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MediaWise Video Game Report Card Issued 65

Posted by simoniker
from the must-be-more-addictive dept.
Thanks to several readers for pointing to the National Institute on Media and the Family's eighth annual videogame report card, which says it "provides a snapshot of the interactive gaming industry with a focus on issues related to child welfare." A particular issue focused on is "the growing issue of screen time as it relates to the obesity epidemic", of which it's suggested: "there is both an opportunity and challenge for the industry to develop games that involve physical activity so that young players exercise more than their thumbs." The other hot topic is a continuing one: "the easy access that boys have to increasingly ultra-violent M-rated games and the popularity of the most violent games with that group." The survey ends with lists, including "games to avoid" for 2003, mentioning obviously controversial titles like Manhunt, but also other, quirkier picks such as WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne.
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MediaWise Video Game Report Card Issued

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  • This year a national survey showed that 70% of American teenage boys have played that game and that they are more likely to have been in a fight than those who have not played.

    Well duh. If 70% of teenage boys have played it, of course that percent is more likely to be in a fight than the other 30%.

    Brilliant study.
    • Cause and Effect (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cybermancer (99420) on Monday December 08, 2003 @02:50PM (#7661671) Homepage
      So does playing Vice City cause the boys to be in a fight?

      - or -

      Does being the type of boy who gets in fights cause you to like games like Vice City?

      And it just says they have been in a fight. It doesn't say they started it. All 70% could have been assaulted by the 30% that doesn't play Vice City, and that 30% just lied about being in the fight.

      So basically that 70% statistic is meaning less to anyone who thinks critically. It might as well have just been made up. It is only used to persuade the mindless masses into action.

      Actually stating that 70% of teen age boys played Vice City really takes a lot of the weight out of argument that it causes the violence that we always hear blamed on the game. You hear about the kids who shot at cars and Vice City was blamed for their actions. If playing Vice City causes kids to be violent and shoot at cars then why aren't 70% of the teen age boys out there performing random acts of violence like this? The size of the gap between boys who play violent games and those who act violently is so huge that no logical causal relationship can be made between the two actions.

      The obvious answer is that the two actions are unrelated in the way they would try to have us believe.

      Now is the time for all game players to rise up against our non-game playing aggressors!
      • The size of the relation between violent video game play and aggressive behavior is larger than the size of the relation between second-hand smoke and lung cancer, or that between lead exposure and decreased IQ in children (Gentile, 2003).
        How about that for "the two actions are unrelated"?

        Maybe you ate too much lead paint as a kid to be able to see the obvious connection between violent media and violent people (oh wait, lead and decreased IQ are unrelated).
    • Re:Uh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Zathrus (232140) on Monday December 08, 2003 @02:50PM (#7661674) Homepage
      Er, presuming that they didn't play games with statistics you're misreading what they stated. (I cannot verify or debunk the statement, since there was no attribution for it).

      In the two subsets (the 70% who have played and the 30% who have not played), a larger portion of the former got into fights than the latter. I wouldn't exactly consider this scientific proof, since it's probably a single study and the study group may not be representative, but it's not exactly surprising nor is it encouraging.

      Look at the recommendations though. They're not calling for the end to violent video games like some of the kooks out there. They simply want the rules (not laws! Big difference here!) to be enforced. Can you really tell me that parental education on what the ratings mean is a bad thing? How about enforcement of the ratings to actually enforce the meaning? Certainly the ESRB should actually comply with their own policies -- and Manhunt should've gotten an AO.

      I'm all for the labeling of games. I'm an adult, I'll buy whatever the hell I want to play. But parents should be able to discern between games acceptable for their kids and those that aren't.
    • with "Family" in it's name? Why do you hate the American family?! Won't somebody please think of the children!
  • by ThomMust (174974) on Monday December 08, 2003 @02:40PM (#7661603) Homepage
    This year's report card shows that children and youth still have easy access to such "killographic games."

    Where. are. their. parents?

    These children do not have jobs, so unless they're getting a $50-a-week allowance to blow on video games, then mom and dad have to be laying out the cash directly. And if these kids are getting that much cashola for mowing the lawn and cleaning their room, then why aren't these parents keeping better track of what merchandise is being brought into the house?

    Please America... stop blaming the gaming/movie/music industry for your own parental failings.

    • I agree with your last point, but whenever I see adults rushing to hinder the dissemination of things they see as bad, I'd prefer to say:

      Please America, stop blaming the gaming/movie/music industry period.

    • This isn't simply a matter of limiting the access of kids to violent games by not buying them. After you finish a game that you particularly enjoy, arn't you likely to lend that game to a friend who doesn't have access to the same resources (cash or permissive parents)? Hell, when I was a kid I would sell older games which had become boring to buy newer, more violent ones and my parents never knew. I'm not saying that parents can not stop their kids from playing violent games. Rather, I think that paren
    • by Anonymous Coward
      I strongly disagree. Pulling a curtain around your children does not help them. There are times, as a parent, when you need to put your foot down and say NO. I don't think video games fit into this category.

      People are always suggesting that you should keep your kids away from violent video games, heavy metal music, AD&D, and all sorts of demonic youth corruptors. Of course I am being sarcastic, video games are no more dangerous than heavy metal or AD&D, but lets pretend that they are. Will keeping

  • Gotta love the editorial for this piece. Yes, WC3 exp is a strange choice (it *doeS* have violence, however, as well as some pretty... interesting cutscenes), but the rest of the recommendations were spot on. Why is this such a big deal? We're talking about children here; AFAIK kids don't have the same rights as adults do, esp. when we're talking about violent video games!
  • A particular issue focused on is "the growing issue of screen time as it relates to the obesity epidemic"

    People are getting fat! Blame TV! Blame video games! I'm no doctor but it doesn't take one to realize that people are not fat for those reasons. If you're lucky enough to have a godlike metabolism like me, you can sit on your ass all day and still weight 120lb. If not, diet, eat healthier, or exercise. Or don't bitch that you're fat. Video games have nothing directly to do with being fat. The combinati

    • It does point out that most of the children spend as much time outside of school in front of the TV (watching TV and playing games) as most adults spend at a full-time job. Combine that with the fact that they have to sit still all day at school (with maybe an hour dedicated to PE, which still isn't an hour of activity), and you have a whole lot of kids that don't move much except their thumbs, and that particular activity only accounts for about 1/5th of the time they spend in front of the TV.

      Yes, childre
    • by Snowmit (704081)
      If you read the article you'll see that the authors provide a very balanced and reasonable view. In fact they specifically *don't* blame the videogames industry.

      Here, in case your sedentray lifestyle has rendered you incapable of clicking links:

      It is not the responsibility of the gaming industry to solve the obesity epidemic but it is clear that in order to successfully address this public health emergency, kids need to spend less time in front of screens and more time exercising. There is a great amount
    • Video games have nothing directly to do with being fat

      By inserting that 'directly' into your statement, even you admit that games (I'd blame TV in general more) have something to do with obesity.

      Sitting on your ass in front of a monitor of some sort for almost 40 hours per week is certainly a cause, since that's 40 hours that you're *not* out exercising.

      Of course, you're right about diet and exercise. Blaming TV for obesity is definitely a cop-out, but it's also not entirely incorrect either. The t
      • No, a sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity. Video games are usually sedentary therefore they indirectly contribute to obesity like any other sedentary activity.
        • a sedentary lifestyle contributes to obesity. Video games are usually sedentary therefore they indirectly contribute to obesity like any other sedentary activity.
          The high-fat oversized convenience foods and buying soft drinks by the truckload at Sam's Club don't exactly help, either.
  • by mopslik (688435)

    ...the growing issue of screen time as it relates to the obesity epidemic.

    Dance Dance Revolution, anyone? 3 rounds of Maniac can feel far longer than any marathon.

    • No kidding. I have no problem going to the gym, doing 15-30 minutes of weight work, then doing 30-60 minutes of cardio on various machines. I do it at least 3 times a week. But I still find myself gasping for air and struggling with some of the tougher DDR songs, even after playing for a year and a half.

      Heck, I can't even get further than the freeze on Max 300 heavy - my legs have nothing left in them, and I pretty much collapse onto the platform at that point. I don't even know if I have the skills to
    • But how many people do you know that play that game? DDR may be fun, but a lot of people don't WANT to move around while playing a video game.
  • How did Warcraft III end up on the top ten worst games to avoid? I guess it might incite hatred of Orcs.

    The bigger question though is how did Warcraft get ranked higher than Postal 2.
    Postal 2's goal is to cause as much havoc in the world as possible, whereas in Warcraft III you form alliances to end the world's wars.

