“Grand Theft Auto IV,” released last week, has already made half a billion bucks, but a pair of bipartisan House members want to make buying the “Mature”-rated game a little more difficult -- at least for minors.
On Wednesday, Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act to ensure that minors “can only access age-appropriate content without parental permission.”
“The images and themes in some video games are shocking and troublesome,” Terry said. “In some games, high scores are often earned by players who commit ‘virtual’ murder, assault and rape. Many young children are walking into stores and are able to buy or rent these games without their parents even knowing about it.”
Terry acknowledged that some retailers have tried to develop measures to prevent minors from renting or buying age-inappropriate materials, but felt more needed to be done.
The new bill would require ID checks for purchases of games rated M for Mature or AO for Adults Only. It would also make retailers post a ratings explanation in the store. Violators would face a $5,000 civil penalty.
The Parents Television Council, which advocates responsible entertainment, supports the bill.
"It’s high time a common-sense bill like the one introduced today be signed into law,” said PTC president Tim Winter. “Video game ratings supposedly exist to protect children from material that is created for adults, but there is no consequence for irresponsible retailers who repeatedly sell these games to children. The importance of this issue cannot be overstated.”
Several state legislatures have enacted similar laws, but each has been struck down by courts on First Amendment challenges.
Terry said he remains optimistic because, unlike the state laws, “This bill doesn’t involve itself in content or defining the standards for ‘Mature’ or ‘Adults Only,’” he told Daily Variety. “It simply requires the retailer to post what the industry has defined as ‘Mature’ and ‘Adults Only’ so that parents can know, and requires checking of identification.”