Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Industry, critics, disagree on threat posed by video games AUMNS Report

By Marta Aldrich

Job Vacancies, Employment Jobs, Employment

Since 1994, video games have been rated for content by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, an industry-sponsored, New York-based group that rates the products in six categories: EC for early childhood, E for everyone, T for teens 13 and older, M for players 17 and older and AO for adults over 18.

Despite the voluntary ratings system, studies indicate most retailers routinely ignore the guidelines. A 2003 Federal Trade Commission survey found 78 percent of children ages 13-16 could easily buy M-rated games. Meanwhile, 92 percent of children play video or computer games, of which about 40 percent are rated M.

The industry insists it does not prey on children and teens and that it provides a variety of entertainment choices for all ages. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average American video game player is 29 years old, and parents are involved in the purchase or rental of games 83 percent of the time. It also argues that violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically in the United States during the 1990s while video games have steadily grown in popularity.

Critics don't buy it.

"This is the fastest growing segment of the media business and also the least responsible," said Jim Steyer, who teaches First Amendment law at Stanford University and is chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that seeks to educate parents on entertainment media for kids. "The video game industry hides behind phony statistics and makes literally millions of dollars from graphically violent games that are obviously being marketed to kids 10, 11 and 12 years old."

Steyer considers this an "enormous public health issue" in the same vein as alcohol, tobacco products and pornography. "Violent video games should be treated in the same way, and that is that you can't sell them to kids."

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