Video Game Decency Act returns

Bill aims to criminalize attempts to hide true content of games to obtain less-restrictive ratings from Entertainment Software Rating Board.
Written by Brendan Sinclair, Contributor
The Video Game Decency Act of 2006 was one of a handful of pieces of proposed federal legislation that failed to get traction in Congress last year. But it is by no means an abandoned issue.

Much as Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., did with the recently resurrected Truth in Video Game Rating Act, the legislator behind the Video Game Decency Act is taking a second crack at the idea by resubmitting a functionally identical version of the bill to Congress.

As reported by GamePolitics.com, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., last week introduced the Video Game Decency Act of 2007 to the House of Representatives, where it was quickly referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. The bill aims to criminalize any attempt to obtain a less-restrictive age-related rating on a game by failing to disclose the game's true contents to the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

The original bill was introduced in the wake of a pair of high-profile game re-ratings. Take-Two's 2004 hit Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was re-rated from M (Mature) to AO (Adults Only) after it was discovered that third-party software gave people access to a sex-themed mini-game, while Bethesda Softworks' 2006 role-playing game The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was bumped up from T (Teen) to M.

In the Oblivion matter, the ESRB laid the blame for the re-rating on Bethesda, saying the company understated the game's violence and failed to disclose a hidden software skin for a topless female character when it submitted the game for rating. Like the hidden characters in the San Andreas sex mini-game, the topless female character in Oblivion was accessible only through the use of third-party software. Oblivion is co-published by Take-Two.

Shortly after the Oblivion re-rating, the ESRB revealed that it already has the power to fine companies as much as $1 million for not disclosing objectionable content. The board has also said it could punish repeat offenders by refusing to rate their games at all, effectively preventing their games from being carried by major U.S. retailers.

Brendan Sinclair reports for GameSpot.

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