XFire Debate Club “Censorship In Video Games” Main Floor Transcript:

The Main Floor Transcript:

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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: 3 minutes until the chat!
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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: Excuse me…the Debate!
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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: Welcome to the 4th session of the Xfire Debate Club: The Two-Handed Sword!
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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: Today’s topic will examine our most serious topic to date: Video Game Censorship
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox:
Calling it video game censorship actually trivializes what we will be speaking about today. In fact we will be examining the questions about video game legislation, ratings and whether or not M games should be available for people of all ages.
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: I encourage all of our Xfire guests to join in the discussion in the heavily admined Open Debate Room (only discuss the debate in that room or you will be banned). Please come with an opinon, but also with an open mind, there is a lot of misinformation out there today and we hope that this Debate Club meeting will get you thinking about all sides of the issues.
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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox:
If you have to talk about things other than the Debate, please do so in the Unofficial Chatter Room.
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: And now, if you could join me for a virtual round of applause (in the Unofficial Chatter room you can hoot and holler) for our special guests at today’s Debate Club meeting.
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: California State Senator Leland Yee
From the ECA – Hal Halpin
From Gamepolitics.com – Dennis McCauley
From the Escapist Magazine Russ Pitts
Video game researcher Matteo Bittanti
From the Parents Television Council, Dan Isett
Our guest moderator Henry Lowood from Stanford University
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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: These people all have important jobs in RL and I would personally like to thank them for taking the time to appear on Xfire today
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: OK, so my fingers are now worn out, it is time for me to hand the floor over to our moderator take it away Henry…
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Henry Lowood: Hello, I’m Henry Lowood from Stanford University. I direct the How They Got Game group on the history of simulations and videogames and co-direct the Stanford Humanities Lab, among other things.
Henry Lowood: I’d like to welcome the panelists and ask them to introduce themselves briefly.
Hal Halpin (ECA): Hi all. I’m Hal Halpin, the president of the Entertainment Consumers Association.
Matteo_Bittanti: Thank you all, my name is Matteo Bittanti it’s a pleasure and a honor to be here. I am a researcher at UCBerkeley and a visiting scholar at the Stanford Humanities Lab
senatoryee: Senator Leland Yee here. Thank you everyone for coming today.
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[GamePolitics] Dennis: hi, everyone! I edit GamePolitics.com, the site where politics & video games collide. I also write about games for the Philadaelphia Inquirer
danisett: Hi – I’m Dan Isett, Director of Corporate and Government Affairs at the Parents Television Council
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: Hello. I’m Russ Pitts, Associate Editor at The Escapist Magazine.
Henry Lowood: Ok, I think that’s everyone
Henry Lowood: Here is my first question
Henry Lowood: Can you recall the moment or event or game that caused you to become passionate about this issue? How did this moment tie in to your previous background and lead you to become involved?”
Henry Lowood: Let’s start with Hal
Henry Lowood: or whoever wants to start
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Hal Halpin (ECA): Clearly, it was the senate hearings lead by Senator Lieberman back in , humm… ’94… for me…
Henry Lowood: Can you say a word about that, why was that important?
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Hal Halpin (ECA): I think it was a turning point for the games industry. A coming of age moment along the continum. It was probably a defining moment as well in that we pretty clearly became a broader part of the entertainment sector.
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Henry Lowood: What about the rest of you? What got you started on this issue?
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[GamePolitics] Dennis: don’t recall the specific game, but I just remember a generalized feeling that games were being scape-goated for real-life violence by people who did not “get” the medium…
senatoryee: A member of my staff brought to my attention the fact that here 13 year old boy came home with Grand Theft Auto after being in mall with his friends. I subsequently saw video of games like Postal and witnessed some of degrading and violent behavior in these games. My background as a child psychologist provided me with an insight into the dangers here. I then proceeded to talk with other psychologits, psychiatrists, and saw there was extensive research here.
Matteo_Bittanti: For me it started when a talk-show psychologist in Italy tried to linkvideogame consuption with teen violence. It was outrageous, since no causation or colleration was found at all. It got me thinking about moral panics, technophobia, and journalistic practices. It was in the middle Nineteties. I cannot say that things have improved much since then, at least in Italy.
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senatoryee: We will never have the causation data. We simply aren’t going to but kids in that predicament. We don’t have that for smoking, and we certainly have nothing to the affect on pornography.
danisett: I would essentially agree with Senator Yee. This issue is of deep concern to our members, therefore it is a concern to our organization.
Henry Lowood: Should the U.S. Congress be regulating video game sales in the United States? If not Congress, than who?
