Proposed House Act would fine video games without ESRB rating

Kyle Orland, Ars Technica:

Another year, another congressman proposing legislation demanding some sort of label on video games. This time around it’s Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah), who introduced HR287, the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act for consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee.

Where this legislation differs from other past proposals is in mating penalties to the industry’s own ESRB rating system. That would make compliance with ESRB system mandatory for video games sold at retail in the U.S.

Almost all games sold in retail stores already are ESRB rated, so this would have little practical effect, though it would introduce an expensive regulatory hurdle that didn’t exist before (the ESRB isn’t free to use – game publishers are charged quite a bit to have their games rated). It also does nothing to address games sold online (games in the App Store and Mac App Store don’t need or very typically have an ESRB rating, for example), so it’s not exactly a very forward-thinking piece of legislation.

Orland points out that Matheson’s proposal also contradicts a 2011 Supreme Court ruling by preventing retailers from selling M and AO rated games to minors – the state of California tried this and failed miserably (they’re not the first, but it’s the first time such a case got to the Supreme Court).

I’m inclined to concur with Orland – I think this legislation is going to go exactly nowhere.

Parents are going to give their kids things they shouldn’t have – junk food, inappropriate clothes and video games they have no business playing. You can’t legislate common sense. But people like Matheson are going to try like hell anyway.