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Adult Games Need Ratings Stickers

TORONTO — Ontario retailers could be fined if they sell or rent video games without a rating sticker that gives parents some idea about the levels of violence and adult themes their children may be exposed to, under legislation passed Monday.

“We now have the enforcement ability if games are being sold without the ratings,” Consumer and Business Services Minister Jim Watson told reporters.

“It’s not about censorship. It’s about information and education, because most parents, frankly, don’t know what the content of these games are.”

Watson introduced the legislation after the release last fall of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, where players vy to rule the rough streets of a fictionalized urban environment.

In the game, players deal drugs, break into cars, solicit prostitutes and kill enemy gang members — all for a high score.

Under the law, games sold in Ontario will have to carry a rating that follows a classification system already employed voluntarily in the United States. “Most of the major game manufacturers are using those now,” said Watson.

“This will just make it law once the act comes into effect later this year.”

The law introduced Monday also includes provisions relating to the film industry. Police will be able to prevent the screening of any films if they breach obscenity laws, although the Ontario Film Review Board will retain some censorship powers over movies.

“It will condense the censorship powers of the film board,” Watson said.

Ontario’s Film Review Board will still censor adult films to uphold established standards of obscenity. But they would have to send questionable films to police, who would determine if the content violates the Criminal Code and lay charges, where appropriate.

Watson said police could also end up screening video games for Criminal Code violations, but he added he doesn’t really expect that to happen.

“The closest we’ve ever come to that has been placing an R rating on a video game called Manhunt,” he said.

Manhunt is a grisly prison-escape spectacle where players kill other convicts with a range of weapons including glass shards and shotguns.


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