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I actually wrote about this earlier this week in the magazine. For me it started way back, before games were a very big industry. The town where I grew up banned Dungeons and Dragons, and considering that was a big part of my social life at the time (I was 10) that act pretty much ruined what life I had. As hal indicated though, when the same kinds of attacks were directed at video games in the 90s it sounded an alarm for me.
Hal Halpin (ECA): I’d disagree that we’ll never have the causation issue resolved as well. It seems that there just isn’t enough long-term data available to make assumptions.
Matteo_Bittanti: Interestingly, psuchologists like Craig Anderson argues that videogames are more dangerous than smoking, suggesting that there is a clear correlation between gaming and anti-social behavior
Matteo_Bittanti: This is evident in his new book, which came out a few months ago
senatoryee: I say yes, only because the current system has failed our parents. If it worked 42% of 13-16 year olds according to the latest FTC study wouldn’t be able to purchase m-rated games.
Henry Lowood: Ok, what’s the response to the alarm? Let’s focus on that.
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Henry Lowood: Should it be legislation?
[GamePolitics] Dennis: only if Congress regulates books, music, and movies as well. Why should games be the only creative medium denied 1st Amendment protections?
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Matteo_Bittanti: It’s archaic
danisett: Given the Grand Theft Auto situation, I think it’s just as important to address how these ratings are arrived at in the first place
Hal Halpin (ECA): Well, you could say that it failed 42% of the time, or that it succeeded almost 60% of the time… essentially a reversal of the numbers over just a few years.
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danisett: That’s still a pretty miserable number, Hal
senatoryee: What is different is the interactive nature as well as the difficulty parents have in reviewing a game. A book, a movie, a cd, can all be easily reviewed by a parent. Video games, with 800 hours of footage, can not possibly be reviewed by all parents.
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: But did it fail because the system failed or because of a lack of awareness?
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Hal Halpin (ECA): It’s on par with the movie theatre owners who have a 40+ year old ratings system that is a part of the collective unconscious.
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[GamePolitics] Dennis: 42% is a massive improvement, at least the industry is making significant progress – even the FTC agrees with this
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Hal Halpin (ECA): There’s no data to support that supposition.
danisett: Improvement is no the same as success
senatoryee: And I applaud the industry for that, but we need to do better.
Henry Lowood: Senator Yee, what would doing better be?
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Henry Lowood: what is the step you would like to take?
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Hal Halpin (ECA): I completely agree that we can and should do better… all of us who care about the Entertainment sector as a whole should.
danisett: But you’re not, and that’s why we’re all here
[GamePolitics] Dennis: well you just agreed they are doiung better
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senatoryee: When no child can purchase such violent video games. And the only way we are going to get close to that is by having some type of penalty associated with it. In addition as long as the industry is rating their own games, we have an inherent conflict of interest.
Hal Halpin (ECA): Clearly we’ll agree to disagree on that 😉
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Henry Lowood: Perhaps we can move off this point and talk about legislation for a few minutes.
danisett: Better that really really lousy is still pretty darn lousy
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I don’t think that’s an achievable goal, Senator, with all due respect.
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I recall how easy it was for … friends of mine … to buy cigarettes, etc in spite of the legislation against those items.
senatoryee: In terms of next steps. I continuously try to get the word out to parents. In addition we are still awaiting a ruling on the legislation we passed a couple years ago.
Matteo_Bittanti: I completely support the idea that game retailers should not sell adult-oriented games to minors.
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Hal Halpin (ECA): I have a real issue with the fact that the FTC has called-out the motion picture business for their “unrated” movies and the phenominal sell-though, and yet we’re still talking about M-rated games, which have improved the most dramatically over the past few years.
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danisett: That is our position as well, Matteo
[GamePolitics] Dennis: that’s everyone’s position…. it’s unlikely that the CA law will survive the industry’s legal challenge
Matteo_Bittanti: Then it should be implemented
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Matteo_Bittanti: This is something that Europe is trying to do as well these days
Henry Lowood: Ok, take a breath everyone, let’s follow up on a point that was raised
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Henry Lowood: Are children at more risk from exposure to video games than from television, music, movies and books?
senatoryee: Again, that is great, but video games will always be different because of the interactive nature. At least from my research as a psychologist. In addition, my bill was about helping parents. Parents simply don’t have the time or resources to review 800 hours of a video game.
Matteo_Bittanti: The problem is that the UE wants to monitor (read: censor) the content of games as well
Henry Lowood: That was a VERY fast answer, Senator Yee!
Hal Halpin (ECA): lol
senatoryee: Was actually responding to Hal’s point.
Henry Lowood: I know, it was a coincidence, but it’s nice to be on the same wavelength.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think, as The Senator suggested, there is more “risk” due to the fact that children will play games unsupervised more often than not, but as far as the content of each medium goes, I think movies are far more viscerally impactful, and contain far more suggestive images and acts.
