NIMF gives top marks to ESRB, console makers

National Institute on Media and Family's annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card heaps praise on ratings board, retailers, and platform holders; parents get an Incomplete.

Remember last year when the National Institute on Media and Family was warning of an "ominous backslide" in the gaming industry's efforts to protect kids from questionable games? Apparently, the industry buckled down this year, attended summer sessions, and, for one, hit up teachers for advice during scheduled office hours.

In its annual report for 2008, NIMF doled out nearly perfect grades to the gaming industry, giving console manufacturers and the Entertainment Software Rating Board's system and awareness education efforts an "A," with retailers earning a "B+" for ratings enforcement.

For the ESRB's part, NIMF claims that the ratings board has "stepped up its efforts to educate parents about the importance of video game ratings. The watchdog organization calls out such initiatives as the distribution of buying guides to 26,000 PTA chapters, retailer training pamphlets, in-store PSAs, and the recently launched ratings summaries on the ESRB's Web site.

NIMF notes that retailers, too, are making gains in keeping inappropriate games out of kids' hands. Citing the Federal Trade Commission's secret shopper survey from May, the group praised GameStop, Wal-Mart, and Best Buy in particular for selling questionable titles to minors less than 20 percent or less of the time.

As for gamemakers, NIMF was pleased that while M-rated games receive the most attention, family-friendly titles are of increasing prominence. "Video game producers continue to release ultra-violent and mature-content titles, but increasingly, the big industry players are targeting parents and families as an important market for their products and services," reads the report. "Despite the controversial M-rated games (for Mature) still receiving much of the hype and the headlines, the vast majority of game titles have family-friendly ratings."

The report wasn't all about high marks and high-fives, however. NIMF cautioned that many challenges still face the industry, noting that the difficulties in monitoring smartphone game downloads, the rising prominence of predator-haven online worlds such as Second Life's Teen World and World of Warcraft, and such new technology as Emotiv's EPOC headset, which lets gamers "control a video game using only their thoughts. Such technology is amazing and may even prove useful, but it also raises grave questions about the impact of video games on children's developing brains and worldviews."

Lastly, NIMF noted that the onus is on parents to take advantage of the industry's efforts. Indeed, the only mar the Mediawise Report Card came in the parent category, which received an "Incomplete."

"The focus of this year's report card is providing parents with the information they need," the report notes. "All segments of the industry have made significant improvements in recent years. Parents now have more information and tools than ever before. However, the constant changes present new challenges. Parents need to pay more attention to the amount of time and the types of games their kids play."

As noted by GamePolitics, the NIMF and the Entertainment Software Association enjoy a cozier relationship than in years past. In September, the ESA, which owns the ESRB, awarded NIMF a $50,000 grant to "develop an on-line e-learning zone for using the latest interactive technologies to help kids and adults understand the issues and potential areas of concern with the Internet."

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Discussion

36 comments
cloudstrife192
cloudstrife192

Another f--king ESRB thing. Quit thinking you freaking adults can tell how mature children are!!!!!! Unfortunantly there is few adults that actually are smart enough not to do that. Get some common sense.

Scorpion16
Scorpion16

No Charlie I don't see anything wrong with a 10 year old playing Gears. Please tell me how a 10 year old who's had sex ed classes and should be able to tell the difference between right and wrong should be denied playing one of the best games of the year espicially when it's in a clearly unrealistic fantasy setting. Grand Theft Auto and Saints Row are different stories though considering those mirror the violence that goes on in our streets and are fairly realistic. I would make sure I knew my kid well before letting them touch either of those before they are in high school, but tell me how killing aliens in a fantasy setting is gonna warp the mind of a 10 year old.

killer_rabbit20
killer_rabbit20

"Despite the controversial M-rated games (for Mature) still receiving much of the hype and the headlines, the vast majority of game titles have family-friendly ratings." -- I've seen many games that are family friendly that are M Rated that shouldn't be, take Halo for example. The violence isn't intense at all, there's very little blood and very mild laungage. ESRB rates games way to high, and in my opinion games shouldn't get an M Rating unless they contain graphic violence and nudity. Seriously, why should we have to be 18 to see FAKE COMPUTER GENERATED blood? Come on...

