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Retailers Are Carding for ‘M'-Rated Games

20 Dec, 2003 By: John Gaudiosi

In an effort to further enforce the voluntary video game rating system, which has routinely come under fire by watchdog groups and local governments, the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) has instituted a video game carding system, effective immediately.

All merchants belonging to the IEMA -- which includes Blockbuster Video, Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, Hastings Entertainment, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Best Buy, Circuit City, Gamestop, EBGames, CompUSA, Target, Musicland, ShopKo Stores and Toys “R” Us -- will card anyone purchasing a ‘Mature'-rated game. ‘M'-rated games are intended for gamers 17 and older, which is the equivalent of an ‘R'-rated movie.IEMA president Hal Halpin said the carding would also take effect on the rental side for those members who rent ‘M'-rated games.

The IEMA has worked closely with Sens. Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl, and the National Institute on Media and the Family to address the issues of enforcement and education for the Entertainment Software Rating Board's (ESRB) voluntary game-rating system.

This move comes in the wake of yet another political outcry, this one from California state legislator Leland Yee in San Francisco, who said that he will introduce a bill to restrict the sale of violent video games to minors. He plans to introduce a second bill that would require retailers to put ‘M'-rated games out of view of children. Both measures will be introduced in January.

“Politicians who pursue this issue should consider where our industry's self-regulatory efforts have gotten us as compared with music and movies, thereby keeping us on an even playing field,” Halpin said. “If they look at it objectively, they should agree with Sens. Lieberman and Kohl in their assessment that we have done the right thing and been the most proactive.”

IEMA retailers have either already begun carding or will put carding procedures in place by this time next year. They also will institute consumer educational efforts, which include various in-store displays and materials explaining the ESRB ratings system.

Some rentailers began enforcing the rental of ‘M'-rated games before the IEMA's announcement.

“Several months ago, all Movie Gallery stores stepped up efforts on making sure that ‘Mature' games were only rented to persons over 18,” said Ted Innes, SVP of marketing, Movie Gallery, citing the installation of posters, putting stickers on games, and cashier and employee education on the issue.

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