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Violent Video Games Too Accessible to Kids, Say Watchdogs

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.

Biggest Offenders

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.”

5 Comments

  • I think if parents buy an M rated game for their kids they should make sure there child knows the game isn’t real and shouldn’t immitate what they see in the game.

    • I don’t agree at all Tvienti. The parents are the ‘only’ issue. Why? Because unltimately they are the ones that bought the game system, they are the ones that give the kid and allowance, they are the ones that determine the kids values, etc. If they fail to teach them good values, buy them every damn thing they want, let them bring home and play such games (instead of taking them away from them the moment they find out) and generally do zip, zilch and nada to prevent exposure, then any attempt by any industry, including the retail industry, to try to stop it will fail. These morons like Gartenburg think the only solution is to turn the entire world into Mr. Rogers neighborhood and if it wasn’t violent video games, he would be talking about banning or even burning books, not to mention music, TV he didn’t like, movies, nude beaches, boxing, etc, etc, ad naseum. And as justification for this, he and others use a few isolated cases of aborent behaviour that are very rare, but which you can find in police records and other sources, stretch back to well before even rock music was invented. His solution isn’t to fix the real problem, which is parents that are increasingly incompetent at dealing with their own kids, schools that ignore warning sign (which have nothing to do with what the kid reads, watches or plays, but are only AM plified by them) and the paranoia and fear instilled in the very parents that can’t comprehend how to deal with their own children. But this is always the claim of such extremists. They spend 10 minutes talking about personal responsibility, then 5 hours telling you why everything wrong in the world is someone else’s fault and how the only solution is to let someone else take responsibility and tell you the right way to do things. The problem starts at home, the rest is just the same problem that existed since the days when a 9 year old could buy a knife from a store or would get one as a gift from the same sort of stupid parents that now buy (or allow their kids to bring home and play) rated M games. The world hasn’t changed, except that even the people advocating personal responsibility are making up excuses for it being someone else’s responsibility, instead of placing the blaim where it should be, which is often themselves.

      I mean think about it..:

      Family values – must be liberals and gays at fault.
      Violence – Can’t be the parents or schools allowing it to happen, must be video games and TV.
      Teen sex – Not biology and lack of proper education about the dangers, must be TV again and all those condom ads.
      Bad language – Can’t be the parents they emulate, must once again be TV and movies.
      Drugs – Can’t be addiction, so just getting rid of the drugs will solve it, after all, its the sellers fault, not the buyers.
      Drinking until drunk – Oh wait, they do claim it is all the drunks fault. Of course the ‘normal’ solution is to go to AA, where they tell you that you have no control, can’t make your own choices and the only solution is to blame evil, while letting God, through the advent of the priest running the program tell you what to do. (Ok, so they are not usually ordained priests, but they may as well be..) So, its the same bloody things. Blame the problem on something else, including maybe your own susceptibility to temptation, then ask someone else to solve the problem for you.

      Name a problem and I can pretty much guarranty you someone or something else is getting the blame for it and that ‘no one’ will take responsibility, especially the person making the mistake or the people supposedly responsible for them. Yes, Gartenburg is only compounding the problem, but that is his job. To take the blame away from the poor parents and their kids, lay it one something else, then claim a moral victory.

      BTW, someone really needs to fix these forums so they don’t eat blank lines…..

  • Alright, the question is who is watching the kids? Does it really matter if little johnny has a game that is for a 17+ year old kid? From the world today that teaches everyone to cheat, lie and step on everyones face. I dont see how these games affect anyone? Yes, i agree that parents should step in and tell their kids what is wrong and right. But to blame companies that are just trying to make a buck, and pin it on them to be the bad guys? I say the people who let kids play these games and know its wrong for them, be the ones blamed for the kids being messed up when they grow up. Other than that, shouldn’t we be focusing on much bigger problems then just what our kids are playing some game?

  • Hi. i had just read this article about violent video games. I AM 14 years old and id just like to say that gta: san andreas is the best game out there no matter what all these dumb things about violent video games say. Every boy my age that has a playstation 2 has this game. SImply because it is the best out there. I think that all these adults who think they can stop kids from buying it should stop because i doubt most of them have ever played it. Yeah ill admit, it sure has bad content, violence/ language sex and drugs. But its just a game!! Its not like its real. Whenever a game like this is realeased so many people overreact. It is just a flat out fun and addicting game.

  • Gartenburg’s attitude is only compounding the problem. The way I see it, the majority of it boils down to two sides: the "blame the parents" folks and the "blame the games" folks, black and white.
    The point of the article is valid – it’s easy for underage kids to get their hands on rated "M" games. Gartenburg’s example of a 9 year old was obviously an extreme, and I don’t think 9 year olds are the demographic that’s causing the issue. It’s not hard to believe that a 14 or 15 year old kid could save up some allowance, lunch money, whatever, to buy a $50 game and take it back to his room with the rebellious red stop sign on the locked door.
    Yes, some parents should be more responsible, but I think that’s a much more difficult fight to win, and honestly I think it’s a seperate issue. The real issue is these kids aren’t supposed to be exposed to these games without an adults’ consent. If retailers enforced this rule, we’d see a decline in younger kids owning games they shouldn’t. They’d also sell considerably less games, and we all know no retailers going to give up that just for some moral obligation.
    I haven’t done the research on this – but I’m curious what reprimand awaits a retailer who is caught peddling an "M" game to an underage customer?

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