    Bizzare!
    • What I wanna know is why they rated that Game as Mature! Its always been rated Teen on blizzard's site.
    • I'm assuming this ranking comes from the opinion of most non-video gaming adults about the undead...while it's a standard group to have in any video game (especially RPG), for most people it gives them "the willies". The idea that you actively play them and, to an extent, try to get them to do evil things is beyond most. I can still remember my grandmother not wanting me to play D&D because you could play as, essentially, a necromancer. Bad things.

      Whether people hold religious beliefs or not, playin
  • I dunno, I thought Warcraft III in general (haven't yet played Frozen Throne) might be representative of a game that's frowned upon simply because of the morals--while the gameplay is certainly T-for-Teen, the themes (including Arthas killing his father and the fact you HAVE to play as a consciously evil faction to win the single-player campaign, along with subtler ideas about how good and evil are sometimes relative (witness the N.Elf demon hunters, etc)) might be the real reason that so many "family" groups are opposed to it.

    Don't yell at me for spoilers--if you really cared about WCIII's plot, you'd have played it by now. =P
    • The above are reasons I give hesitant recommendations of WC3 to families who are actively monitoring their child's playing habits, like my fiancee's parents, who have a 12-yr-old son...he'd like it, but I talked with them about it and they thought they'd want to wait a few more years before he had a framework to deal with it, even though he has played T-rated games before.

      Of course, some parents might not care...and previous posters have already said all that needs to be about taking responsibilty for what
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Oddly enough, their own website has recommended the original Warcraft 3 for ages 8-17, yet it made this list.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So, I must be some kind of huge statistical deviation then. I've played the most violent video games from the time Wolf 3D came out to present. I've been in one fight (that I didn't start, some moron just felt like starting shit with me for some reason) and I have a healthy balanced life trying to get my graduate degree and keeping my girlfriend.

    Oh wait...maybe that's it. The only people that have to worry about violent video games are the ones with DUMB FUCKING KIDS WHO SHOOT AT PASSING CARS BECAUSE THEY
    • I have a healthy balanced life trying to get my graduate degree and keeping my girlfriend.

      Okay, let's look at that.

      • Balanced life -- you do other stuff than play video games from the school bell to midnight, and probably don't spend every waking moment of the weekend playing games. I've known people who do.
      • doing well at school, graduate degree -- Again, unusual.
      • girlfriend -- The violent ones usually don't have this.

      So, I must be some kind of huge statistical deviation then.

      You aren't the ty

  • How come the rating system is E, Y, M, AO or instead of G, PG, PG-13, R? (I would assume that it has something to do with the MPOAA not allowing it.)

    Seems to me that it would be easier to identify what games are appropriate for what age group.

    • Re:Rating System (Score:2, Interesting)

      by PainKilleR-CE (597083)
      How come the rating system is E, Y, M, AO or instead of G, PG, PG-13, R? (I would assume that it has something to do with the MPOAA not allowing it.)

      The MPAA owns the trademark to the G - NC-17 ratings. Current IP law requires trademark owners to pursue all infringement of trademarks in court, or risk losing those trademarks. Further, if the MPAA lost their trademarks, any movie could be put on a shelf with a G rating on the box, and no one could stop them (except maybe a class-action lawsuit from the pa
  • Ummm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PainKilleR-CE (597083) on Monday December 08, 2003 @02:59PM (#7661738)
    During this year we conducted the largest student survey in the history of the report card. 778 students in grades four through twelve representing public and private schools in urban, suburban and rural areas throughout the country took part. The average age was 13.5. Key findings included: ...
    Only 50% of parents understand the ratings according to students.

    No follow-up to find out if the parents actually did understand the ratings? I know my gf's younger brother thinks he understands the ratings better than anyone else, especially when it comes to something rated R or M ('Im not supposed to watch that', he makes a very big deal about the fact that someone is letting him watch something rated R or play something rated M, even if his parents have looked at it and decided it's ok for him, because they are concerned about such things). I could understand if 50% of parents don't understand video game ratings, IF the people that were actually polled were the parents themselves. Asking the students if their parents understood the ratings, though, is just another bs statistic.

    # 77% of boys own M-rated games with one in five reporting that they purchased an M-rated game without their parent's knowledge.

    So the obvious question is, were they simply boasting about being able to buy an M-rated game without their parents knowing about it? Actually, I see 20% of 77% as a pretty good number considering how bad some other studies have tried to make this seem. Then again, with most of the respondants being under 16 and some of them being 17 or older, you have to wonder what percentage of those under 17 own M-rated games and how many bought them without their parents knowing. How did someone under 16 get the money for a game? (ok, I admit that I had some under the table jobs as a kid, but my parents still knew about them).

    # Only one out of five students report that their parents have ever prevented them from purchasing a game because of its rating.

    How many of the ones that weren't prevented included those parents that understood the ratings? Letting a teenager have an M-rated game can be as much a sign of understanding the rating and knowing the game is ok as not understanding/caring.

    The implications of this large survey show that retail enforcement and parent education need improvement. Parent education, however, is not enough if they do not understand the need to observe the ratings. Parent education about the ratings need to include the answer to the question "Why pay attention to ratings?"

    Well, this is about the most obvious statement (the last two sentences) I've ever seen. If the parents don't understand the need to pay attention to the ratings, then they have not been properly educated in the first place. It's not simply a matter of telling them that games have ratings, it's also a matter of letting them know that we're not talking about Pac-Man and Space Invaders here.

    Overall, I can't say I disagree with a lot of what they actually have to say here, I just think that they put forward some misleading numbers. Overall, parents do need to be educated about the ratings system, and it needs to be made clear to them that these ratings are in place for the same reason that movie ratings are in place. They need to realize that games can put images on the screen every bit as detailed as many movies, and that they involve their children through interaction. In other words, parents that won't let their kids view R-rated movies shouldn't be letting their kids play M-rated games, and in any case parents should be aware of what their kids are watching or playing.
    • They need to realize that games can put images on the screen every bit as detailed as many movies, and that they involve their children through interaction.

      That is what a bunch of radio ads have been saying, at least locally. I was a little shocked to hear them, but I guess the older parent crowds are truely ignorant.

      Part of this problem stems from the fact that so many kids have their games & tv & computer in their bedroom.

      I had an interesting exchange about this over thanksgiving. The famil

    • "How many of the ones that weren't prevented included those parents that understood the ratings? Letting a teenager have an M-rated game can be as much a sign of understanding the rating and knowing the game is ok as not understanding/caring."

      I would ask for this to be modded up but it's already at +5.

      My mother doesn't actually care about the ratings. She instead looks at the content of the game and judges from there. For example, I bought Metal Gear Solid 2, but was not allowed to buy Tekken 3. This
  • by jpmoney (323533) on Monday December 08, 2003 @03:10PM (#7661843)
    At least the article ended with games to buy that WEREN'T of the type "Jonah and the Whale's Super Adventure" (aka games that no self-respecting kid except for Rodd and/or Todd would play).

    I like the fact that they recommended SSX3, Zelda TWW, etc as games that children are okay to play from a "violence causing" standpoint.

    It still doesn't excuse however the fact that the point of the entire article is that parents aren't doing their jobs. End of Story.

  • Well Duh.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Niobium-41 (601054) on Monday December 08, 2003 @03:20PM (#7661952)
    Anyone notice that all but ONE game the have on the "Games to avoid for children" list of video games is rated Mature..

    I don't know about you.. But being rated as "Mature" is something that I would just happen to think would automatically label it as "not recommended for children"

    Just goes to show how little attention is actually paid to video game ratings..
  • Violence and obesity counter productive. If videogames incite violence AND obesity, then what's the harm? It's not like the resulting barrels of lard can actually get anywhere carrying a weapon. "Oh no, it's a gun, let's run". Everyone leaves room, fat kid with gun passes out trying to chase them down.
    • Re:Aren't (Score:2, Funny)

      by PainKilleR-CE (597083)
      It's not like the resulting barrels of lard can actually get anywhere carrying a weapon. "Oh no, it's a gun, let's run". Everyone leaves room, fat kid with gun passes out trying to chase them down.

      Except, as anyone in the south can attest, the need of the obese to commit violence is quite possibly the reason that guns were invented in the first place. After all, who's a fat kid with a knife going to harm? Bullets can outrun people regardless of what shape they're in, fat kids can't.
  • by MMaestro (585010) on Monday December 08, 2003 @03:58PM (#7662320)
    "'The Report Card provides a snapshot of the interactive gaming industry with a focus on issues related to child welfare."

    Child welfare? I'm sorry but child welfare usually starts with the parents doesn't it?

