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FTC: "Video Game Self Regulation Works" 115

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the good-job-kids dept.
Itesh writes "Following an established trend, a Federal Trade Commission undercover shopper survey found that video game retailers continue to enforce most vigorously the ratings governing age and content that were established by the entertainment media industry. Music CD retailers lag far behind movie theaters, as well as movie DVD and video game retailers, in preventing unaccompanied children under age 17 from purchasing entertainment intended for mature audiences."
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FTC: "Video Game Self Regulation Works"

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  • Duh! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Desler (1608317) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @12:16PM (#35896530)

    And yet all the politicians who think we need to enact all these stricter laws when it comes to video game sales will ignore this and try to claim that any 5 year old can walk into a game store and buy GTA IV on their own.

    • by 0123456 (636235)

      And yet all the politicians who think we need to enact all these stricter laws when it comes to video game sales will ignore this and try to claim that any 5 year old can walk into a game store and buy GTA IV on their own.

      The industry should have let the politicians make laws, because those laws would almost certainly have been thrown out as unconstitutional. People would laugh at the idea of mandatory age-ratings on books, so why do they accept it on movies and games?

      'Self-regulation' of this kind is bad precisely because it does work and can't be eliminated overnight through the courts.

      • Re:Duh! (Score:5, Informative)

        by houghi (78078) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @12:51PM (#35897072)

        People would laugh at the idea of mandatory age-ratings on books, so why do they accept it on movies and games?

        Reminds me when I wanted to see a movie and was not allowed in. I then just bought the book and that had WAY MORE explicit sex and violence then the movie.

        Also see what Zappa said way back:
        http://downlode.org/Etext/zappa.html [downlode.org] and for those too lazy to read: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ISil7IHzxc [youtube.com]

        Talking about songs and not video games, but same difference.

        • by Surt (22457)

          It was a picture book? That's what people worry about, the imagery, rather than the text. If it has to come from your mind, the imagery is already there. If it comes from the movie, the movie can put it there.

          • by DamonHD (794830)

            Stephen King's books put at least as unpleasant thoughts into my head as any other medium (film/TV) which is why I read only one or two before deciding "no more" and still would rather that I hadn't read those. Mind you, I watch hardly any TV/film either as I find most intensely annoying.

            Rgds

            Damon

      • 'Self-regulation' of this kind is bad precisely because it does work and can't be eliminated overnight through the courts.

        I'm not trying to troll you here, but I don't understand what's bad about the video game rating system that it would need to be eliminated?

        • by 0123456 (636235)

          I'm not trying to troll you here, but I don't understand what's bad about the video game rating system that it would need to be eliminated?

          Would you support mandatory age-ratings on books? If not, why do you support it on video games?

          • I've had instances where I wish there were some sort of rating system for books. An example would be last summer when my 12 year old daughter asked me to get her a copy of a book called "Go ask alice". Sounded ok. Plot summary on the back seemed like no big deal.... it wasn't until someone else mentioned they were shocked I'd let her read it that I actually picked it up and realized I'd made a big mistake. In the end I spent a lot of time talking to her about the issues within since you can't put the sh
            • by Dyinobal (1427207)
              Seems to me your kid is smarter for having read that book. And when she is offered drugs (because she will be) she will have that novel to include in her decision making process. It could of maybe have waited another year perhaps two but you can never be sure when the first time your kid is offered drugs is going to be.
            • Plot summary on the back seemed like no big deal.... it wasn't until someone else mentioned they were shocked I'd let her read it that I actually picked it up and realized I'd made a big mistake. In the end I spent a lot of time talking to her about the issues within since you can't put the shit back in the horse.

              I see no mistake here. Girl reads book with important issues and the parent discusses those issues with her. That's the way it's supposed to work, it's called good parenting and you have it here.

            • by story645 (1278106)

              So to answer your question, I'd support voluntary ratings for books - but not mandatory ones.

              There essentially are, or at least if you look at hardcover children's books, many of them do give an age range on the front book flap. Also, children's books tend to be separated into age categories in the actual book store. The only category that seems to not be differentiated (though I'm starting to see it) is the teen section, but I think that's also 'cause publishers tend to lump all teens (from 13 to 19) into the same broad category.

              • by Firethorn (177587)

                Speaking of children's books, while they do generally give an age range, there are a number that cover topics that often get certain types of parents or 'interested adults' up in a snit.

