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Censorship Entertainment Games

ESRB Responds To Mixed Review From FTC 35

Posted by simoniker
from the return-to-acronym-city dept.
Thanks to GameSpot for its interview with Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) president Patricia Vance, following yesterday's publishing of a 'Marketing Violent Entertainment To Children' report [PDF link] by the Federal Trade Commission. The report's findings are discussed by 1UP, noting the FTC "still gives mixed marks to the American games industry when it comes to marketing mature games to a younger audience." Vance indicates that "ESRB's focus will continue to be on getting retailers to display signage at the point of purchase that increases awareness and use of the rating system", although, even after improvement over previous years: "69% of survey participants (aged between 13 and 16) were able to buy an M-rated game without hindrance, including 55% of unaccompanied customers." Outside of the ESRB's duties, "The FTC's chief sticking point was still with the placement of [M-rated] videogame advertisements... [which] still frequently appear in enthusiast gaming magazines and other publications technically aimed at a teenage audience."
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ESRB Responds To Mixed Review From FTC

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  • Ads? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bugbeak (711163) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @08:10AM (#9660264)
    You see ads for those energy drinks (what's that one drink that starts with B?) and the FTC doesn't throw red flags all over the place about how dangerous that drink is to developing teen bodies.

    Sheesh.
  • by qrowh (771006) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @09:28AM (#9660445)
    I've just skimmed the first 30 or so pages of the report, and there seems to be a whole lot of waffling, with statements such as "Although neither of the magazines have a readership that is 45% or more under 17 (years of age), each has a sizable readership among teens and older children."

    The 45% figure cited is the limit that the gaming industry's regulatory commission allows a magazine's readership to be before it is considered to be aimed at a teenage audience. What worries me is that the FTC report mentions that companies are in compliance with these guidelines, then slams them by claiming their "sizable teenage readership" without defining what exactly that means.
  • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak.eircom@net> on Saturday July 10, 2004 @10:03AM (#9660594) Homepage Journal
    Most 13-16 year olds would have no problem getting in to see the matrix revolutions which shows kung fu kicks to the head and amounts of people getting torn apart on the ends of machine tentacles.

    I find it puzzling that video games have much higher standards applied to them in comparison to movies. Consider GTA, 18-cert. For what? Swearing,car-jacking,violence. What about gone in 60 seconds? 15-cert for exactly the same stuff.
    • Keep the context in mind. In Matrix Revolution you see the "evil" machines doing their evil work, in GTA it's the player, ie. the "good" guy, committing the violence. Also, GTA doesn't include harsh penalties for dying or being arrested. Sure, you lose your guns and some cash, but that's neglectible. In GTA, there are no severe consequences to your actions, you can kill people to get, say, the gun they're holding or just for fun (GTA1 and 2 even gave you money for killing people).
      The active aspect (you're c
    • But movies aren't interactive. I personally think that the constant barrage of sex, drugs, (rock and roll) and violence through TV, movies& magazines has a far greater effect on a far greater number of people. How many boys do you of that have gotten eating disorders from playing violent video games? Now how many girls have from reading magazines and waching tv?

      Yes its a double standard of sorts, but the evening news doesn't report that little sally became bulimic trying to emulate the Olsen twins. That

    • Hollywood pays protection money to DC, one the game industry starts doing the same thing their problems will be 'forgotten'

      It sucks, but it's true.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 10, 2004 @10:05AM (#9660606)
    I think we have to remember that the original study was politically motivated(it was called for by then-President Clinton almost immediately after Columbine, when idiots like Brent Bozell, Steve Allen, Joe Lieberman, and Sam Brownnoser started whining) and politically biased(it was favored to support Gore and Lieberman's views on the entertainment industry and it was released within 2 to 3 months before the Presidental election, which Gore lost) to begin with.

    After reading the GameSpot article, I believe that the FTC investigators did not take into account three things:

    1) the average age of a gamer today.
    2) the average age of a reader of a specific magazine(i.e. EGM, PSM, GamePro, Nintendo Power), as average age dictates the direction and content of the magazine.
    3) the primary age group of the viewership of TV programs that have game advertisements(i.e. WWE Raw, WWE Smackdown, TRL), or the difference between cable and broadcast TV.

    On the plus side, the FTC pretty much admitted that the rating system does work(Joe Lieberman has even gone on record recently as saying that the ESRB rating system is the best rating system in the entire entertainment industry), and that retailers are starting to check IDs more(the report showed that a 13- to 16- year old was more likely to buy a R-rated movie or a music CD with the PA sticker than to buy a M-rated game without being carded), so the industry as a whole must be doing something right.

    It also seemed to pretty much leave the video game and movie industries alone and focused mostly on the music industry, so that might still be the case when the next biased report comes out next year. Another report we may have to worry about is if the censorship-happy FCC decides to do their own biased reports. But that's for a another time.

