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Do we need more laws to protect minors from video games?

By on May 18, 2008

David Ruffley MP has recently been drawn into a bit of hoohah after a number of papers tied his Parliamentary questions to about how many retailers had been prosecuted for selling 18-rated video games with a report on rising violence about teenage girls.

To be fair to Mr Ruffley, he didn’t make the link. (Would it surprise anyone to discover that the Daily Mail was one of the main perpetrators?)

However, the answer to his question was that only eight fines were imposed in 2007 for selling games to underage punters.

Which means either a) every retailer in the land is obeying the law or b) there is not enough enforcement.

The historian in me knows that tightening or reissuing laws that are flouted is pointless. The Knights Hospitaller issued annual proclamations banning duelling amongst their members. Early historians took this to mean that there was no duelling; later historians pointed out the you don’t need to ban something that no one is doing, in the same way that no one has bothered to promulgate a law banning the consumption of dog turds. Laws which are endlessly repeated are laws that are ignored.

Luckily, and perhaps a sign of growing acceptance of video games, neither the Byron Report nor David Ruffley (despite being a Tory politician) screamed that something must be done in the form of new laws.

I hope that the reason for so few fines is that very few retailers are selling mature titles to young gamers. If that hope is forlorn, let’s hope the government takes enforcement more seriously, rather than wasting everyone’s time and money on wasted legislation.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: