I play almost every day. Many of the games, such as "Resident Evil 2" or "Grand Theft Auto V", contain ultra-violence, swearing, sex scenes, tricky jokes, and references with political, racial or religious context. So, my question is logical. How do developers deal with law and how do they influence legislation? During the research, I found out that nothing goes unnoticed by keen eyes of conscious citizens, rival developers' lawyers, and different rating associations, of course. However, creators appear to be very shifty. Sometimes progress pushes the world to change, doesn't it? Let's figure it out!
The game industry covers 95% of media scope – I say 95% just not to look unsubstantiated by saying 100%. Economics, education, social life, leisure, cinematograph – the list is endless. Let's take it step by step.
According to the "Newzoo", 2018 research, video game world sales index reached the point of ~$138Bn, where ~$30Bn is for the USA and ~$37Bn for China. Isn't it astonishing? Comparing to the film industry (which gained ~240Bn in 2018) it became the second most lucrative media industry.
The income gradation is structured by gaming platforms and types of video games. "Newzoo" 2017 worldwide-survey says that the biggest bill belongs to mobile entertainment. It made up $46Bn, which is 42% of the gross income. The second place is taken by console releases with $33,5Bn. The third position goes to PC with $29.3Bn and 23% of the market accordingly.
According to 2016 "SuperData" research, the lion's share of the money is taken by online MMO's with South-Korean "League of Legends" on the top. These games lead because of highly attractive in-game purchases.
How do you like this? US, Europe, China, and Russia governments pay game-studios to produce patriotic content for their armies and citizens. The popularity of such projects is low, but they're unsinkable because of guaranteed grants.
The UK gov once made a non-binding casual arcade about a pink elephant, which required email subscription. Players received letters with invitations to elections. Hilarious!
Ok. Let's be serious. Social and cultural impact of video games is enormous. First of all, games may include any types of media, such as music, literature, films, theater, etc. Then goes the feedback. It provides us with books, movies, songs, etc. based on a virtual universe.
Who controls the industry?
And the answer is… your mom! Just kidding. The history of litigations spawned many local organizations, which are supposed to supervise developers and put appropriate ratings. Their importance is quite clear. Despite the fact that all ratings are voluntary, no shops would agree to sell unrated games to avoid any problems.
In the US and Canada, these functions are conducted by ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). Founded in 1994 it assigns several types of ratings:
- Early Childhood (for kids under 10 y.o);
- Everyone (10+);
- Teen (13+);
- Mature (17+);
- Adult (18+). Well, I hope that the difference between 17 and 18 exists.
The system works this way:
- ESRB receives a report from developers and a DVD with gameplay to judge for themselves;
- They choose an appropriate rating mark;
- Retailers are restricted to sell games only to people, who pass the needed age mark.
European rating system is called PEGI (Pan European Game Information) was founded in 2003 and it doesn't really differ from American ESRB.
China – the world's second-biggest economy – has legal binding on any content, which may be hostile to country's government. According to Bloomberg, the ban on video game consoles was lifted only in 2014.
In Japan, you will find any game you like, but their censorship obliges developers to cut out any sexual and extremely violent content from their games. It is made to save citizens' morality.
Korean government automatically blocks any websites, which may present any kinds of pornography, violence or gambling. Their search engines seek for any inappropriate keywords and put age verification on sources, which contain them.
Some fresh history. How games changed legislation over the past 5 years
Where are we now? The very first case against cruelty and amorality in video games took place in the 1990s when "Night Trap" and "Mortal Combat" were made. The US Congress decided, that such games mustn't be available for kids. That's how ESRB was born.
10 years later, "Grand Theft Auto" was hardly criticized by Jack Thompson. This religious man blamed the game for pushing people to shoot in real life. He supported huge campaigns against "Rockstar" but failed the process because of his own inconsistent approach.
5 years ago, in 2013, ESA (Entertainment Software Association) welcomed over 500000 members to their new game-lobbying group called VGVN (Video Game Voters Network). This association spent over $4.1 million to fight against anything, what may give birth to new bans and restrictions in the game industry, says the Hamilton Post. ESA is still opposing a federal bill, which directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a research of any possible effects of violent media. The US government is being criticized for forcing scientists to prove phenomenon, which would help to restrict violence in all spheres of media.
That's how the things are today. Many countries worldwide ban specific games because of nudity, homosexual characters or even single jokes about political leaders. However, usually, it's not a problem for creators to cut out objectionable contents and sell almost any title almost anywhere.
Finally, we can briefly say that all that matters anti-game activists are too "sexual" or "violent". I think many gamers would agree, that some great titles are not possible to imagine without these components, because they bring a lion's share of realism to the gameplay. Rating systems are actually good. They give parents and stores an idea of games' contents so that they can decide whether they want to give it to children or not. Do we need anything else to avoid the negative social impact of video games?
This is a guest post by Alina Burns - Editor at GamesMojo.com. "To my geeky gamer's mind, the video game industry is an art of making an interactive collision of cinema, theater, literature, music, simulations, and education. On the other hand, my proud mother's mind says, that parents should bring up children, who would understand the real difference between good & evil."