Game Report Card gives As, Fs

National Institute on Media and the Family's annual game-industry assessment scolds parents, retailers for letting kids play violent games.

98 Comments

For the past decade, the National Institute on Media and the Family has released an annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card, detailing its appraisal of the industry's rating system and efforts to keep violent games out of the hands of children.

While the report card usually focuses on the shortcomings of the industry, this year's assessment gives out high marks to most parties. Console manufacturers earned an "A" for incorporating parental controls in all of their next-gen machines, while big-box retailers like Best Buy and Target also received an "A" for their adherence to policies about not selling games rated M for Mature to minors.

However, it wasn't quite a 4.0 year for the industry, as specialty game retailers were given an "F" for allowing anyone to purchase titles rated M for Mature, despite whatever store policy might have been in place. Also, in a category that wasn't present in last year's report, the NIMF gave an "incomplete" grade to Parental Involvement for the year.

"As the world of video games continues to evolve, parents are falling behind," the group said in a statement. "As we found last year, this year's parental survey uncovered an alarming gap between what kids say about the role of video games in their lives and what parents are willing to admit."

The group surveyed 1,430 third, fourth, and fifth-grade children and their parents and found that the two groups' responses to restricting gaming varied widely. For instance, while 1 percent of parents said they never helped decide what games to buy or rent, 25 percent of children said the parents didn't get involved in those decisions. Although more than 60 percent of parents said they had rules about how long their kids can spend playing games, only 36 percent of children said their gameplay was time restricted. The group attributed the disparity in responses to "parental optimism."

"This parental optimism is very unfortunate, because parents are in an extremely powerful position to make a difference in their children's outcomes," the report said. "Parents who are actively involved in their children's media habits have children who spend less time playing video games each week, get better grades in school, are less likely to be overweight, are less aggressive, are more prosocial, and have fewer attention problems in school. Active parental monitoring of children's media use appears to be a clear protective factor for children."

Even so, the group refused to give parents a failing grade, saying it "doesn't seem fair" to do that in light of "mixed messages from the video game industry."

"While representatives of the industry encourage parents to follow the ratings which warn certain age groups away from mature content, they simultaneously deny that video games have any impact on kids," the NIMF said. "Making matters worse, the rating system itself has flaws. Parents could be, and should be, doing a lot better, but at least part of their failure can be attributed to the confusion created by the game makers."

The report says the NIMF's own research has found that children who spend more time playing games are more likely to be overweight or obese, and that playing games in the bedroom further increases that likelihood. Furthermore, the group said that increased playing time correlates to poor grades in school and attention problems.

The group also expressed a concern about the "alarming" issue of gaming addiction.

"Many of the symptoms of this type of addiction are largely the same as the symptoms of other addictions including obsessive behaviors, deceitful behavior, neglecting people and responsibilities, and increased isolation," the report said. "Video game addiction has led some children to fail out of school, alienate themselves from everyone in their lives, and in extreme cases to commit suicide. Some of the most popular online community games practically demand an obsessive and time-consuming approach to play."

The NIMF points to South Korea and its government-supported treatment programs as one possible outcome of gaming addiction. "If the situation in South Korea is any indication of what is to come here, we will be largely unprepared for the number and intensity of cases of such addiction," the report said.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board responded to the report card in gentler terms than last year, when it gave the NIMF report card a grade of "F" for "inaccuracies, incomplete and misleading statements, omission of material facts, and flawed research."

"While we agree with NIMF that parents should be involved and informed when it comes to choosing video games for their children, we believe that the best way to achieve this is to educate and encourage them to make the right choices for their families," ESRB president Patricia Vance said, adding, "The tools are there for parents, and we continue to urge them to take advantage of the many helpful resources, including ESRB ratings, that help ensure that the games their children have access to are 'OK to Play.'"

The Entertainment Software Association also weighed in on the report card, with a statement from the organization's president, Douglas Lowenstein.

