Kmart Limits Sales of Violent Games
In August 2000, discount store franchise Kmart announced that it planned to limit the sales of what it determined to be "violent" games. An August 9, 2000, article in The Register (UK) reported that Kmart's main strategy was to "require would-be buyers to prove that they're old enough to meet a game's age rating." Given that the ESRB has been giving retailers this information since 1994, this is a relatively weak effort on Kmart's part.
The Register continued, "The flaw in the scheme is, of course, that without legal backup, there's nothing to force stores to take any notice of the ratings whatsoever. The fact that it's taken Kmart so long to make the move it made yesterday - and then under some pressure from various US senators, including Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, of Connecticut - arguably shows just how worthless the ratings system has been."
The UK uses a game rating system, the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELPSA), which is based on the UK's film rating entity. What makes this work is that retailers are charged if they sell games illegally to minors.
Dale Atley, a Kmart vice president, offered in a press release, "While manufacturers have put ratings on the games, we think education has to occur with the retailer too." The Register noted that only 3 percent of Kmart's video and PC game sales were of M-rated games, so curbing these sales would not drastically affect the company.
Other US retailers that have limited or banned M-rated games include Wards and Sears, with Target and Toys "R" Us under pressure from legislators to do the same. In November 2002, the toy store Zany Brainy announced that it would pull all video games from its shelves.
Platforms: PS2, Xbox, GameCube
Publisher: Acclaim, 2002
Developer: Z-Axis, Ltd.
While the Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX games created by Z-Axis and published by Acclaim scored decently over the years, they were largely niche games for fans of BMX racing or at least action sports games in general. But then Acclaim got an idea. In an effort to possibly expand the license to a broader audience, or maybe take a slice of the Grand Theft Auto pie, the developer/publisher team conceptualized an adult-humored BMX game in which BMX star Mirra was originally intended to participate. BMX XXX was raunchy and foul-mouthed, it offered brief videos of strippers, and it included missions that involved hauling hookers around the virtual environment. The game, which had been notably sanitized of its topless content for the PlayStation 2, shipped in November 2002, and controversy soon followed.
Steve Kent addressed BMX XXX by looking at GTAIII as an example of a good game with controversy: "In gaming, there's a survival of the fittest built right in. GTAIII came out, it was wonderful, it was a well-made game," he said. "It did push a lot of limits. But society looked at it and said it is a fun game, this is an incredibly cool game and now everyone is trying to make a GTA knockoff. Then Acclaim comes out with BMX XXX where you save up points to go see video tape of strippers. Guess what? Society said BMX XXX sucked. Do you see anybody else running out to make games with video tape of strippers? You don't."
Retailers were miffed about BMX XXX. One month prior to the game's scheduled launch, retailers such as Wal-Mart, KB Toys, and Toys "R" Us refused to carry the title. Australia banned the game's release, suggesting that major clean-up would have to take place before the OFLC would give it the proper rating necessary to be carried in retail stores.