                Anything dealing with sex, child birth, or sexual orientation for example.

                And that can be a big part of the problem with categorizing media this way. Should 'Black Hawk Down' and 'Saving Private Ryan' really be in the same category as the various Saw/Hostel/other Slasher fics?

                For that matter, different people 'rate' differe

                • by story645 (1278106)

                  Speaking of children's books, while they do generally give an age range, there are a number that cover topics that often get certain types of parents or 'interested adults' up in a snit.

                  So those parents should google the book they plan to give their child, or at the least skim it in the store, as the only books that come in plastic wrap are porn and manga (which has age ratings and a breakdown of the content/reason for the rating). Every parent I know who really cares about what their kid reads makes a deal with their child that the parent will read the book first and if it's ok, than the kid gets it (and yes, most of these people's kids bypass this censorship in one way or another-oh the

                  • by Firethorn (177587)

                    Going by when I hear about it, it's generally when they discover one of them in the library, school or public.

                    I agree with the skimming part, they're often 'afraid' of what would happen if kids whose parent's aren't paying attention find them.

                    Personally, I find that kids tend to ignore such things until they're ready for them, but are ready for them earlier than people think.

            • by KarrdeSW (996917)

              Realistically, the movie rating system is only voluntary if you plan to not make any money, or have anyone see your film. Yes, you can get yours hands on a film where the creator did not accept the review board's rating, but you usually have to seek it out, go find it. You won't see it appear in most mainstream theaters because the theaters simply don't accept them.

              On a slightly related note, the review boards that rate movies make some absurd decisions.

              Tons of realistic violence? PG-13... Maybe R if y

      • And yet all the politicians who think we need to enact all these stricter laws when it comes to video game sales will ignore this and try to claim that any 5 year old can walk into a game store and buy GTA IV on their own.

        Which is more expensive: buying a politician to kill the bill before it becomes a law or filing a lawsuit to have the law found unconstitutional after the bill has become a law?

        • The United States is a federal system, and these censorship laws are often made at the state level. Convincing an appellate judge to declare a statute unconstitutional in one state followed by what amount to routine filings for summary judgment in other states is likely cheaper than buying legislators in all 50 states.
      • by grumbel (592662)

        People would laugh at the idea of mandatory age-ratings on books, so why do they accept it on movies and games?

        I think that has one very simple reasons: Violence in books is text, not picture, thus much more abstract and less interesting for children.

        And when it comes to picture books, well pornography is already regulated, try to sell that to minors and see how far you get with that. And with violent picture books, aka comics, there also have been quite a few outcries and tries to get it regulated.

        So its not really that books are handled different because they are books, but because they actually are different and

      • by Surt (22457)

        Self regulation is the opposite of mandatory. Anyone is free to market and sell an unrated game or movie.

      • by The Moof (859402)

        People would laugh at the idea of mandatory age-ratings on books, so why do they accept it on movies and games?

        Both the ESRB and the MPAA are voluntary rating boards. You can make a game/movie and release it without a rating, and it's plenty legal (but difficult to get certified for console releases). It's a much, much better solution than attempting to have the government dictate and enforce regulations.

        • by tepples (727027)

          You can make a game/movie and release it without a rating, and it's plenty legal (but difficult to get certified for console releases).

          You mean impossible for console releases. All three North American console makers require an ESRB rating. And no, releasing without a rating on PC isn't an option in some genres that rely on local multiplayer because publishers think there aren't enough home theater PCs to make a market.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        People would laugh at the idea of mandatory age-ratings on books

        Really? So anyone can by a copy of Playboy or Hustler?

        I think you better check again, or refine your definition of book.

      • by sorak (246725)

        People would laugh at the idea of mandatory age-ratings on books

        Usually true, but not for pornographic novels and magazines.

        'Self-regulation' of this kind is bad precisely because it does work and can't be eliminated overnight through the courts.

        But it only worked for this industry. It isn't working as well for the RIAA or the MPAA. Of course, it also isn't working for illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco, either.

        I think it would be interesting to see why it is working here, and here only. I suspect that constant pressure to regulate, and the fact that most games are often sold at box stores that have no problem with censorship is one thing making this system work.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      And they've yet to demonstrate any negative consequences should a 5 year old actually play GTA IV.

