, ?Senator Clinton acknowledges that video games are fun and entertaining and does not support any limitations on the production or sale of games to adults. ?This is about protecting the children,? said Senator Clinton.?  The press release goes on to explain how growing evidence points to a direct correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior in children. 

Says Rauch, ?The average video game player is 30 years old, and according to the Federal Trade Commission”s own statistics, parents are involved in the purchase and rental of games over 80 percent of the time. Therefore, the best way to keep Mature-rated video games away from minors is through the existing standardized industry game ratings, parental education, and continued voluntary retail enforcement of industry ratings. In addition to these efforts, all new video game consoles will come equipped with parental controls, so in due course parents will have total power, if they choose to use it, to control the games their kids play.?

The Video Game Voters Network has grown to 12,000 members and has spread, so far, solely through word of mouth.  Says Rauch,  ?We encourage members to tell their friends, but we?ve also been working with other game organizations and working to generate earned media to get the word out.?

To find out more about the Video Game Voters Network or to get involved, visit http://www.videogamevoters.org/

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