The industry has so far avoided much government intervention outside of the Federal Trade Commission investigating Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games for allegedly deceiving the ESRB, and yesterday’s subcommittee investigating videogame content and marketing suggests the federal government will remain hands-off — as long as the industry keeps itself in check.”Because the expressive content in video games has been considered protected speech under the First Amendment, there is a very narrow range of permissible government involvement with their advertising and marketing,” said Lydia Parnes, the FTC’s director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection to the subcommittee yesterday. “…the Commission will continue to monitor closely developments in the area and will initiate actions, such as the case challenging the marketing of San Andreas, when appropriate.”Parnes emphasized the need for the ESRB to thoroughly investigating releases, as its integrity is what parents are relying on when purchasing videogames for their children. Whenever a Hot Coffee incident or the more recent The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion re-rating occur, it means “practices, whether by game manufacturers or a third party, that undermine the integrity of this system must be addressed.”
Later in Parnes testimony, she addresses user-made modifications, which lead to unlocking the hidden content in San Andreas and Oblivion’s re-rating. She says parents need to become aware software can be modified through modifications downloaded via the Internet, an issue many politicians have failed to understand themselves. Many gamers have become concerned this issue will lead to more developers preventing mods.
Though the issue with San Andreas has been settled, the FTC is far from removing itself from watching the industry. Parnes notes the organization is currently developing surveys to understand entertainment industry practices, a follow-up to a 2000 survey on parents’ understanding of the ESRB and undercover shopping to determine the potential for minors to purchase R-rated movies, DVDs, explicit music and Mature-rated games.