Henry Lowood: Can we talk about games in relation to other media?
Hal Halpin (ECA): Look, I’m sure I’m not alone in stating that the research here is VERY limited in scope and scale. It needs to be long-term, objective, and encompasing of all forms of entertainment. Singling out games is just opportunistic.
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danisett: Nobody is singling out games. All we’ve said is that kids shouldn’t have unfettered access to games that ESRB itself has said are inappropriate for them
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Henry Lowood: Of course, violence and other forms of anti-social, illegal or aberrant behavior appear in every narrative medium. Let’s talk about what is appropriate for kids in video games and what is not.
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Hal Halpin (ECA): As for the “interactive nature” being the sole reason for the discrimination, I have to again reiterate that that’s pure speculation, and we can’t legislate based upon speculation.
senatoryee: When every leading psychological association supported my legislation and states they believe there is a link between ultra violent video games and real life aggression, then we need to step back and do soemthing. We can’t wait for years to go by before we realize there is a problem. We did that with global warming and now look at the result.
danisett: Where’s the “discrimination”?
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Hal Halpin (ECA): I believe the APA has since clarified that position Senator.
Matteo_Bittanti: I agree with Russ. Recently Will Wright argued that he never feels guilty when he watches a movie, but he does feel guilty was he deliberately kills his character in The Sims. I must admit that movies’ impact is much stronger on my imagination.
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Henry Lowood: Senator Yee, can you elaborate on what you mean by “ultra violent?” Is there a threshold that you can specify? Is some violence ok for kids?
[GamePolitics] Dennis: i believe a number of behaviors can be linked to aggression… like say, watching pro footaball… but aggression is not violence.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think kids are a lot more resourceful than the ozone layer. They somehow manage to grow up in spite of our best efforts to forestall that notion.
senatoryee: The military and law enforcement use interative devices for training and to become more immune to horrors of violence. They do that because it works. These are the same devices or tools teachers use to help kids learn. Interactivity works, and few in academia have disagreed with that.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: and the APA very clearly said they could not draw a link between violent games and actual violence
Henry Lowood: Senator Yee, can you elaborate perhaps on what you mean by “ultra violent?” Is there a threshold you can talk about — some violence is ok for kids, some isn’t? Is that what you are saying?
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danisett: Unlike Russ, we value a child’s innocence.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: that is not correct, Sen. That is a myth pushed by Col. Dave Grossman and others
Hal Halpin (ECA): The discrimination comes in the form of the (literally) hundreds of pieces of legislation around the country that the industry must defend against. Back when I ran the IEMA, we would watch the proposed bill start off life as an Entertainment-focused piece, going after games, movies and music, but as it worked its way up the committee system it quickly became Games-focused.
danisett: Perhaps the industry should fix its own problem then, Hal?
senatoryee: My bill clearly definited what were are talking about regarding ultra-violent. Not passive violence, but when you are the perpetrator. We used legal language that has withstood constitutional scrutiny in the past.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: You’ve clearly forgotten what it’s like to *be* a child. My 8-year old nephew is the most violent person I know, even without video games.
Matteo_Bittanti: The research is showing that games like America’s Army are more useful as recruiting tools than training tools.
Henry Lowood: So, is there a place for games that incorporate shooting or other forms of person-to-person violence in games marketed for teens and/or pre-teens?
Hal Halpin (ECA): Having been on the industry side, I can tell you that they’re being more proactive than Music or Movies, and as such deserve a corresponding amount of time.
Henry Lowood: Yes or NO?
senatoryee: Video games are not the end all be all to violence. Not everyone that smokes gets cancer, yet no one is saying let kids buy them.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: maybe .. depends on the game.
Matteo_Bittanti: I notice this recurrent analogy between smoking and gaming
[GamePolitics] Dennis: I’m comfortable with my teens playing Halo 2 but not GTA
Matteo_Bittanti: I think it’s inappropriate
Henry Lowood: yes, that’s very interesting
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: Absolutely. We played cowboys and cops before video games. Kids will always play. The games are just a new way for them to do that.
Hal Halpin (ECA): It’s a bit of a red herring, no?
Matteo_Bittanti: why do you say that, hal 😉
danisett: Here’s my question. Why should a child be allowed to buy a game that ESRB itself says is inappropriate for children? Please defend the industry’s position here.
senatoryee: There is a way that it can be done in a comical way or with characters. But the realistic manner that some of these games are done, just shouldn’t be for kids. Adults, or at least most, have the brain capacity to differentiate between fantasy and reality, but kids don’t. The supreme court has agree and thus outlawed execution of children among other things.
Henry Lowood: What about restrictions on content or marketing in games intended primarily for adults? Does anyone advocate that?
