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Fewer "mature" video games sold to minors

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday a nationwide undercover shopping survey last year found that fewer Mature-rated video games were being sold to unaccompanied children.

The results come as many state and federal lawmakers -- who claim that the industry's self-rating system lacks adequate retail enforcement -- are pushing for laws that would ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit video games to minors.

The FTC said that 42 percent of its undercover shoppers -- who were children between the ages of 13 and 16 -- were able to buy an M-rated game last year. That is down from 69 percent in 2003.

Currently, it is up to retailers whether or not to sell M-rated games to minors. M-rated games contain content deemed appropriate for people aged 17 and up by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.

National retailers were more likely to restrict sales of M-rated games than were local retailers, the survey found.

Only 35 percent of the FTC's shoppers were able to purchase M-rated games at such stores, while regional or local retailers sold M-rated games to the shoppers 63 percent of the time, the FTC said.

Hal Halpin, president of the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, said the improving results show that retailers are self-regulating when it comes to restricting sales of M-rated games to minors.

"With the industry responding in such a visible and proactive fashion, it is clear that legislative efforts are simply not required," Halpin said.

U.S. video game industry, whose revenue rivals Hollywood box office sales, is at the center of a political and cultural war over racy and violent content in some titles.

The battle flared last summer, when game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO.O: Quote, Profile, Research) was forced to pull its blockbuster "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" game from store shelves following the discovery of sex scenes that could be unlocked and viewed with a downloaded program. The urban-action title was already under fire for its violent content.

This is proof that self regulation works and the government doesn't need to step in.

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God, that's such a ridiculous blanket statement. Especially considering everything that happened with San Andreas last year. You knew retailers were going to shape up AT LEAST for the short term.

If the numbers keep going down, then fine. Still, 42% is way way way too high for my tastes.

So, good news? Yes. Will it cause governments to think harder about enforcing policies themselves? Yes. Definitive proof that they don't need to? No. It's only a year, and a highly out of the ordinary one at that.

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God, that's such a ridiculous blanket statement. Especially considering everything that happened with San Andreas last year. You knew retailers were going to shape up AT LEAST for the short term.

If the numbers keep going down, then fine. Still, 42% is way way way too high for my tastes.

So, good news? Yes. Will it cause governments to think harder about enforcing policies themselves? Yes. Definitive proof that they don't need to? No. It's only a year, and a highly out of the ordinary one at that.

It wasn't one year, it was 3.

The FTC said that 42 percent of its undercover shoppers -- who were children between the ages of 13 and 16 -- were able to buy an M-rated game last year. That is down from 69 percent in 2003.

Why was that a ridiculous statement? The retailers are actually self governing themselves. That's how it is supposed to work. It is proof that when the issue is brought up, the stores react by implementing policies that make it harder to sell them to minors. Your argument about it dropping only because of San Andreas doesn't hold up. This has been an issue since Mortal Kombat first came out, and has been brought up numerous times since. They created the rating system to inform parents what is in a game, and to avoid having the government step in. If a kid buys a "M' rated game, shouldn't the parents know about it and return it if it's something they don't want them to have?

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The FTC said that 42 percent of its undercover shoppers -- who were children between the ages of 13 and 16 -- were able to buy an M-rated game last year. That is down from 69 percent in 2003.

So yeah, the 42% was just last year. Not the last 3. Though I'm kind of curious what it was in 2004.

Why was that a ridiculous statement? The retailers are actually self governing themselves. That's how it is supposed to work. It is proof that when the issue is brought up, the stores react by implementing policies that make it harder to sell them to minors. Your argument about it dropping only because of San Andreas doesn't hold up. This has been an issue since Mortal Kombat first came out, and has been brought up numerous times since. They created the rating system to inform parents what is in a game, and to avoid having the government step in. If a kid buys a "M' rated game, shouldn't the parents know about it and return it if it's something they don't want them to have?

First of all, I agree that the government SHOULDN'T have to step in and regulate. Parents should be taking a more active role and every retailer, national, local or whatever should not sell these games to minors.

But, in 2003, nearly 10 years after Mortal Kombat and the ratings system was implented, more than 2/3 unaccompanied children could buy M-rated video games. That's really not acceptable. If they ran a story on Dateline or something saying that 2/3 unaccompanied children could buy Rated R movies or porn, people would flip, yet for whatever reason they don't have the same reaction for video games.

San Andreas has a lot to do with it because both EB and Wal-Mart are being sued in that Jack Thompson case. So instantly, every outlet of those chains has to start carding (though, yes, they already claimed to card to begin with). They are self-governing themselves because it is now financially beneficial to do so because they might be held legally responsible for the stupid shit their customers do, not because it's the "right" thing to do. And like I said, 42% is not good. It's a start, but it's nothing to be proud of. And certainly not a number that would suggest to me that further regulation is unnecessary.

And your statement was ridiculous because you are making assumptions. Yes, the number is lower than it was in 2003. Is it at an all-time low? Is it even lower than 2004? We don't know, and yet you offer this 42% as proof that the current system is working and just needs more time. It's not necessarily wrong, but it's a stretch. And if you're just paraphrasing Halpin, he's got as much of an agenda as the politicians do.

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Not to mention. How may times is a kid denied the chance to rent or buy an M rated game,

then turning around and getting one of his or her parents to get the game for them?

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If the kid gets their parents to buy it for them, its that parents fault.

I would personally like to see a list of retailers and see which ones are best about self regulation.

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I work for a large corporate video store, and we have our own branch of game stores attached, and largely, the policies are fairly uniform.

In the game store, you are not allowed to buy a Mature rated game if you are under the age of 18. You have to have ID, they have to see ID. End of story, if not, then you're not getting the game.

On our side, the rental policy is this. If you're not 18, you're not getting the M rated game without parent permission. This is where the the whole thing breaks down. From the Jump, parents assume that because we rented/sold them the game, that somehow, we're responsible for the content in the game, and that we're going to make up for their mistake in purchasing the game. Something that I've noticed about consumers in the modern world is that they're no longer satisfied with prompt service and courtesy. They're largely used to that, and take it for granted. They feel that if they are not 100 percent satisfied, that someone on our end of the counter must be held accountable for it, when more than 90 percent of the time, the blame falls on the consumer.

Since they want to blame the company/store/merchant whatever, then make it damn near impossible for them to buy the game for minors. If they're buying it for their kids and the kid's under 17, don't sell it to them. Explain the rating system, I do all the time, and tell them what kind of content to expect from their title, it's on the back. If they get upset, tell them that too many times, parents put the blame on us in guest service/stores/merchants whatever, and now we've taken steps to stop the fingerpointing at the source. Parents.

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