    • That's because they're new enough to get old men and lazy parents riled up.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Does not shock me in the slightest, I see kids get turned away at my local gamestop routinely, and I actually get carded there pretty often as well despite the fact that I'm 30 and have a full beard.

  • read it too fast (Score:2, Insightful)

    by uncanny (954868)
    Strange, i will have to read the article again. I missed the part about parents being responsible for their children.
    • From the article:

      Parents can learn more about how entertainment media for children are rated here [ftc.gov]. This site describes the different ratings systems, and provides links to the organizations that sponsor them.

      I guess you did read it too fast.

    • by RockoTDF (1042780)
      If you really think that parenting is the cause or solution to all problems dealing with children and adolescents, you are quite naive. Responsible parents raise bad kids, bad parents raise good kids (sometimes even a few of each!). Kids disobey their parents. Parents have to strike a balance between trusting their kids and being invasive. For example, you can argue "why did that kid have a gun to shoot up the school, where were his parents?!" - when that kid was well behaved and the parents had no reas
      • Well, the "where were the parents when kids do horrible things" thing comes from this mistaken belief that, somehow, we can prevent anything bad from ever happening to anyone anywhere as well as the belief that if something bad happens it is obviously someone's fault and you can't blame a child or a victim. In the case of children, that leads to the parents. "If the parents had only paid more attention, they could have known and done something..."

        But we're not really talking about school shootings and the

  • Missing the point. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LastGunslinger (1976776) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @12:29PM (#35896722)
    If someone is old enough to walk into a store and purchase a product, then that person is probably old enough to not be significantly harmed by hearing, seeing, or playing the content. The ratings should exist as a guide to parents, who shouldn't purchase these products for young children. By the time they're teenagers and have their own money and transportation, there are more pressing things to worry about than if they're seeing boobs in a movie, hearing explicit lyrics in a song, or turning enemies into a mass of blood and gore in a video game. Let's worry about keeping them in school, off of drugs, and not pregnant.
    • by tycoex (1832784)

      Amen. Preach it brother.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @01:54PM (#35897850) Homepage

      Of course the kid isn't going to be harmed by sexually explicit stuff. The average kid sees his first female breast within their first day of existence, probably plays "doctor" before he's in school, and has probably kissed someone of the appropriate sex with somewhat sexual intent by the time he's about 10 or 12. I distinctly remember my middle school principle getting on the PA to tell students to stop copping feels the hallways. And a bunch of my high school classmates ended up pregnant years before turning 20. In short, kids are nowhere near as naive as their parents would like them to be.

      These legal efforts aren't and have never been about protecting kids. They're about protecting parents from the thought that their little angel will at some point in their life have sex. Kids are rather horrified at the thought that mom & dad would get it on too, but they're legally second-class citizens and can't vote so their opinions don't matter politically.

      • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Thursday April 21, 2011 @02:09PM (#35898060) Journal

        And a bunch of my high school classmates ended up pregnant years before turning 20. In short, kids are nowhere near as naive as their parents would like them to be.

        You just contradicted yourself. It is exactly the naivete of high schoolers that leads them to getting pregnant in the first place.

        Granted that draconian rules on keeping kids away from each other rather than teach them how to be responsible can tend to lead to that kind of naivete, but underage pregnancy is still a symptom of the kids being naive so my point still stands.

        • by dkleinsc (563838)

          Actually, a significant number of my pregnant classmates got that way intentionally. For very stupid reasons (e.g. keeping an older boyfriend happy or cementing a marriage that began when he was 18 and she was 16 because she really wanted out of her parents' place), but intentionally.

          There was one who didn't though. She was as naive as you describe, and was both pro-life and in no condition to raise a child. She told me later she miscarried, and I didn't entirely take her word on that but also didn't press

          • by corbettw (214229)

            Actually, a significant number of my pregnant classmates got that way intentionally.

            I'd argue that those girls were also being naive. Getting pregnant to keep a boyfriend, or just not appreciating what having children means, is definitely a symptom of naivete.

            • by dkf (304284)

              Actually, a significant number of my pregnant classmates got that way intentionally.

              I'd argue that those girls were also being naive.

