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FTC: Most retailers are not selling violent video games to minors

Consumer Reports News: April 28, 2011 12:58 PM

Whether parents like it or not, violent video games are here to stay. But this may give them some comfort: Most retailers are not selling Mature-rated games to minors. A recent undercover shopper study by the Federal Trade Commission found that a majority of store owners denied young teens trying to buy violent video games.

The FTC’s annual survey had 13- to 16-year-old kids try to buy entertainment items labeled for mature audiences. The kids went into retail outlets unaccompanied by adults. As part of the study, the teenagers also tried to buy R-rated movie tickets and DVDs, and music CDs with explicit-language warnings, among other media items marked for mature audiences.

Retailers did not allow 87 percent of attempted purchases of Mature-rated games by children under the age of 17. This was a slight improvement over the year before, when the rental of M-rated games to children under 17 years old was 20 percent.

In the meantime, the gaming industry is waiting for a pending Supreme Court decision concerning the legality of selling violent video games to minors. Back in November, the court heard a case about a California law restricting sales of violent video games. The outcome could affect the legality of selling a game rated for mature players to a minor. Regardless, video game sales figures continue to climb, in part thanks to a boost from additional sales to digital platforms such as smart phones and tablets.

The video game industry’s self-regulating body, the Entertainment Software Rating Board, rates video games. The ESRB, however, recently handed over some of that responsibility to computers. Trying to stay on top of the onslaught of new video games, a computer algorithm will now rate downloadable games based on how their makers answer a series of questions about each games violence content.

Hands on with the ESRB mobile app: video-game ratings on the go []
FTC Undercover Shopper Survey on Enforcement of Entertainment Ratings Finds Compliance Worst for Retailers of Music CDs and the Highest Among Video Game Sellers [FTC]
While Supreme Court Mulls Ruling on Violent Games, FTC Gives Game Retailers High Scores [Forbes]
Do Video Games Need First Amendment Protection? [Forbes]

Maggie Shader

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