DPhunkT
DPhunkT

It don't mater. Parents fail all the way. I swear I heard 8 year olds on XBox Live in COD WAW. I would never let my kids on Xbox Live until they are over 16 years of age.

zombey1333
zombey1333

KIDS ARE BAD CUZ OF THE VIDEO GAMES, YO! peer pressure and parents have absolutely nothing to do with it. thought i'd throw this one in because it's one of my favorite things to call them out on.

zombey1333
zombey1333

Dear parents. The world is a dangerous place. Teach your children to exercise caution but don't just completely deny them reality.

InfectX
InfectX

which implies we need more government and industry regulation in place of parents to protect our children... so this is bad

CharlieFubar
CharlieFubar

@ scorpion16 You dont seen any problem with 10 year olds playing gears? Come back in 15 years when your kids about 10 and say that.

CharlieFubar
CharlieFubar

finally the ESRB is doing enough to content the watchdogs, and finally the watchdogs call out the parents for being absent. Raise your friggen kids and we wont need watchdogs....

TAEnemy
TAEnemy

It's about time the industry got some recognition for its nearly flawless rating system. I'm glad to have read this article. Especially after recently seeing Quantum of Solace, which was clearly an R rated film disguised as a PG-13.

Bad_Boyl2
Bad_Boyl2

NIMF? I thought it said MILF! LOL Get a better name!

DataDream
DataDream

Emotiv's EPOC headset has huge potential!!! We will see how well it is implemented but for only $299 - having a neuro interface for gaming sounds pretty sweet! Maybe Nintendo, Sony or M$ will pick up on this concept and improve it in their own versions. Gaming is getting amazingly cool.

cvasquez311
cvasquez311

NIMF? I thought they meant the animated cartoon!

yuri19
yuri19

i still do ot understand what is so hard about reading a 18 on a box. Seems quite simple to me.

Neo_Gamer81
Neo_Gamer81

I've said it before, parents need to know what their kids are playing. With this report no parent can use the excuse that they didn't know. Anything to that effect is (and has been from the release of the ESRB) BS. It takes a few seconds to see what the game is rated and on-line resources can give you all the information you need about a game before you buy it.

Autolycus
Autolycus

@ jmartin1016 Sure are... they are also the parents that have no idea their child is doing drugs

jmartin1016
jmartin1016

Sending information to PTA meetings was genius. Those are the parents with the biggest problems with games.

hunter8man
hunter8man

Who the hell are they to give parents an "incomplete"? What exactly do parents need to complete? Like parents are really going to start paying attention to ratings just because you say they don't have the information. What other information do they need? M-17+=Mature. Not exactly rocket science. If parents feel that their child is mature enough to handle an M-rated game, then I will trust the judgment of that parent.

Greenmonkey824
Greenmonkey824

Nice to know we have your approval, NIMF. We'll go hang it on the refrigerator where everyone can see it. Next to that photo of you as a baby, naked in the bathtub. So cute.

Jedilink109
Jedilink109

Wow, did they all take drugs before doing their tests or were they ACTUALLY paying attention to the real state of gaming nowadays? I applaud them for FINALLY realising that the industry is doing its best to police itself and is actually NOT responsible for kids playing games...when it's the child and parent's choice in the first place. Amazing. I seriously thought they'd never "get it".

Scorpion16
Scorpion16

@stuffgamer Ok please tell me why parents should care if thier 10 year old is playing Gears of War? Why is it your bussiness to tell them how to raise thier kid. Personally I don't see anything wrong at all with a kid that age playing Gears at all.

Mike_Labeckio
Mike_Labeckio

Due to the availability of Video games spanning across different distributors, one would think that consumers and especially politicians would realize VIDEO GAMES are not targeted to kids. With the exception of NINTENDO, none of the other gaming platforms have any dedication to kids. Just look at the content of a majority of the games for the 360 and PS3, they are obviously tageting adults(or better stated those with the money). Long ago the only place to buy game systems was a TOY STORE, yes?!?! The association with Game systems being toys has long been removed, at least attempted to be removed. I have a feeling some people refuse to see gaming systems being more than just a TOY even an adult can play with. Mind sets are hard to change when we have hard-headed people out there who refuse to see gamers as ever growing-up. Guess our TOY's don't fancy their mid-life crisis TOY's of motercycles, motor boats, and cars they never use, because they can't afford to use it.

