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Gamasutra Podcast Transcript: Interview with IGDA Executive Director Jason Della Rocca
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Gamasutra Podcast Transcript: Interview with IGDA Executive Director Jason Della Rocca


February 26, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next
 

Tom: And yet we still see some states trying to enact such bills. In an attempt to pass the constitutional test they seem to approaching their proposed legislation from a slightly different tact, having more to do with the enforcement of game ratings on the retail level.

Jason: Yeah. Admittedly, I have not studied the granularity of every single one of these bills. They are upwards of a hundred pages each. But each time you see a press release or announcement for one of these legislators that think they've got the secret sauce or the special twist that's going to pass muster. And time and time again they just get kicked back, and it comes from a lack of understanding of the medium, a lack of understanding of freedom of expression and the issues around that.

They have no hope of ever really making one of these pass, and no sort of little twist or rewording really has succeeded to any extent. A lot of the legislative efforts have been more so toward to the retail side of things. By penalizing retailers, enforcing the ratings aspect or mandating ratings, or putting government control over ratings, and stuff like that. It's been less about direct censorship of content. Meaning, that I'm aware of, there has not been a bill to say, "Okay game creators can no longer create x, y, and z and if you are a game creator and you start programming this you'll get put in jail."

There's not been any attempt to specifically control the speech of games creators, but what we do have is more of what we might call the chilling effect, that by attempting to control things at retail and censor or control what is or is not allowed on shelves, etc., that that in turn via splash damage will affect what games get funded, what games get produced, what games get developed.

Although the legislation wasn't specifically trying to control the creation of the games, by limiting the channels of distribution that in effect does change the strategies and funding of development considerations on the part of game development and publishing community.

Tom: Being a parent myself, I can't say that all the concerns on the table are unfounded. I don't have a problem with people being concerned about something they might not understand. But I have a big problem with the nature of the proposed solutions in many of these bills. It seems that the primary problem is one of maybe raising public awareness about the facts about the game industry and the products it creates.

Jason: Education's always a good thing, and there's so many aspects of this particular
question. One is that again, in the courts, no judge has found the research that the states present to be convincing. So all of these reports about the effects of violence and media effects and so on, sure we can discuss those ad nauseum, but they've not held water in the court system. That doesn't mean necessarily that the research is completely invalid. It's just not convincing enough to affect the decisions of judges, or mixed in with all the other factors isn't enough to remove the rights of game creators and such.

So that's one thing. And the other thing is education, that we've seen some positive developments in particular with Hillary Clinton and Lieberman getting in behind the ESRB and working to educate parents on the rating system. Obviously many parents do know and understand the rating system, but many don't. So you have a kid that goes shopping with Mom and says, "Hey Mom, here's a racing game I want you to buy for me," and it's Grand Theft Auto. And the Mom just says "Okay." And she goes and buys it and even though let's say the clerk says "Well ma'am, this is an M-rated game. It's inappropriate for your ten year old son." She's like, "Oh, whatever, it's just a game."

So there's some education that needs to be done, some awareness. Not so much in the specifics of the rating system, but more so in terms of games being a diverse medium.

If as a parent or a politician, or anyone out there in society, you games solely as toys for children, then why would you even fathom the concept of a rating system? For example, if all movies were Disney and Pixar movies, would you ever consider that those would be rated? Right? Your world view of what a movie is is Disney. So this is kind of the issue we're ending up with, with certain parents and aspects of society where they just view games as toys for children.

If we can do more as an industry to let folks know that like television, like film, even like music or literature, games do represent a very diverse range of content and do appeal to a very diverse range of audiences. And because of that, you should look for the rating to see what's in this box or what's in this game and what is or is not appropriate.

It's so frustrating on so many levels! If you look at the retail sales, something like 90% of game purchases are made by adults anyway. Now adult could mean an 18-year-old buying for him or herself, a mom, a grandma buying for a son or a grandson, whatever. So we're talking about 10% of purchases are made by minors anyways. It's not like kids are running around, buying up all the games.

Now, further, if you look at sales volume, less than 15% of all games sold at retail are rated M. Of all the games sold, only fifteen of them are M, which are the ones that this legislation is really concerned about. And of all people making purchases, less than 10% are minors. I'm not sure if the math works out, but do you do 10% of 12%?

Tom: What about the question of volume? Those figures represent a number of specific titles, but maybe not necessarily the number of units of each that are sold.

Jason: Sales volume is less than 15%. That's only one element of the overall puzzle, but it's not like we're talking about all games are M and all games are being bought by kids. In the end it comes down to this miniscule fraction, and I don't have all the numbers on the movie side of things, but films, over 55% of films are rated R. So just from a numbers/volume point of view, it's so miniscule.

This is the irony, that games are actually put toward higher levels of scrutiny. That wht you would see in an R-rated movie, whether it be violence or sexual content, oftentimes would not even be allowed anywhere in a game. Not M-rated, even. It really comes down to this sort of lack of understanding of games as really a diverse medium, that is able to address more than just a kid audience.


Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

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