              But that's still a different sort of naivete to getting pregnant because you don't know that that's a potential consequence of having sex. They were knowledgeable enough to know the likely immediate consequences of their actions, and intelligent enough to intend for them to happen, but not wise enough to know that their methods were unlikely to lead to their real goal. That's not really naivete, but rather foolishness, and failure to compute consequences correctly is a very common human failing, enough so t

        • "but underage pregnancy is still a symptom of the kids being naive so my point still stands."

          Hm. I would say it is you who is being naive.

          Do you really think that the fear of pregnancy will win a battle against the desire to have sex? It will not.

          In my experience, most females will have their first sexual encounter before they are 18. The age of 17 was the most common and is the age at which my own daughter had sex for the first time.

          Withholding birth control is probably the number one contributor to teenag

  • If the purpose of the ratings are to increase piracy and disdain for authority, then yes it's working just fine.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      If the purpose of the ratings are to increase piracy and disdain for authority, then yes it's working just fine.

      You act like piracy or disdain for authority didn't exist well before any entertainment rating system came along...

      • by Surt (22457)

        You're both acting like piracy and disdain for authority are bad things.

      • How is he acting like that? To put the idea into a more easily understood example:

        I had some money in my bank account before I ever had a job (from gifts etc.) Then I got a job, and had a lot more money in my bank account. Would it be acting like I never had money to say that my job puts money in my bank account?

  • Of course a six year old can't walk to the store and buy a mature rated video game. That's what torrents are for.

  • Self. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Seumas (6865) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @12:36PM (#35896842)

    We're not supposed to have a problem with censorship when it's by private industry, because it's only censorship when the government does it. But if the industry is self-censoring because the only alternative is the threat of the government stepping in and doing it (which would presumably be unconstitutional) and that results in a whole range of content not having distribution and titles that do have distribution being modified so that they have less teeth (think of the most mature game versus the most mature movie you can get at the theater or on DVD) . . . and I have to ask "what's the difference?". One is a result directly mandated by the government and the other result is derived through extortion by the government. Worse, the extortion/threat method allows them to accomplish the same thing through a ratings middle-man in a private industry that keeps them from getting their hands dirty at a legal level.

  • I would be a lot happier with the ESRB if they changed their second-highest category to some name other than 'Mature' or anything else with a positive context. Most of the games in this category handle their subject matter in the least mature ways possible, so the name isn't accurate (and yes, I'm aware of how the name is intended to be used; the fact remains that it's not used that way). Worse, by using a word with positive connotations, the ESRB only increases the rating's viability as a marketing tool, w

  • by pla (258480)
    "Amazon".

    With the exception of things legally forbidden to children (alcohol and tobacco), kids can get anything they want online. It amazes me that brick-and-mortar retailers bother even trying to enforce "industry standard" self-regulation (then again, compare their sales, and it doesn't look so surprising).

    And before someone points out the obvious (but wrong) problem with the above - Visa gift cards. Greatest things ever.
    • With the exception of things legally forbidden to children (alcohol and tobacco), kids can get anything they want online.

      How are those things exceptions? [google.com]

      • With the exception of things legally forbidden to children (alcohol and tobacco), kids can get anything they want online.

        How are those things exceptions? [google.com]

        A child can order those online without supervision, but they can't be delivered unless an adult of legal drinking age is present to accept.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Typically they require a signature from somebody of legal age in whatever jurisdiction. The post office doesn't just leave a box like that sitting on somebody's porch or hand it off to a ten year old. I doubt very much that UPS or FedEx would either. They all have an option for mandatory signature just for such things.

        • by pla (258480)
          Typically they require a signature from somebody of legal age in whatever jurisdiction.

          To what do you refer here? I have never had to sign for a delivery from Amazon (well over 90% of the time, they just leave it on the porch, the delivery guy never even sees me).

          If you meant beer or smokes, then okay (in fact, in my state, as an adult I can't legally get alcohol shipped to me). But Games? Music? Movies (even pornos)? Nope. No one cares about, much less bothers to check, the buyer's age.
          • No one cares about, much less bothers to check, the buyer's age.

            Why would they, though? They're just fictional media. There's no real-world evidence that I've seen that proves they do anything more than make someone have temporary aggressive thoughts (which typically go away after they are finished with the video game/movie/music).

  • When the parents will just buy the games anyways. Its cheaper the babysitters.

