The National Institute on Media and Family isn't releasing its annual game-industry report card until early next month, but a San Diego-based affiliate of the group has given a sneak peek at the results, a NIMF representative confirmed to GameSpot today.
As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, a two-month undercover survey found that underage teens were able to purchase games rated M for Mature at 46 percent of surveyed stores. Included in the group were 60 retailers nationwide. Games carrying the M rating are intended only for audiences 17 and older.
The stat was attributed to a representative of the East County Youth Coalition, which aided the NIMF in conducting the survey. That group wants retailers to adhere better to the ratings guidelines, create formal training procedures for employees, display information about the ratings in their stores, and to physically separate M-rated titles from the rest of its offerings.
The 46 percent figure falls more-or-less in line with a Federal Trade Commission report on violent media released in April. In that report, the FTC found that 42 percent of children aged 13-16 were able to buy games rated M for Mature, a significant improvement over the 69 percent that were able to do so in a 2003 study.
The NIMF's findings still put the game industry well ahead of most other entertainment industries when it comes to keeping violent content out of kids' hands. The FTC study found that only movie theaters did a better job of limiting minors' access to inappropriate material (39 percent of kids were able to buy tickets to R-rated films), whereas retailers sold children R-rated DVDs (or their unrated counterparts) 71 percent of the time. Vigilance in the CD aisles was even worse, given that minors were able to purchase recordings with explicit content 76 percent of the time.