Hal Halpin (ECA): I’d pose the question to the Senator as such: what can be done to work cooperatively with the ratings systems to better educate and empower parents in making the right purchasing decisions, since clearly they are involved over 90% of the time, and ultimately the copable parties?
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: Is anyone saying that it’s the ESRB’s position that children should be allowed tio buy M rated games?
senatoryee: No, I have never said there should be restrictions on games for adults. In fact, I have praised the industry for their creativity in this field and I hope it continues. I just want to stop the sale of ultra violent video games to children.
danisett: As do we.
Hal Halpin (ECA): I can’t speak for the ESRB, but I can tell you that retailers have made a formidable commitment to carding and in-store education based on M-rated games.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think it’s entirely fair to restrict marketing of adult-oriented games. I’m not sure anyone is willing to go that route, but I wouldn’t argue against it.
Henry Lowood: So, I wonder is “censorship” the issue here?
danisett: No
senatoryee: I absolutely want to work with the industry, but at times the industry has stood in the way of that. The industry even opposed legislation I had the year prior to just have a brochure available explaining the rating system and posting it so parents no what to look for. Cooperation needs to come from you as well
Matteo_Bittanti: Censorship is not in the US, fortunately
Matteo_Bittanti: the issue
Hal Halpin (ECA): In fact, if it weren’t for the retailers and their commitment to carding, the ESRB wouldn’t be embraced and as successful as it is.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: but you were able to pass the signage bill
senatoryee: I wanted to do a PSA, and the ESRB said I couldn’t even use their ratings labels.
senatoryee: Yes, and the other bill as well. But the opposed both.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: they seem to have softened on that score… Hot Coffee will do that to ya
danisett: But many retailers do not card. Half way there is no solution, Hal.
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Henry Lowood: We’ve been dancing around this issue: Is the rating system of the ESRB adequate with respect both to consumer choice and regulation of advertising and sales?
Henry Lowood: is it working?
[GamePolitics] Dennis: could be better but it is pretty good
senatoryee: I know see commentary where they said they supported the notification bill, but I can direct you to their opposition letter still posted online.
Henry Lowood: Or do we need to start all over?
Hal Halpin (ECA): I can speak to the IEMA’s opposition to Senator Yee’s signage bill. It was an attempt to legislate the retailers into doing that which they were already doing voluntarily.
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senatoryee: that should have been “now””
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think the ESRB is great for ratings and helping consumers make informed decisions, but I do think they have in the past dropped the ball on education and enforcement. I also think that’s changing, and will continue to change.
danisett: Then why is ESRB opposed to Sen. Brownback’s bill that would require a game to be fully played before it is rating. Clearly a half hour clip tape is insufficient to accurately rate games.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: FTC says ESRB should put content descriptors on the front of the box… could be more differentiation in M games… Halo 2 is not GTA
senatoryee: They absolutely were not do that. Very few stores had such signage or brochures prior to that bill. And if they were already do it, then why oppose it?
Henry Lowood: Changing in what way?
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think an industry-driven effort has to be applauded and supported.
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[GamePolitics] Dennis: the Brownback bill is completely unworkable… he obviously doesn’t understand games … they have almost limitlless possible outcomes
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Hal Halpin (ECA): The ECA’s position is that the ESRB is, pretty widely accepted as the best entertainment ratings system – as the latest FTC report indicates. COuld it be better, absolutely… any system can, by nature.
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: The recent marketing campaign featuring Gabe’s (from Penny Arcade) art has been great in spreading the word in an easily digestible format. More of that is needed.
danisett: Then how do we improve on the 30 minute clip tape system? Clearly that’s not working either.
Matteo_Bittanti: The ESRB is quite useful and effective. Interestingly, the European version of the ESRB, the PEGI, is currently under attack and many politicians are demanding a complete reinvention of this voluntary system that was adopted in 2003.
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[GamePolitics] Dennis: i think they are hiring full-time raters that is a nice start
Hal Halpin (ECA): Answering Senator Yee’s question: we opposed it because the “very few” you’re referring to were our members, who at the time represented almost 90% of how games got sold.
senatoryee: Again, another problem with the ESRB. Movies are rated after viewing the whole movie. Video games, just a very, very small fraction.
Henry Lowood: Ok, let’s pretend you are raters
Matteo_Bittanti: Have you guys seen This Movie is Not Yet Rated?. Very instructive… BUt I am digressing…
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I agree, Dennis. The “raters” system has also beena weak link.
Henry Lowood: If you had to rate a game in the Grand Theft Auto series, what would you rate it? Should this video game be available for purchase by children? At what age should kids be able to buy this game without their parents’ permission.
danisett: So some full time raters, and half of retailers carding means we can stop trying to keep these games out of kids’ hands?
senatoryee: I still don’t understand the rationale in opposing a disclosure bill.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: age 27
[GamePolitics] Dennis: LOL
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senatoryee: 18.

Henry Lowood: does 18 seem reasonable to all of you?
[GamePolitics] Dennis: i could live with 18…
Matteo_Bittanti: Yes
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I would not allow children under 18 to buy Grand Theft Auto 3 or the recent entries in that series.
senatoryee: It may be an arbitrary age, but it is the legal age of adulthood and we need to draw the line somewhere.
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Henry Lowood: ok, I have a follow-up on that
Henry Lowood: What is your opinion of the “virtual world” called Second Life? The content is created entirely by the “residents” of this world and ranges from mild to what some might consider pornographic; of course it is a site for social encounters of every kind. Is Linden Lab’s approach of dividing Second Life strictly into a Main Grid (18+) and Teen Grid (13-17) the right one to take?
Henry Lowood: Would that work for online games as an approach?
Hal Halpin (ECA): Part of the broader societal problem with defining at what age a person is an adult is that it begins at 12 (with major religons) and ends at 25 (with insurance companies). There needs to be some uniformity.
Henry Lowood: We haven’t talked much about social interaction online yet
danisett: I’d be OK with 18
[GamePolitics] Dennis: it seems like a reasonable approach… some of the stuff in certain quarter of SL can get pretty racy…. uh, so I’ve heard
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: Yes. Second LIfe is a lot like a bar in that respect, the “entertainment” is unpredictable, and the themes can range from tame to pornographic without notice. i think barring the door at entry is entirely acceptable.
Henry Lowood: Hah, no details please
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Henry Lowood: But the question stands: How do we deal with person-to-person interaction in game spaces online?
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I’ve visited in my professional capacity as a journalist 😉
Hal Halpin (ECA): I have no personal experience with SL, but remain in the camp that parents are ultimately responsible for their children and can’t and shouldn’t abdicate that to the industries or government.
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danisett: nobody is saying differently, Hal
Hal Halpin (ECA): Well imposing an age restriction may…
Henry Lowood: Hal, many games feature multiplayer. I’m just wondering if there is an issue about behavior in virtual spaces that is relevant here.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: we are seeing some predators using the online game space, just as they use other facets of the Internet. been a few arrests here and there. It is a concern for parents
senatoryee: My bill gave that ultimate authority to the parent. If the parent bought the game they could give it to their child. That would guarantee some type of discourse and discussion. Unfortunately, not all kids have such parents.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I agree with Hal, but suggest that the parellel between SL and an adult entertainment establishment is accurate. Ultimtaley a parent must decide where and how a child can spend their time, but restrictions exits regardless.

Henry Lowood: Senator Yee, I am showing that statement to my kids! We talk about these things all the time.
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senatoryee: Perfect!
Henry Lowood: Unfortunately, it tends to be gamer-parents who talk with their kids. Parents who aren’t into games rarely investigate carefully.
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Hal Halpin (ECA): Yeah, I can understand that, having heard horror stories about the language on Xbox Live from time to time. But allowing your kid to play Halo, online, unfettered is a parental decision. I’m sure the ofhter 99% of gamers would love to have those parents be more responsible, but they just aren’t. Too bad we can’t legislate that!
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Henry Lowood: I find it interesting that the sentiment for legislating game content seems to be stronger than legislating access to social spaces onlilne.
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senatoryee: That’s right we can’t, but we can empower parents more and help kids that fall through the cracks as we do with many of our laws.
Henry Lowood: I mean in this group
danisett: Who’s talking about “legislating game content?” We’re certainly not.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: better take a head count on that… I’m not in favor
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Henry Lowood: Well, we’re talking about it, feel free to take either side.
Hal Halpin (ECA): We can’t and shouldn’t legislate broadly for the 1% who choose ignorance at the detriment of the 99% who choose responsibilty.
Henry Lowood: Ok, let’s switch topics for a bit
Henry Lowood: What are your thoughts on the controversy about whether Seung-Hui Cho played video games and whether that might have played a role in the Virginia Tech killings?
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think online spaces are the next hot topic. I honestly don’t think the types of spaces and what occurs in them has reached the main stage yet. Give it a few years.
danisett: Again, the limit of our position is the sale of M rated games to minors – not the content of the game itself.
Henry Lowood: Or not …
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Henry Lowood: Russ, that’s what I was looking for as a response. 🙂
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Hal Halpin (ECA): I would be shocked to find out that ANY 23 year-old male never played a video game!
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: As I’ve said elsewhere, I think Cho would have remained an unstable person with or without games, and the idea that games can be used for firearms and/or murder training is ridiculous.
