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Report Assails Effectiveness of Game Ratings

1 Dec, 2005 By: John Latchem

The 10th annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card, released by the National Institute on Media and the Family, commended parental controls in new game consoles, but stated a lot more could be done to keep violent games from kids.

The Institute gave the video game industry a grade of “D+,” stating industry progress in establishing a ratings system has not kept violent games out of the hands of children because many retailers ignore it.

Underage boys as young as 9 were able to buy ‘M'-rated games (for those 17 and older) 42 percent of the time; girls could buy the games 46 percent of the time, up from 8 percent the previous year. Only Best Buy rated a perfect enforcement score, according to the survey.

The report endorsed universal independent ratings and calls for a ratings summit in 2006 to overhaul the system.

The report card also expressed concern over the popularity of games intended for mature audiences only and said parents need to educate themselves more about their child's gaming habits. Upgraded parental controls in next-generation consoles Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution are a step in the right direction, the report indicated.

The Video Software Dealers Association commented on the Institute's report card in a statement issued in relation to a proposed game law announced by Senators Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman.

It noted that the survey showed 71 percent of video game retailers are educating the public about ESRB ratings and that 94 percent have a policy not to sell/rent ‘M'-rated games to persons under 17.

The under-age “secret shoppers” used for the survey were turned away 56 percent of the time this year, up from 19 percent in 2000.

“These finding demonstrate that, while there is room for improvement, retailers are committed to video game ratings education and enforcement,” the VSDA said.

The nonpartisan Institute also concluded that kids are spending more hours on average playing video games, which in turn is adding to an obesity epidemic among American youth.

The top game for children, according to the report, is Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

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