    == BearDogg-X ==
  • by arieswind (789699) * on Saturday July 10, 2004 @10:50AM (#9660848) Homepage
    69% of survey participants (aged between 13 and 16) were able to buy an M-rated game without hindrance, including 55% of unaccompanied customers.

    This is not the fault of the game industry.. it's the fault of all the Wal-Marts and Best Buys in the world that employ people that don't ask for id when someone young-looking tries to buy a M rated game, or they ask for id but then sell them the game anyways. There have been several documentaries on news shows about this type of thing. Secondly, even if there was 100% enforcement, if the parents don't care, they will just go out and buy the game for the kid anyhow, so...
    • Secondly, even if there was 100% enforcement, if the parents don't care, they will just go out and buy the game for the kid anyhow, so...

      However, this system helps parents that DO care but don't have the time/patience/whatever to monitor their kid around the clock (it's possible to hide games from your parents for a loooong time, especially if your parents don't have a clue when it comes to computer games). Parents that don't care can do much greater damage to their kid than simply buying video games not
    • I've been buying M-rated games underage since the ratings system existed. How do I do it without being hasseled by retailers? Online. Parents' credit card, yes; but it's not like you can usually tell a game's rating by it's title.
    • So why would these companies ask for id? Don't ascribe to corporations the motivations of morality. These are the same companies paying kids 6 cents an hour to make Nike shoes. Why would they turn away a sale? A sale is, after all, a sale. Ferengi have more business morals than corporate America!

      There is no law requiring that people buying games be IDed, to fines for failing to ask for ID, etc. Unless there is such a law, no corporation will do such a thing unless there is actual consumer backlash.
    • I'm not going to sell heroin to preschoolers, but I'd sell an "M" rated game to anybody who presented the cash.

      I'd let my own children play these games, so I'm not being a hypocrite. However, I do manage to actually BE a parent - you know, paying attention to them and knowing who their friends are, and even what games they play - and if I honestly objected to the content of the game once I'd seen it, they wouldn't be playing it again.
      • to chasuk. I feel the same way. Last time my kid asked me for a rated-M game, I went looking for reviews, screenshots and videos before telling him he could have it. And then I will periodically watch him play and discuss issues with him if I feel it's warranted. Sometimes i find that his rated-M games have nothing I object to, but some E or T games do.
    • it's the fault of all the Wal-Marts and Best Buys in the world that employ people that don't ask for id when someone young-looking tries to buy a M rated game,

      Best Buy specifically has a trigger in their system for M-rated games that tells the employee to check ID, regardless of how young or old you look. I know this because I asked what tripped it when they asked me, when I was buying 2 games (M and T) and 2 movies (NR and R). Wal-Mart has the same thing for movies, but I'm not sure if they do for games
  • Lame (Score:2, Informative)

    by dthree (458263)
    If rated-M games can't be advertised in game magazines, where CAN they be advertised. Its just stupid. Movies trailers for R-rated movies can be shown in theaters before PG-rated movies and nobody complains. The trailers themselves are usually rated g or pg.

    Just typically overreacting, call me when "GTA7: Bangkok Vice City" ads show up in Nickelodeon magazine.
  • by the_skywise (189793) on Saturday July 10, 2004 @03:48PM (#9662347)
    When the ESRB was first forced on the game publishers ~10 years ago the standard byline of the time was "We don't want to censor game manufactureres. We just want parents to have the ability to know what their kids are actually buying!"

    Now 10 years later... There are too many M-rated games being advertised in game magazines that kids read. This is bad.

    Check out the seat belt laws too... 20 years ago in my state it was "We don't want to arrest people for not wearing their seat belts, we just need a seat belt law to increase awareness." So the law was written such that you couldn't be pulled over for not wearing a seat belt. You could only get a ticket for not wearing a seat belt if you were pulled over for something else. 2 years ago, they had the law changed. "Too many people are still not wearing seat belts, so we need to pull people over so that we can save more lives." So now we have random spot checks throughout the city where they take a look and see if you're not wearing your seat belt.

    But remember, this is all for your own good.
    • The difference is that your kid playing an M-rated game won't kill him but when your car crashes into a Semi and he's seatbeltless, it will. Seatbelts are a good thing and as far as reducing mortality, yes, it is for the public good to mandate them.
      • For kids to take public transportation. By your argument, the government should mandate that too.
  • You're freakin blind if you don't see how M-rated videogames are marketed towards young audiences. I have nothing wrong with M rated games per se, but I think video game marketing is pretty irresponsible (though arguably no less responsible than the film or music industries).

    I do think the escalation in violence in video games is a bad trend. If all that games are good for is simulated killing, then it becomes hard to defend it as artistic statement (and thus protected speech). Yes, there are a few except

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