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In European news, Switzerland has taken a giant leap in the effort to regulate video games. Recently, the country’s parliament passed two resolutions concerning the sale of violent video games. The first resolution, proposed by Christian Democratic Party member and National Councillor Norbert Hochreutener, would make it illegal to sell PEGI 16 or 18-rated games to minors, while the second resolution, proposed and backed by Social Democrat Evi Allemann, called for a complete ban of violent and adult-themed videogames. Both resolutions were put before the Swiss parliament on Friday, March 19, and both passed–the first resolution receiving 27 votes and the second passing 19-12. Now that these resolutions have passed the parliament, they fall into the hands of the Swiss National Council to design and implement the actual legal framework that will ban the sale of violent video games to minors.
The Swiss may look toward the American model for guidance in implementing these resolutions. While Congress itself has never actually implemented any laws that directly regulate the purchase or sale of video games in the United States based on “maturity” or “adult” themes, the United States long ago formed the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) as a self-regulating “quasi governmental” organization. Founded in 1994 during the impending home-release of the video game Mortal Kombat, the ESRB was created to review and rate all home-releases based on a variety of factors, similar to the Motion Picture Association of America’s rating system. In reality, the ESRB was created as a compromise between the video game industry and Congress, precisely to prevent the United States from passing laws such as these recent Swiss resolutions. While influential, the ESRB does not have the legal authority to prohibit retailers from selling certain video games to minors.
The details are unknown at this point, but judging by the resolutions, the Swiss model will likely be very different from the U.S. model. Games corresponding to a “Teen” rating in the U.S. would only be available to those in Switzerland 18 years and older, while games corresponding to the U.S. ratings of “Mature” and “Adult” would be banned there completely. However, exactly how Switzerland will implement these resolutions remains to be seen.
– Rylan Smith
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