Congress just can't seem to tear itself away from video games these days. Even during a meeting ostensibly held to question movie ratings, the political talk turned back to games.
As reported by newsletter The Hill, a meeting earlier this week to discuss film ratings brought together many of the same members of Congress who flayed the video game industry - and especially the ESRB - a few weeks back.
According to The Hill, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) led a group of colleagues in criticism of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and its film-rating system at a meeting with MPAA officials in Blunt's Capitol Hill office.
The Congressional attention was sparked by the PG ("Parental Guidance - some material may not be suitable for children") rating assigned to the Christian-themed film Facing the Giants, which some religious conservative critics say received a PG instead of a G ("General Audiences - all ages admitted") because it "proselytizes Christianity." The elected officials expressed concern that the MPAA's rating standards are out of touch with the public view.
"It comes from where you set your worldview. Hollywood has one; Nashville, Tennessee has another one" said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
A spokeswoman for Rep. Blunt said, "Congressman Blunt is still very concerned about this issue of ratings creep. There wasn't much he heard [Tuesday] that assuaged his concerns (that the MPAA has become more tolerant of graphic violence and sex but is wary of religious themes)."
Also attending the meeting were Reps. Jim Matheson (D-UT), Mike McIntyre (D-NC), Joe Pitts (R-PA) and Mike Sodrel (R-IN).
Matheson has video game legislation before the House and appeared briefly at the June 14th beatdown of the ESRB by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Pitts is a member of that subcommittee. His ridiculous comments as to how Grand Theft Auto might not lead suburban kids to crime but could turn inner-city kids into violent criminals were hilariously spoofed by The Daily Show host Jon Stewart. Rep. Blackburn is also a member of that subcommittee.
Perhaps unavoidably, the meeting with the MPAA turned into a discussion of violent video games.
"That seemed to be on the minds of most of the members," said MPAA exec John Feehery, who probably didn't mind a bit the deflection of Congressional attention from his industry to that of the ESA and ESRB.
Included in the meeting was a discussion of a universal rating system for games and movies, with Rep. Blackburn remarking that the dust-up over "Facing the Giants" was "very unfortunate at a time when we are needing a unified rating system. Maybe it's time for us to do that."
The Tennessee Congresswoman suggested that the Energy and Commerce Committee, of which she is a member, might hold hearings on the issue. Both the ESA and MPAA have been resistant to the idea of unified ratings.
"Games and movies are apples and oranges," the MPAA's Feehery told The Hill. "Our ratings system has really stood the test of time."
For its part, the ESA refused to comment for The Hill's report.
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