"We're pleased that the 2006 report card is more balanced and measured than in previous years, and that it encourages parents to use the ESRB ratings and other tools and acknowledges the effectiveness of industry ratings and educational programs," Lowenstein said. "At the same time, we're disappointed that NIMF continues to selectively cite only research designed to validate its anti-video game views and that it ignores a growing body of criticism challenging claims that games are harmful. … Like Rock 'n' Roll, video games will never die. Finger-pointing and demonizing a form of entertainment that is embraced by the millennial generation is fruitless. Partnering with parents to help them help their kids pays off."

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Scorpion16

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The NIMF has once again shown total ignorance of the subject. But than again is this new? This is the same organization that tried to paint the GTA series as sexist because you can kill a prostitute to get your money back. You know what, who really gives a flying **** if kids are playing violent games. Violent games are not harmful and they don't warp people's minds. And their so called studies have loopholes big enough to drive a tank through. Maybe kids who get poorer grades play more videogames because they are lazier. I'm a hardcore gamer and I have plenty of friends and I have a B average in school. Also I find it funny how they praise the console manufactuers for putting parental controls on their systems, yet they are complaining about stores selling the kids violent games. If the parents have done thier homework and set the parental controls on the consoles than why is this an issue? This is nothing more but a twisted organization with a sinister agenda run by an out of touch old fart geezer who doesn't know anything about the industry he's attacking or the generation he wants to "save".

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RaiKageRyu

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I would like parents to stay away from what I play.

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The__Jer

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these reports are basically ****, and here is why: I'm a pretty hardcore gamer (2 to 4 hours a day) 1.I'm only a sophmore in highschool and I'm taking pre-calculus and AP classes (make high b's and a's) 2.I'm 3rd best on my Swim Team 3.I go to parties all the time 4.I have never been in a fight I play Gears, Halo, Mortal Kombat, ect... and it hasn't effected my life in the least. BTW don't give a **** if you don't believe me.

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Mr_Saturn26

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this is a load of baloney, poor grades in school, attention problems. heck i been playing since i was about 11\2 years old, play the mario bros on the nes, and i am in all honor classes as well of acing shop. the obesity i can understand, but poor grades, thats garbage, and i dont have any of these problems. who said it was their job to grade stores in selling games anyway, i rather have the parents do thier job instead of the stores, the store jest want to earn their money so they can pay thier employees, i rather keep the work force then worry about people grading the store.

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metalclay128

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Why the hell did they give "specialty retailers" an "F". Because they didn't censor video games? well...frankly looks like to me that the National Institute on Media and the Family are nothing but a bunch of commies.

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JLCrogue

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Well, I grew up with some of those symptoms of being addicted to videogames, such as obesity, attention problems, isolation, etc., but I still recieved good grades in school and now I'm in college. However, videogames shouldn't recieve the sole blame for my problems, because I grew up in a disfunctional and abusive family.

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AceCometh

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I worked for nearly three years selling videogames. The notion that oarents are not up to speed on these games is pretty accurate. I spent countless minutes a dat, especially during the holiday shopping season, teaching parents and other adults the meaning of the ESRB rating system. Yet I was dismayed to find that even after I explained how a GTA game could possibly affect their children the parents would still purchase it. Parents have gotten to the point of not even wanting to take responsibility for their own actions, an increasing problem among Americans. They plead the 5th when asked about the content and the rating system despite the fact that most retailers told them exactly what they were getting when they purchased the game. Gaming industry FTW! As far as irresponsible parents go, reap the whirlwind.

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Merl57

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look I dont care. It should be the parent's decision not the law. I don't care what the statistics say. I'm an adult now and If I decide to have kids in the future I will let them play whatever I want them to not whatevery they want. There is a difference. If parent's are all up in arms about this. Heres an idea! Take the TV or system away and dont let them go to another kids house and play at all. I wouldn't ever do that but hey if your that scared about games you should make the decision NOT SOMEONE ELSE!

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rgp_md

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The difficulty I face as a parent is that the kind of game I like to play (that I think is totally appropriate for an adult) is exactly the kind of game I'll not want my son to play (at least until he is in highschool or so). I love FPS but I think they really have a negative effect on children. How can I tell my child not to play a game though if I continue to play it? The answer is that I can't, so I'll be forced to change my gaming habits. Some things like MMORPG will gladly be removed (who has time anymore), others (like some FPS) will be sorely missed.

