The time of blaming entertainment, especially video games, for violence in American is beginning to enter its twilight, turning into the opinion of cranky old people and politicians who want to claim to have done something without actually doing anything.
Enter Jim Matheson, Democrat of Utah, and his Video Games Rating Enforcement Act, which falls into the latter category.
The Video Games Rating Enforcement Act has two major provisions, one of which is de facto the case already and the other of which is blatantly unconstitutional.
The former is this:
It shall be unlawful for any person to ship or otherwise distribute in interstate commerce, or to sell or rent, a video game that does not contain a rating label, in a clear and conspicuous location on the outside packaging of the video game, containing an age-based content rating determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
Since many retailers have it as a policy to only stock ESRB rated games anyway, this is about as moot as it gets. Especially since it means that if you want to buy something insanely violent from Steam, it won’t need an ESRB rating: Matheson’s law as written only applies to physical retail products. It’s also a bit questionable for the government to attempt to appoint an industry group as its own regulator.
And now for the part that shows this is entirely political grandstanding:
It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or rent, or attempt to sell or rent– (1) any video game containing a content rating of “Adults Only” (as determined by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board) to any person under the age of 18; or (2) any video game containing a content rating of “Mature” (as determined by such Board) to any person under the age of 17.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s virtually identical to the California state law struck down in 2011 by ESA vs. Brown, the Supreme Court decision that made video games protected speech and makes laws like this pretty much impossible to enforce.
If you’re wondering why, precisely, Matheson is wasting your tax dollars on this crap, the answer can be found in the fact that he’s a Democrat in a heavily Republican district. Advocating for anything resembling the Democratic platform would cost him his job.
At least the Supreme Court has defanged guys like this, but damn if it’s not annoying.