    "in grades four through twelve"

    Oh yeah, nice sample space. While you're at it, why not find out how many people between the ages 16 through 23 drink?

    "The easy access that boys have [...]"

    Hey hey hey! Thats sexist! Girls play video games too!

    "Last year we focused attention on the top selling Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, in which gratuitous violence toward women and police is rewarded and discrimination against the Haitian community is encouraged."

    Wth do you mean you get rewarded for violence against the police and the Haitian mob in GTA:VC? Last time I checked when you started shooting either of those two, they started popping holes in your ass.

    "Rates of obesity among children have tripled over the past thirty years."

    Yeah, and over the past thirty years the United States has enjoyed one of the largest economic booms from Reagonnomics, to Clinton's high flying success, and the dotcom boom/bust.

  • DoA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Spleener12 (587422) *
    We believe that games like Manhunt, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Extreme Beach Volleyball and others deserve the "Adults Only" rating.

    There is no way that DoA could deserve an Ao rating. Ao is the equivalent to a NC-17, and NC-17 requires it to be either a) porn or b) have extremely explicit violence above and beyond what you see in M-rated games.

    I don't think DoA volleyball even has any nudity, let alone sex. And the MPAA allows movies with some nudity to pass with an R rating, so why should the ESRB g

    • There is no way that DoA could deserve an Ao rating. Ao is the equivalent to a NC-17, and NC-17 requires it to be either a) porn or b) have extremely explicit violence above and beyond what you see in M-rated games.

      Let's be frank here, DoA Beach Volleyball doesn't even deserve a Mature rating. Sadly, the ESRB has so far ignored my tireless efforts to instate an "Immature" rating.
  • I remember back in the day when mortal kombat 2 came out, I was under 17 and I actually had to go into the store with my mom to purchase it. And my mother wouldn't let me put in the extra blood code while my brother was playing with me.

    Kids will be kids. They will get into fights, pick on people smaller than them and so on. It is the parents responsibility to structure the kids understanding of ethics.

    But hey what do i know, im only a 22 yr old engineer.
  • I just picked up one of those $99 GameCubes. (w00+, four Zelda games. Schweet.) Of course, while 'testing the installation', my 2.5 year old son decided he wanted to play. Are there any games even remotely usable by a kid of this age? At what age are your kids (or nephews, nieces, neighbors, co-workers, etc) playing games? What kind of games?

    Caveats:
    My son helps me work on the car and motorcycle.
    We read together.
    He loves playing outside.
    He finger paints and uses playdoh with his mother.

    I'd ask about PC ga
    • There's probably some book on parenting that will cite all sorts of studies and other such nonsense but here's my completely uninformed opinion (and I have no background in the field): I think that there really aren't any video games that would be useful to a child that age. You might want to look into the new Leapfrog machine - educational games and I believe they have games in a very young age range. On a somewhat related note, when he does get old enough to play more traditional video games I think that
    • PC/Console games have gotten pretty complicated, IMHO. I would suggest going back to older arcade games. Klax [klov.com] is awesome, Tetris [klov.com] is another that rocks.

      If you really want to stick with console, go for Super Mario Brothers (NES), starting with the original...the linearity will make it easy for him to follow and get the hang of the controls. Since you have a Gamecube, a game that can be both mindless and complicated is Super Smash Bros. It's mindless because you CAN just button mash and the resulting grap
      • As you can tell, I'm *so* not ready to be a parent.

        You learn pretty quick. And, like others have said, it gives you an excuse to buy toys. For example: I got about 150 Hot Wheels on an eBay auction for $30. My wife thought it a bit excessive, but 'it's for the boy'. Hehe.

        Button mashing with the screen doing something is okay. Thanks.

  • You just never know [vgcats.com] when a game is going to try to corrupt the youth of today...
  • This survey acts as if the purpose and mission of the gaming industry is to produce socially relevant material. It's not gaming's responsibility to make sure that minors have the right context put to what they see on screen and it certainly isn't gaming's responsibility to make sure that their consumers get out and play a while.

    To give an entire industry a report card based on how enriching their products are to children is like grading members of the public as human beings based on how much money they ga
  • The "M" is there for a reason, HELLO! Games are not at fault for adolescent teens having quick access to them.

I've never been canoeing before, but I imagine there must be just a few simple heuristics you have to remember... Yes, don't fall out, and don't hit rocks.

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