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Squids-Ahoy

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Parents recieving an incomplete; how fitting.

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Kravyn81

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Well at least this NIMF is stating that it's up to the PARENTS to accept responsibility for what their kids are playing.

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fahad2mail

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I think this is the responsibility for the parents to research what game they give to their child. Rating will greatly help them to decide what games are suitable for their child.

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cronos12

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@ Jazic I do believe it would be Logical Sense, referencing one's sense of logic. Logical since really doesn't make any sense... I, of course, do not believe that games make people stupid or violent. I think that it's completely up to parents to teach their kids what's wrong and right and to push them towards an education. I play video games in most of my spare time, and have been since the days of my commadore 64, and I think, if anything, it has given me a sharper intellect and a better adaptability to situations. If a kid is playing only FPS games and they're trying to figure out how to get a gun past the metal detector at their middle school, then I'd have to say that kid has more than just video games as an issue. Video games, just like rap music and violent movies, isn't the cause of problems, but could be a catalyst.

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fistcuffs

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It didn't seem fair to parents? They fail, they don't care, but get so upset when they find out little timmy is playing GTA. Which they baught for little Timmy! Limafoxrot has it right: M = R, I explained the system once, to my aunt, she's yet to get confused since.

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DoctorBunny

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This is america is it not. Parents have the choice to let their children play whatever they want. You know what. National Institute on Media and the Family, I am going to scold you. Now lets see gamespot post an article on scolding them for sticking their noses where they don't need to be. Trying to control peoples rights and freedoms to say and play what they want. If parents give their child permission to play, power to them. This is comming from an adult myself and no way effects me but I have a child myself. He is not old enough to play but he loves it to death watching my play gears of war. So, I rate you a F. A F for fudging shut up and worry about your own kids instead of the parents of america and how they raise theres. and that is my rant, I now expect this to be published :)

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limafoxtrot

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The biggest problem is parents focus on the word "game" and that these are toys. The education needs to happen that an M rated game = R rated movie. If more parent understood that there would be much less complaining. Few parents would let a 5th grader go to a R movie (unless they at least watched it first) - however after the movie they stop and the store and pick up the M rated games for their 5th grader. Parents need to be more involved and treat games like movies.

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Jazic

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@ Plays_4_Pants Uhh dude, ever heard of punctuation? Also, "make no logical sense"??? I hope your were joking when you wrote that... Its, "make any logical since". Nice name by the way, totaly legitimizes everything you said in your comment. --- I still fail to see why this is even in discussion anymore. The same point is made from every article I read on this subject, "Its up to the parents not the goverment or game publishers to control what children play". Personally I grew up playing violent games and I knew they were games. Horror movies scared the hell out of me and I had trouble sleeping sometimes but a gory video game had no impact on me at all... Of course thats not the case for everyone but in the end it will never make the sort of impact that was described in the article.

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sophospeare

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I'm glad the ESRB and ESA didn't resort to name calling or non-factual based counters to this report. What we need in this situation is level-headedness from both sides. By taking the high ground here and respectfully disagreeing, they show that reason will prevail in this situation. I don't think anyone here wants to put particulary violent games in the hands of minors, but the NIMFs and Jack Thompsons of the world will never understand that if you successfully ban something, you start a slipperly slope where a select minority get to choose whats right and wrong for us all. And last I checked, we weren't living in a dictatorship. Bottom line is, if kids act stupid after playing video games, you probably have a bad or neglectful parenting situation or you have a kid who needed help long before they picked up their first controller. The ESA and ESRB are right, the tools are there, parents just need to take advantage of them and the only way to do that is to become educated.

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esbshalo

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I think parents should educate their child on the levels of violence in media and gaming. Restricting them or forbidding them to have any exposure to violence is not right because they couldn't be prepared for a situation that involves violence, they can't recognize it. Games may have an effect, ESRB ratings are to guide parents and children but in the end, the parents have to teach their child, monitor them and tell them what is right and what is not. Remember, the more you keep someone from something, the greater the urge, so you have to let them have it and guide them while their at it.

