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Vidgame biz touts PSAs

Nearly three months after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, the vidgame business is launching a public service campaign to tout its existing ratings system and to encourage parental controls.

There was no mention of changing content. Though D.C. is looking into videogames, First Amendment rules and recent Supreme Court rulings make it all but impossible for legislators to insist on changes in material.

The Entertainment Soft-ware Assn., representing videogame publishers, said the PSAs will appear on videogame platforms. The org will also encourage broadcasters to run the spots on local channels. Spots will also be provided to news and fan discussion sites, and distributed to retailers for in-store and online channels. The org also will work with lawmakers to extend the ratings to the “broader games ecosystem of smart phones, tablets and online social games.”

In its announcement Monday, the ESA included statements from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. “I commend the industry for raising awareness of the tools available to parents that can help them make informed decisions about the games their children play,” Thune said.

Vice President Joseph Biden’s office also appeared to endorse the effort, as it sent out a tweet pointing followers to an explanation of the industry’s PSA campaign.

Nevertheless, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, Sen. Jay Rockfeller (D-W. Va.), said the efforts by the entertainment and videogame businesses “to make parents more aware of videogame ratings is not sufficient to protect our children from dangerous exposure to violent content.

“In today’s world where kids can play games across a variety of devices often without parental supervision, it is unrealistic to assume that overworked and stressed parents can prevent their kids from viewing inappropriate content,” he said in a statement. “I believe that the only real solution is for the entertainment and software industries to reduce the often obscene levels of violence in the products they sell.”

While the motion picture and broadcast business announced a PSA effort several weeks ago, the videogame industry has been singled out by lawmakers, in part because of the interactivity of the play, such as first-person-shooter games. President Obama has called for a $10 million study of the impact of videogames on youth, along with a more general probe of the impact of viewing violent “media images.”

The ESA has launched public service campaigns before, including an effort in the past few years that featured players from the New Orleans Saints, the Washington Capitals and the San Francisco Giants.

In the weeks following the Newtown tragedy, the ESA has defended the industry and pointed to research showing no causal link between virtual play and violent behavior. But the reports that Adam Lanza, the shooter in the Sandy Hook massacre, was an avid player of videogames, have been cited by some lawmakers who are proposing state-level action. The National Rifle Assn. also has pointed to videogame violence, as the industry defends itself and the actions it already has taken.

Michael Gallagher, president and CEO of the ESA, said the “campaign will connect with consumers in an immediate and sustained way in addition to the traditional mechanisms over TV outlets.” He noted that the Federal Trade Commission, in its latest report on entertainment ratings system, found that the videogame business had the strongest self-regulatory code. The ratings are overseen by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which was established in 1994.

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