The Hot Coffee incident signaled a shift in the way the world looks at videogames. The entire industry was given a kick in the ass because of political movement in Washington and countless individual states looking to restrict videogames sales. The ESRB has threatened to start imposing fines and restrictions on publishers found deceiving the ratings system, and yesterday’s subcommittee presentation by ESRB president Patricia Vance gave us our first insight into the organization’s plans. These are not simple slaps on the wrists.Quite to the contrary, Vance says the ESRB has the power to enforce up to $1 million in monetary fines for the “most egregious offences,” and could potentially suspend publisher’s access to the ratings system. Most retailers will not carry games without a rating. Further corrective actions could include pulling advertising until content’s corrected, stickered packaging, product recalls and “other steps the publisher must take.”
“Last year, a widely publicized incident involving Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas showed how effective and forceful an enforcement system we have at our disposal,” said Vance. “I submit there is no other industry self-regulatory system willing or capable of imposing such swift and sweeping sanctions on its own members, which in this particular case resulted in the removal of a top-selling product from the market and a major loss of sales.”
If the ESRB was so effective, however, why are we still dealing with such an intense political fallout, with every Republican and Democrat with an agenda citing the Hot Coffee incident as the primary reason for heading down the road to censorship? How come no one’s pointing out that all the inappropriate material was accessed by hackers and not by simply punching in the Konami code?
There’s much that remains unanswered.