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Plays_4_Pants

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I agree with the study simply by reading a vast majority of the replies to this article. Video games OBVIOUSLY make people idiots. about 70 of the 77 replies so far either aren't remotely grammatically correct or/and make no logical sense and are laughable.

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Lord_Bafford

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i was about to write freaking smart comment, but lost my thought when this stupid idiot here, interrupted me...

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Riverwolf007

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If we stop letting children have access to violent media where will the next generation of cannon fodder for any overseas adventure that will make rich politicians richer come from? Has anyone considered that? Stop for one moment and think about Dow chemical, is it right that their profits should fall just because we want to reduce violence? How will Halliburtin set up fast food chains in foreign country's if there is nobody to send there? Where will the rich members of the republican and democratic parties invest their money for maximum returns if there are no children using up bullets, tanks, planes, body armor and artificial limbs? Can you selfish bastards stop for a moment and think about the rich?

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FallenOneX

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The store has enough responsibilites following real laws. Parents have gotten lazy, plain and simple. Wheni was growing up, I knew kids that couldn't even play SMB, because the mushroom was "magic". I knew others that didn't get a nintendo until the set without the light gun was available. We may think those are stupid rules, but they were the parents, and it was their house. Now people want to just sue companies and blame everyone else when their kid F's up. I feel sorry for my daughter when she eventually goes to school. She might be the only one without an excuse for doing something stupid. All the other kids will get to blame it on games and TV.

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chevydriver1123

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Its the responsibilty of the parents to research the game to see if its good for their kid but the stores should have some responsibilties.

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lcboettcher

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So I am a parent of a 9 year old gamer. I let him play most of the games I buy for myself. We talk about the games, what they are about, the things he sees or doesn't understand. Am I to tell him he can't play a game of Halo due to violence, but tell him it's ok to watch a PG kids movie, Home Alone, about a kid who's parents leave him alone for a week and the kid gets to torture two burglers, things that would kill a person in real life? My son is top in his class, he is not obease, and is a great kid. I am sick of people blaming video games for childrens lack of interest in school, write you congress rep, put more money in schools, invest in their future. Quit spending all this time and money on studies that don't mean sh*t.

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o_sausage

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wow i have never been to a EB or gamestop that ill sell M rated games to minors unless you have it 100% pre-ordered and paid off b/c then it is leagally yours

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joba

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I agree that parents are falling behind with getting involved with the digital entertainment their children are requesting. A co-worker of mine has a 14 yr old son who recently received a X360. The coworker was asking me what I thought of a couple games for the console. Most were "M" rated. I made a point that these games aren't meant for her son's demographic. Yet, she purchased them anyway b/c he asked for them. She did not know anything about the ESRB ratings on the box. This type of parenting results in major "Catch 22's" if something negative were to arise due to the content of "M" rated digital entertainment.

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Hell_Dude

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It is the paretns foult not the industry's.Ok ,someone sold M game to a 10 year old ,but if parents would look what he's playing than thei should take that game away from him.

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princeofgames90

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I dont care i dont have this stupidity in my country

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snakenamedjoe

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NIMF leaves out a lot of important information. They make it look like video games are bad for children accross the board. The fact is, children who play video games are often brighter and more intelligent than those who don't because of the interaction and logical reasoning skills associated with the games. NIMF sites only results that children who do nothing but play video games 16 hours a day do worse in school while ignoring the fact that children who play moderate amounts of video games do significantly better than children who play no video games at all. As with everything in life, moderation is the key, but the approach that NIMF takes is that we should not drink water because if you drink 25 gallons of water a day you will die.

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KingofTrolls

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I DON'T LIKE TO READ BIG LONG WALLS OF TEXT SO I DIDN'T BOTHER READING THAT CRAP. Most parents don't have a clue what the hell their kids are playing anyways.

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Journey89

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the report card did point out some really good points. the game industry is trying to improve itself after the scandals FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK I SALUTE YOU!!!!

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cjcr_alexandru

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The game industry is improving in this behalf, so let's be patient.

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shibipocanibo

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Isn't it a problem that America is pretty obsessed with violence? The problem isn't just parents, it's everyone. Do I love the violence or the video game that is violent? Hmm. For you KingofTrolls.