  • I have no problem with self-regulation, however, it needs to be simplified. There is one rating system for movies, one for TV, and one for games. Let's make one common scale, and something easy, and then have all the boards work together - I mean, TV shows are like movies. Games are like movies. TV shows are sometimes about movies, and games are sometimes about both. It only makes sense.

    How about a rating system like what Xbox Arcade uses?

    Sex: 0/5
    Violence: 3/5
    Language: 1/5
    Drug References: 0/5

    Then, add up th

    • by N0Man74 (1620447)

      Add them all up and look up the sum in a chart? Really?

      So, if a hypothetical game is:

      Sex: 1/5
      Violence: 2/5
      Language: 2/5
      Drug References: 1/5

      That means it should be rated the same as one that is 5/5 for either sex or violence and 0/5 for everything else?

      I would think that the highest score in any category would be more relevant than the total. Having high scores in multiple categories even more so.

      However, I'm amazed at just how hypersensitive we are about some of those things, and how callous we are to oth

      • I'm saying the "chart" should factor both the sum total of "offensiveness", as well as the high-water mark. I agree whole-heartedly with your premise that a game that's 5/5 in anything should be more closely scrutinized than a game with 5 1's. The reason I propose listing the specific reasons is lifted from the TV rating guides, which tell you WHY a show is rated what it is - that way, if a parent is worried about their kid seeing drug imagery, but is OK with violence, they can make informed decisions based

        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          ESBR ratings already have a content descriptors which provide far more information that a 1-5 scale (does 2/5 for violence mean violence of a more graphic nature that a 1/5 score, or does it mean a higher quantity of the same violence?).

          Rather than having to pick a number on a 1-5 violence scale to limit what can be played you choose from a list (note this is alpabetical not orded by violence level - which is debatable anyway is a photorealistic rape scene more or less violent than an animated decapitation

        • by N0Man74 (1620447)

          I do like how ESRB does break down and say why it is rated a certain way (as another replier pointed out). However, as many will always say, so much of the responsibility should be on the parent, and the "problem" of kids getting access to these games is almost always the fault of the parents, not the stores.

          I have actually had the misfortune of working behind the counter of such a store. I would absolutely not sell a mature rated game to the kids directly, but they simply get their parents (or other adul

    • I have no problem with self-regulation, however, it needs to be simplified. There is one rating system for movies, one for TV, and one for games.

      Can't be simplified. Why? Intellectual property! From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motion_Picture_Association_of_America_film_rating_system [wikipedia.org] :

      In the U.S., the MPAA's rating systems are the most-recognized guide for parents regarding the content of movies, and each rating has been trademarked by MPAA so that they are not used outside of motion pictures.

      Everyone s

      • Hence making a new one, and convincing all the agencies to switch to it (possibly with some help from government, as a compromise - use a rating scale that is consistent and makes sense, and we won't regulate you.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Of all the ratings systems I think the ESRB ratings are the most informative as to the nature of the material:

    Eg: Rated T for teen
    Contains:
    violence, alcohol and tobacco references, some blood

    Rated E for everyone
    Contains:
    Comic Mischief

    Compare that to movies (Rated PG-13, no reasons given) or worse, music (explicit or not), and you'll see that ESRB ratings give far more info to parents/buyers to decide on if the game is a good idea before purchase. (Should I let my kid play World of Goo? oh, E, comic mischief

    • by RockoTDF (1042780)
      The music industry actually lacks a coherent standard. The label is given pretty much arbitrarily.
  • by Drathos (1092) on Thursday April 21, 2011 @02:53PM (#35898644)

    I worked at Suncoast several years ago and we were explicitly told not to enforce age restrictions on movies (discretion allowed on the "adult" movies, but still no carding). Anyone with the cash was allowed to buy R or Unrated movies. Meanwhile, the Gamestop next door was turning away kids trying to buy Grand Theft Auto. Often parents would come in, ask why their kid couldn't buy it, then buy it for them anyway.

  • I hang out with my 8 yr old cousin sometimes. He roughly says,"I want to play a mature game, all the cool kids play games designed for older kids above their age." He then says,"I want gore and language in my games" If there wasn't a system in place that rated gore and language, he probably wouldn't care. But since there is a system in place, he wants this stuff because it is what older and "cool kids" get.
  • But it still appears to be useless and based on the assumption that fictional media somehow changes people. They should have to have real-world evidence that that is true before enacting any sort of "regulations," in my opinion.

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