Particularly, the new law -- dubbed the Video Game Ratings Enforcement Act -- would prohibit minors from purchasing or renting video games rated 'M' (mature) or 'AO' (adults only). The bill also requires that video games carry their rating in a clear and conspicuous location on the packaging. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) determines ratings for video games in the U.S.
"It shall be unlawful for any person to ship or otherwise distribute in interstate commerce, or to sell or rent, a video game that does not contain a rating label, in a clear and conspicuous location on the outside of the packaging," the bill states.
Matheson's proposal also would require retailers who sell video games to clearly post the ESRB rating system inside their store, to inform children or parents exactly what each of the ratings mean. Introduced in 1994, the nonprofit group currently has a list of six ratings for video games -- two of which are restricted. 'M' and 'AO' ratings indicate that a video game has some type of material deemed inappropriate for minors.
'M'-rated video games means they have content that is unsuitable for children under the age of 17. Examples of restricted content in this category are excessive violence, sexual themes (implied or otherwise) or strong language. 'AO'-rated games are unsuitable for people under the age of 18. Examples often found in this category are sex and/or graphic nudity, intense violence, and other themes considered strictly for adults.
In 2012, half of the top 10 best-selling video games carried either an 'M' or 'AO' rating.
"As a parent of two young boys, I am a strong believer that parents are the first line of defense when it comes to supervising their children's viewing habits," Rep. Matheson said. "Parents deserve every resource available to evaluate programming to which their children might be exposed."
The 'Grand Theft Auto' video game series is a good example of the type of video game Matheson's bill seeks to restrict. In that game, one of the many objectives is simply to cruise around town and steal vehicles. The player often will encounter violent fights, aggressive prostitutes and a vast cache of weapons.
"The images and themes is some video games are shocking and troublesome. There are popular games where players advance through acts of virtual murder, assault and rape" Rep. Matheson said. "Parents deserve piece of mind that they are the final authority in what their children rent or purchase."
- U.S. House Bill 287, Video Game Ratings Enforcement Act