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udmatador

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yes, parents really should teach their children about moderation. no matter how hard they say it is, there is no excuse for a child to have the ability to abuse something. weather its a video game, food, whatever.

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FilthyYamBag

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it's mostly the parents fault, and as you can see that's why they didn't grade them

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JediMasterJelin

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I suppose this isn't as bad as last year, but still... NIMF seems out to prove video games are bad instead of actually looking at the issues.

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boarding4ever

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Is what they do considered a job or a hobbie? because video games can also be considered a hobby. maybe they just spend too much time with this grading and have become exactly what they believe gamers who play a lot to be. THEY are the addicts. In the words of Jim Gaffigan "get a job, tub of $h!t"

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jimbo102671

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So the rating system has flaws. As Garfield the cat would say, "Big, Fat, Hairy Deal!" There is no realistic thing as perfection. Even the best game, the best movie, the best food, whatever, will have flaws. I personally don't see the flaws of the rating system deter from its intended purpose: Educate potential buyers (or parents thereof) so they can make an informed decision. Of course, the biggest flaw of any rating system (be it games, movies, whatever) is what can effectively be "the forbidden fruit syndrome" as people seeing a stern rating on an item will have their curiosity aroused to see what the hoopla is about.

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boarding4ever

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"Some of the most popular online community games practically demand an obsessive and time-consuming approach to play" Thats funny because work and sleep both require at least 7-8 hours a day. And they dont demand a lot of time, people just choose to invest a lot of time in them.

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BrideInDream

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my parents doesn't care which game i buy :)

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boarding4ever

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"children who spend less time playing video games each week, get better grades in school, are less likely to be overweight, are less aggressive, are more prosocial" I call shenanigans! Im not over weight, I have a 3.8 in high school and my grades had RISEN in middle school when i got my xbox. I have party's a lot and im probably the most laid back person you could meet. and a multitude of my gaming friends are 155 LB and lower. and my parents play the whole role in what i play. I control when i play and still get everything done. I'd like to see where their facts came from. probably the same place Bush gets his. off the back of a box of cheerios.

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Kfoss

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WHO CARES its all old news

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soundofspeet

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Now, if I can go to see Borat and see a bunch of 10-year-olds in the audience, the NIMF shouldn't have a problem with the 10-year-olds running rampant in Halo 2 on Xbox Live. I say it nearly every day. Why don't they start criticizing the crappy excuses for parenting in this country, and stop wasting money on trying to make video games a scapegoat. Uh, did you not read the article? That was nearly half of when they were criticizing. For once, I'm not disgusted by NIMF...they're actually trying to help. Like anyone else, they point fingers along the way, but at least they're giving praise and charging parents with wising up and being actual parents.

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hunter8man

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Ignore everything this group of ticked off soccer moms has to say. At least they are finally saying something about parents not paying attention to what their kids are playing. And once again, it's not the ESRB's fault that a lot of parents still don't know how to read that little sticker down in the corner.

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Iriseon

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It's just a recommendation by a special interest group to justify their funding by reporting the kitschy "report-card." I wouldn't be so quick to demonize them if I were you, fellow GameSpotters; the real danger is in Congress. CNN radio just played a soundbyte of Joe Lieberman addressing the study by the Radiological Society of North America, and the typical craven babbling and lachrymose mewling. Sen Clinton is not far behind. Beware.

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ObiKKa

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Good report about the correlation between playing video games & achieving grades at school, but their anti-video game bias is still stupid & lame.

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grandgundam3

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'The ESRB rating system has flaws?' Are you kidding?! If the game rating system has flaws, then the movie ratings should download a patch right about now, cause every single game rating (EC-AO) has a counterpart that everyone seems to recognize and no one has a problem with (G- NC-17). Now, if I can go to see Borat and see a bunch of 10-year-olds in the audience, the NIMF shouldn't have a problem with the 10-year-olds running rampant in Halo 2 on Xbox Live. Why don't they start criticizing the crappy excuses for parenting in this country, and stop wasting money on trying to make video games a scapegoat.

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comthitnuong

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i think the industry should care less about these grades...they wont hurt them because the customers arent really gonna change

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Fauij

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violent video games 4 life

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