Monday, February 11, 2008

Voluntary Game Labeling vs. Government Control 1

The possible release of the long-delayed Duke Nukem Forever has some folks wondering if it's possible in today's cultural climate to sell a game with all the sexism and violence of the original Duke Nukem games. This has led to questions about content control -- who should be in charge of deciding what games should be made, or sold, or played?

In the U.S., game publishers voluntarily agree to have their games labeled for content by a private advisory board, and some retailers (like Wal-Mart) voluntarily choose to restrict to adults the sale of some games rated as containing highly mature content. Control of content is distributed; publishers, retailers, and consumers all have some say in what's available. No one is completely satisfied, but the system seems to work for the majority of games.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that the U.K. government is reviewing plans to label game content itself, and to use this rating system to make the sale of games it considers inappropriate to anyone under the age of 18 a criminal offense. (The British government is also said to be talking with ISPs about imposing standardized filters on web content.)


This isn't intended to be some silly "U.S. vs. U.K." (or " U.S. vs. anyone") troll-bait. The point is to contrast voluntary labeling versus government labeling and criminalization of game content, because there's a serious difference of approach to be considered here.

Who do you want deciding what kind of games you can buy?

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