Video game distributors are under fire from two groups today that claim children can still buy games with violent and sexual themes despite a rating system designed to prevent just that.
In separate events, The National Institute on Media and the Family and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility both called attention to what they said were lax protections for children.
The Institute said it did a secret shopper survey in 12 states and found that 50 percent of boys and 8 percent of girls were able to buy “Mature,” or M-rated, games. It also issued its ninth annual report card which gave the gaming industry a B-, saying that ratings were not consistent. Retailers got a D for voluntary enforcement of those ratings.
Same Old Story
Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg said that there’s nothing new in the attacks.
“Trying to blame all the problems of society on video games is just silly,” he told TechNewsWorld.
Gartenberg said that the industry needs to launch an educational effort to get out the word that the average game console owner is 25 years old.
“Adult fiction has always included conflict and sexual themes and video games are just following the story line,” he said. “It’s like trying to decide the state of children’s television by watching episodes of ‘The Sopranos.'”
Gartenberg opined that parents have to take responsibility for what their children are exposed to. “I have yet to see a 9- or 10-year-old pick himself up, go out, get to the mall with US$50 in his pocket, buy a game, come home and play it without his parents knowing about it or at least hearing the explosions when he starts playing,” he said.
Both the Institute and the Interfaith Center released lists of what they considered the worst offenders in terms of either violence or sexual content. Doom 3; Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; Half-Life 2; Halo 2 and Mortal Kombat: Deception appeared on both lists.
The Institute also listed Resident Evil: Outbreak, Psi Ops: the Mindgate Conspiracy, The Guy Game, Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude and Rumble Roses. The Interfaith Center’s list included Gunslinger Girls 2; Hitman: Blood Money; Manhunt; Postal 2 and Shadowheart. The games all carried a rating of M.
“The industry has taken a pro-active stance in providing ratings,” Gartenberg said. “It’s up to a parent to decide whether the game is appropriate. Grand Theft Auto and Halo 2 both carry M ratings, for very different reasons. That’s where parental discretion comes in. If you don’t like the game, don’t buy it.”