Sony has reaffirmed its commitment to the protection of minors from the effects of violent videogames with the announcement of in-built parental controls for its next generation PS3 console.
Sony joined Japan's biggest retailers, publishers and developers in a discussion with the Tokyo government last week, designed to establish a universal approach to the issue of violent videogames and their alleged associated effects on children.
The city's government, along with several prefectural governments across Japan, is considering a wide-reaching change to its current rating system and preventing the sale of certain software to minors, in a similar fashion to European practices.
Sony appeared determined to provide self-regulatory functionality to its hardware devices, putting the decision over content firmly back in the hands of the parents and drawing the decision away from developers and retailers. The government was reminded that the Sony PSP has parental control functions built in, and Sony confirmed that a similar, more comprehensive system would be implemented in its PS3 console when it launches next year.
Microsoft, also present at the talks, has already confirmed that its forthcoming Xbox 360 console will have an adaptable parental control systems in place, allowing parents to dictate what content can be played on the console. Using Microsoft's system, parents can change the console so that it requires a password to access mature content and to log on to Xbox Live. The controls can also be adapted to decide whether or not the user's identity is revealed online, amongst other protective solutions.
Developers and publishers present were more cautious in their approach to the issue, as Yoichi Wada from Square-Enix warned the governors not to judge thoughtlessly, stating that "it's necessary to verify whether or not youth crime and video games are connected." Namco also voiced concerns over the lack of convincing scientific evidence that videogames have a detrimental effect on the minds of children.
Parental control systems are a sensible solution to the issue of minors playing violent or graphic videogames; placing the responsibility on concerned parents, rather than imposing evermore stringent laws on the retail and publishing community. However, the furore over violence in games, appropriate ratings systems, new legislation and enforced sales policies continues unabated in the West at the moment.
Recent events in California, where Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law a controversial violent videogames bill, continue to be the subject of intense political and industry debate. The ESA and The VSDA are currently proceeding with legal action to overturn the California bill.