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Hal Halpin (ECA): domectislly anyway
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Matteo_Bittanti: Journalists have made the connection betwen movies and violence this time – OldBoy in particular
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danisett: Honestly, I haven’t seen much linking Cho to games.
Henry Lowood: Well, there was the controversy around Jack Thompson
[GamePolitics] Dennis: the controversy seems to have been created before the number of victims were even counted; there has been no compelling evidence that I’ve seen that he was actively gaming…. AND he was 23. pretty clear that his severe mental illness coupled with his access to guns were the main factors
danisett: Isn’t there always, Henry?
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: But does anyone really listen to Thompson anymore?
Matteo_Bittanti: The cinematic connection was evoked by the killer himself, by the way
danisett: 🙂
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Hal Halpin (ECA): Yeah, the fact that… as others have said… some people tried to imply that this obviously mentally-disturbed individual trained on games at the exclusion of the facts is absurd.
Henry Lowood: He certainly got some media attention
[GamePolitics] Dennis: that’s what he is after
Henry Lowood: Fair enough
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: that’s what Cho was after, too, apparently.
Hal Halpin (ECA): interesting parallel
senatoryee: Dennis, did I comment on this?!
[GamePolitics] Dennis: ?
Henry Lowood: Not that I have seen
danisett: Honestly, I think you are all being a little oversensitive re: Cho. There has only been limited attention to games in this situation, and much more directed at other media (at least that I’ve seen).
senatoryee: While clearly what happened at Virgina Tech is quite disturbing, we clearly can not blame all real life violence of video games.
Hal Halpin (ECA): wow… I wish that were the case!
[GamePolitics] Dennis: Nice, Senator. Thx for putting that out there
Hal Halpin (ECA): agreed
Henry Lowood: Ok, let’s draw towards a conclusion before the audience questions
Henry Lowood: What is the best way for Xfire users and the gaming public as a whole to get involved in this discussion or to have their voices heard?
senatoryee: There are many factors that contribute to violence. There are times, however, when video games are one of those contributors.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: Write to your congresspersons!
Hal Halpin (ECA): amen!
Matteo_Bittanti: The real problem is that media violence – including violence – is rarely discussed in depth – there is a severe lack of smart criticism on mediated violence tout court – no context
Matteo_Bittanti: game violence
Henry Lowood: In that light, of course, we have to thank Senator Yee for being available for this conversation
danisett: I think a great way the gaming community to get involved would be to support some common sense steps like restricting minors’ access to M rated games.
senatoryee: Absolutely. Get involved. Stay active. I love hearing from constituents, even those who disagree with me.
Hal Halpin (ECA): They could join, oh I donno, the ECA!
Hal Halpin (ECA): 🙂
Henry Lowood: Hal, can you talk about what that would mean in terms of activities?
danisett: Or the PTC 🙂
Henry Lowood: Dan, too
senatoryee: I knew that was coming Dan
[GamePolitics] Dennis: read GamePolitics !!! (blatant plug)
danisett: …. I couldn’t resist the plug, Senator. 🙂
senatoryee: ok, here you go: www.senate.ca.gov/yee
danisett: or even www.parentstv.org
Henry Lowood: I’m waiting for Hal
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: how about www.xfire.com/debate 🙂
Hal Halpin (ECA): Sure, the ECA is a brand new non-profit that does for gamers what the trade associations do for their respective parts of the industry. Gamer representation. We’ll do advocacy certainly, and the grass roots nature of it is key. But we also provide a host of valuable services and benefits, similar to AAA or AARP.
Hal Halpin (ECA): http://www.theECA.com
Henry Lowood: Dan, what about your organization?
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Henry Lowood: Ok, panel, we are going to audience questions now
Hal Halpin (ECA): gr8
Henry Lowood: So take your fingers off the keyboard for a sec
Henry Lowood: here’s the first
Henry Lowood: ♥ wMute ♥: Q: Should there be a distinction made between Parody Violence and other forms of Violence in video games? Or is all violence just categorized under violence, regardless of whether it involves Road Runner dropping safes on Coyote, or someone decapitating another with a chainsaw?
senatoryee: I think there needs to be a distintion and that was the effort we were trying to make it AB 1179.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: i think there is such a distinction made…. and it’s an appropriate thing to do
danisett: I think that’s a question for the ESRB. If the industry itself says a game is in appropriate for children (ie an M rated game), then it shouldn’t be sold to minors.
Hal Halpin (ECA): The more information given to consumers about what’s in a product, the better. Full disclosure is paramount in any ratings system. That way parents can parse what types of violence are acceptable vs not.