Turkeysoup1
Turkeysoup1

Parents and Society should stop blaming game makers and instead turn their fingers back at themselves. Raise your children and stop sticking them in daycare or in front of the TV. Be a parent. You are responsible for your child, not game makers. If your work is too busy to take care of a child then don't have one.

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

Am I the only one who thinks that the main reason the gaming industry recieved good grades this year is because the ESA paid off NIMF with a $50 000 grant? Looks mighty fishy...

THizzle7XU
THizzle7XU

"NIMF cautioned that many challenges still face the industry, noting that the difficulties in monitoring smartphone game downloads, the rising prominence of predator-haven online worlds such as Second Life's Teen World and World of Warcraft, and such new technology as Emotiv's EPOC headset, which lets gamers "control a video game using only their thoughts. Such technology is amazing and may even proveuseful, but it also raises grave questions about the impact of video games on children's developing brains and worldviews" Translation: We're ignorant and scared of the unknown, so we'll throw up warnings and condemn it. Nice "worldview", there...

historyseeker22
historyseeker22

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Mike_Labeckio
Mike_Labeckio

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

hidden_ninja4
hidden_ninja4

Great news from the desk of video game ratings for once. The only problem I had was when the NIMF representative referred to M-rated games as controversial, thereby reinforcing the stereo type that video games are just for kids. If the majority of gamers are over the age of 17, why shouldn't there be games to cater to their tastes?

The_Dude1212
The_Dude1212

Indeed, parents are quite stupid these days. As I unfortunately never took advantage of this, I only ever rented 1 M-rated game when I was 15 (TimeSplitters 3, which I had a blast to play with at my friend's house on his PS2, I rented for the GCN), but I did have to do a bit of swindling to convince my mother. Now, I at least can go out, whip out my Driver's License and *BAM*, I now own CoD: WaW on Wii. But seriously, it's not just games that should have ratings strictly enforced. Movies, too. They should try and display the ratings a bit more prominently with movies, cause they only do a quick blurb at the end, and it ain't doing a helluva lot, if you ask me.

Ra-Devil
Ra-Devil

Yeah, I work at Gamestop too. One parent came in asking how bad a game was, genuenly concerned if it was really violent and mature themed or not. She was asking about Rainbow Six Vegas... which if you've played it, you know that the ubber realistic blood "cloud" and reactions to getting shot were very cool, and that terrorist would yell very loud obscenities... my manager told them she didn't remember there being anything too terribly bad about the game.... It was my first week there, but looking back at it, I should have stepped up and said, "Yeah, there are guys who yell out curse words, and there's really violent, realistic ways in which people will die... this isn't for your kid, get'im something like Halo before you get him this... moreover, get him Viva Pinata or the new Banjo Kazooie." 'Course Banjo wasn't out yet, but still, I felt bad for that kids mother.

stuffgamer1
stuffgamer1

@fightingfish18: I don't think they really mean shovelware, but more games like LittleBigPlanet, Viva Pinata, and anything Mario. I agree with the article about parents in one way; their job is DEFINITELY incomplete. Problem is, it's gonna stay that way. Working at Gamestop, I see a lot of parents that simply do not care that their kids are playing Gears of War at age 10, and like that. No amount of informing them about ratings helps, because they just want to buy whatever their kids want and move on. So someone needs to figure out how to get these people to CARE!

Port5
Port5

i'm pretty sure that isn't how you spell, "retailers."

super_gamer
super_gamer

$50000 to develop an e-learning zone? what a waste of money. I've never went thru any "training" to learn about games and the internet but i understand the problems and issues just fine. I play violent M rated games but im a normal law-abiding citizen. While the rating system is good in letting ppl know what to expect in a certain game, it shouldnt ever become anything more than that. People just need to use common sense, and parents need to step up rather than have government departments waste tons of money on a feature that very few people will actually use.

fightingfish18
fightingfish18

they actually speak like shovelware is good for us...

EPaul
EPaul

great news i guess...