I understand the skepticism that gamers have for the U.S. government. When tragedies happen, like the recent Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, politicians are quick to blame video games. So, the suspicion that gamers are feeling toward the Obama administration's appetite for stricter regulations on video games is unsurprising. However, I think that people are being a bit melodramatic on this one.
Within the past few days, there's been a good deal of backlash from gamers regarding the potential for mandatory regulations on independent video games. Some gamers are even claiming that the regulations would be the death of indie gaming as we know it.
Right now, ESRB ratings are voluntary, but many retailers use the system to dictate how they choose which games to stock. "Many U.S. retailers, including most major chains, have policies to only stock or sell games that carry an ESRB rating," reads the ESRB website, "and console manufacturers require games that are published on their systems in the U.S. and Canada to be rated by ESRB." However, this isn't the case for digital delivery systems like Steam.
In essence, the new regulations would force PC-oriented indie devs to comply with the same system that XBLA publishers have been dealing with for years. It's certainly not going to affect their development process. They'll just have to take a little survey once the game has been completed.
It doesn't even cost them a dime. Last October, the ESRB introduced a cost-free ratings system for digitally distributed titles.
Actually, in a way, this is a good thing for gamers. The fact that politicians are simply looking for a way to inform consumers ahead of their purchase means that the content of the games isn't going to be changed. The government isn't planning to censor our precious video games, even though conservative groups would prefer it. And until that happens, let’s try to stay calm.
Date: January 21, 2013