Henry Lowood: Ok, next question
[GamePolitics] Dennis: i believe “cartoon violence” is a content descriptot used by ESRB
Hal Halpin (ECA): yes
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: it is and I agree with it
senatoryee: With that Hal, can you respond to the Harvard study that said the ESRB discriptors were not sufficient or accurate?
Matteo_Bittanti: Media violence is not a monholitic entity. it needs to be problematized and disccues in depth. Some commentators argue that cartoon violence is more damaging to kids than realistic violence because it does not show the consequences of the acts
Henry Lowood: Q: Besides regulating the ability of people to buy games dependant on age, what other suggestions would you give to parents as to what they could do to stop game violence in their households?
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: Talk to their children.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: pay attention to ratings
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Matteo_Bittanti: Dialogue. Read and discuss smart books – magazines – journals – websites – play more games – develop a critical sense – broaden your horizons.
danisett: There are third party ratings sites as well. Obviously, full disclosure and real accountability are key to any ratings system.
senatoryee: From a brochure I give to my constituents:
Henry Lowood: Ok, another question
senatoryee: Parents and grandparents should consider the following before purchasing video games:

• Be aware of advertising and marketing to children. Advertising pressure contributes to impulse buying.
• Check the age ratings video game descriptors found on the box. Read other reviews, such as www.mediafamily.org , www.commonsensemedia.org , and www.familymediaguide.com .
• Become familiar with the game.
• If there are violence and sexual themes in the title and cover picture, you can assume these themes are also in the game.
• Look for games involving multiple players to encourage group play.
• Pick games that require the player to come up with strategies and make decisions in a game environment that is more complex than punch, steal, and kill.
• Avoid the “first person shooter” and “third person shoote
Henry Lowood: Atomic|vêdí³: Q. Why make me, a member of the US Air Force show an ID every time I want to buy a M rated video game, I am 21, but then my little sister can buy the worst types of rap without a second look?
Matteo_Bittanti: Very good point
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think that’s an obvious flaw in the RIAA’s ratings system, not the ESRB.
Matteo_Bittanti: You can buy Dennis Cooper novels without anybody asking you for an ID. Or Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psyhco, for that matter
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Matteo_Bittanti: It’s a form of media racism
[GamePolitics] Dennis: i guess the retailers are showing an abundance of caution in his case; the music retailer is obviously not…
senatoryee: The interactive nature of a video game versus the passive listening of music.
Matteo_Bittanti: Games are perceived as being more dangerous than books, while the opposite is true
Matteo_Bittanti: But nobody reads anymore, so…
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I’m crushed, Matteo …
Hal Halpin (ECA): humm… the interactivity supposition again…
Matteo_Bittanti: I strongly disagree with the “interactive” argument
senatoryee: Though, I would like to see the racist and sexist remarks that are made in some music tamed.
Henry Lowood: Let’s go to another question; I am being inundated with them
Henry Lowood: otakuman24: I would also like to ask the pro-game representatives, Dennis McCauley, Hal Halpin, and Russ about why there aren’t more game developers or producers taking a stance on this issue?
danisett: As would I, but the focus today is on video games – not the problems that exist in other media.
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: They are, by paying their ESA dues and supporting the ESRB.
Hal Halpin (ECA): There are, truly. The developer’s trade association, the IDSA, is very actively involved in the fight and are vested from an artists rights perspective. They’re also gamers and parents, so they get how important this is.
senatoryee: Hal, I know you disagree. But I have studied this for years. Every psychological study have read, shows the best learning tools are interactive.
Hal Halpin (ECA): I understand that that’s your opinion, but it’s just that. There’s no data to back it up.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: hello, Otaku! nice to see a GP reader in the mix!! The developers thru the IGDA are very much involved…. most in the industry let the ESA do their talking
senatoryee: You are wrong about that. You can see much of the research in the Industry v. CA
Henry Lowood: Sorry to barge in, but any thoughts on the role game developers should take? Please, let’s move on.
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Hal Halpin (ECA): We can get into a long conversation about the validity of the research out there (some good, but most bad) in another forum 😉
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: It would also help for them to be as honest and forthcoming about teh content in their games as possible. If you want to make adult-themed games, stand up for that, but be honest.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: true
senatoryee: Certainly can do that! 🙂 My mother would be quite upset to think I didn’t learn anything in those years of psych classes.
danisett: I agree with Russ on that. The GTA episode was one in which the ESRB and Rockstar obfuscated at nearly every turn.
Henry Lowood: We have many more questions, so I’ll just move on to the next.
Henry Lowood: -»)B.I.QcW(«-[TTHS]: Q: Do you think a “back room” for “Mature” or “Adult” rated games should be made in Video Game stores to prevent kids from having access to the content ?
Hal Halpin (ECA): Touche
Hal Halpin (ECA): Absolutely not!
