Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Bloody, Gory Video Game Prompts Warning

Grand Theft video game prompts Ontario warning News Staff
Updated: Wed. Oct. 27 2004 3:39 PM ET

Stopping short of slapping an "R" rating on the latest instalment in the
Grand Theft Auto video game series, Ontario's consumer minister says
parents must keep an eye on what their kids are playing.

Commenting on the release of the new game, "Grand Theft Auto: San
Andreas," Ontario's Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson
says he finds the game disturbing.

"There's blood, there's gore, there's a lot of violence, and we have to
ensure that parents know what their kids are buying and what they're
watching,'' Watson said before the government's weekly cabinet meeting.

Nevertheless, he won't slap it with the same rating he gave to another
game from the same company a few months ago.

"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" allows players to adopt the So-Cal
gangster lifestyle in a wide-open recreation of Las Vegas, Los Angeles and
San Francisco.

Copies of the game are flying off store shelves at a record clip. Analysts
expect the exclusive Playstation 2 game to ring up worldwide sales in the
neighbourhood of $270 million in its first week alone.

Concerned that youngsters were buying a game not meant for them, Watson
put a Restricted rating on the controversial Rockstar video game,
"Manhunt," in which players control a murderous fugitive who earns points
for executing a series of increasingly gruesome murders.

Calling it "vile and violent," Watson said at the time that the game
industry should be held to the same standards as the movie industry, with
the same rules and penalties for kids who access material only deemed
appropriate for adults.

Watson says he's not going to do the same thing with this game, and will
instead rely on the province's proposed ratings system to give parents the
information they need to decide whether the game is right for their

"Parents, shopkeepers, and young people will know what the rating is, and
they won't be allowed to purchase it if they're... under 17," Watson told
reporters Wednesday.

"Our role, as I see it, is to ensure that parents, and shopkeepers, and
the people buying it know exactly what the contents are through the
ratings system, and that seems to be working."

Although Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec have all taken steps towards
restricting access to video game content, there is no single, enforceable,
national standard.

Instead, video game makers voluntarily submit their products to the New
York-based Entertainment Software Rating Board for rating before they hit
the shelves.

Under Bill 70, which is now awaiting third reading in the Ontario
legislature, the province would institute a system of mandatory ratings
and a framework of penalties for retailers who don't heed them.

In August, Watson said Ontario's system would likely follow the ESRB model
when a mandatory video games rating system is established in the province.

Here's a breakdown of the ratings assigned by the ESRB:

EC: Early Childhood. For kids aged three or older. Parents would have no
problem with the content.
T: Teen. For children aged 13 and older. May contain violent content, mild
or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.
M: Mature. May contain mature sexual themes, more intense violence and/or
strong language. Not for people under age 17.
AO: Adults Only. May include graphic depictions of sex and/or violence.
Adult Only products are not intended for persons under the age of 18.
E: Everyone. May contain minimal violence, some comic mischief and/or mild

While some critics say even those ratings aren't thorough enough, others
are equally concerned by the prospect of switching from a voluntary to a
legislated solution.

Worried that new laws could hurt business if they're forced to acquire a
licence or stock adult titles in a separate part of the store, for
example, retailers have vowed to voluntarily control kids' access.