[GamePolitics] Dennis: no.. it’s not porno
Matteo_Bittanti: That seems a bit extreme
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Hal Halpin (ECA): AO-rated, sure
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: my stomach turned at that thought.
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danisett: What if a retailer did so voluntarily?
Hal Halpin (ECA): If AO=X, then the same logic may apply.
[GamePolitics] Dennis: but there is no AO at retail
Henry Lowood: I’ll just point out that in Germany that is essentially the case today.
senatoryee: I like the idea of some seperation of the games, but again just passively look at a game cover is not going to have much affect on a child. Stopping the purchase of an m or ao game would be more important.
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Henry Lowood: Ok, next question
Henry Lowood: Katana: Q: Do you think that video game developers have been focusing too heavily on violent games as opposed to the many styles available, such as the funny and still teen-oriented Sam and Max?
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I think the idea has some kitsch appeal, but I don’t believe the game industry needs another stigma-inducing connection to the adult entertainment industry. Then again, if the shoe fits …
Hal Halpin (ECA): Separation of games leads to sales decline without a proportionate increase (or really any) in turn-down rates. It’s a moot point.
danisett: Can you back that up, Hal?
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Matteo_Bittanti: Violent games are easier to develop
[GamePolitics] Dennis: developrs are generally in need of renewed creativity. too often they fall into the same old genres, be it FPS or whatever
senatoryee: I do not think that is the case. Most games are not violent. And again, I’m all for the creativity, marketing, and sale of any game to adults. Lets just limit these extremely violent game sales to kids.
Matteo_Bittanti: Compare the ratio of SimCity games to FPSs
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I do think that the industry makes an inordinate number of violent, graphic games, for sure. They’re easy to make and sell well. Real artistry is hard, and therefore fewer people do it.
Hal Halpin (ECA): Developers focus on the art and the dollar, as they should. They create a great diversity of amazing product that far too few people appreciate. That said, the masses seem to embrace the non-traditional…
senatoryee: They are often the best selling as well.
Matteo_Bittanti: But it must be remembered that M rated games sell less than games for Everybody
senatoryee: There are less of them.
Henry Lowood: Ok, last question
Henry Lowood: WhiteSniper: q: there should be an option in-game for censorship, and it should be defaulted to off, what do yuo think about that?
Hal Halpin (ECA): It’s no longer my job Dan, but I’m sure the EMA would welcome constructive conversation 😉
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senatoryee: I’m for giving parents tools to raising healthy kids.
danisett: I’m sure that’s right 🙂
Hal Halpin (ECA): The four major platforms (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and Vista) all have parental controls. They just need parents to use them.
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senatoryee: We can work together on that Hal!
Henry Lowood: Wow, this has been an amazing and lively debate. Is it like this in here every time? Whew. Thanks so much to all of our panelists.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: I don’t think that’s a real solution. Kids can figure out how to circumvent that stuff, and most parent are far less literate in using the games and tools than their children. They will assume it works and never check back. As HAl said,. the key is interaction on the part of the parents, no matter what tools are in place.
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[GamePolitics] Dennis: i guess he means a content filter to be toggled on/off ? I think some games have had a limited versionof this… it’s okay if it fits the creative vision of the designer, but every game should not be shoe-horned into this model
Henry Lowood: It’s 2pm and I think we should let our panelists go.
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: Wow, that was an excellent discussion. It looks like this topic really touched on some nerves and got people going.

Great job in the Open Debate Room as well! It looks like we will be sending out some more invites and promotions in The Two-Handed Sword Clan!
danisett: Nice visiting with all of you today
Henry Lowood: Thank you all very much. Thanks also to Xfire for making this possible.
[Escapist] Russ Pitts: It was a pleasure to be here.
senatoryee: Thanks Xfire and everyone for coming to witness this discussion.
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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: I want to thank you all for showing up!!
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Matteo_Bittanti: Thank you all the great conversation
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[GamePolitics] Dennis: i really ejoyed this. thx to all and to Xfire for hosting!
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: If you want to get in on the next Xfire live event, go here: www.xfire.com/stride

Thank you all for attending. We will make the transcripts available at www.xfire.com/debate as soon as possible.

See you all next time
Hal Halpin (ECA): I’d like to say how impressed I am of Senator Yee for particiating. I respect his convictions thought we disagree on issues related to this matter.
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[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: Agree!
senatoryee: Good talking to you all.
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Hal Halpin (ECA): Yes, thanks for the great questions!
[Xfire-TTHS] Debateox: Great work everyone
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[Escapist] Russ Pitts: Agreed. Thanks you senator, and everyone else. This was fun and informative.
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danisett: Absolutely. Have a great day, everybody
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senatoryee: take care.
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Hal Halpin (ECA): thanks

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