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Video Game Report Card points fingers at game industry

National Institute on Media and the Family says game ratings are ineffective; ESRB begs to differ.


For the ninth year in a row, the National Institute on Media and the Family released its MediaWise Video Game Report Card. Self-described as "a snapshot of the interactive gaming industry with a focus on issues related to the welfare of children and teens," this year's report was disseminated at a press conference held on Capitol Hill.

Surprising no one who has followed the group's annual trek inside the Beltway, the report was an indictment of game industry practices, especially in the areas of ratings and content. The report contends that ratings are confusing and that the video game industry's use of ratings is insincere.

"Parents get a constant stream of mixed messages about video games. On the one hand, they are told by the industry to pay attention to the ratings. On the other hand, the industry denies that any of these games are harmful. So what parents hear is 'Pay attention to the ratings, but it really doesn't matter if you do.'"

Regarding content, the report goes on to reveal that, "It's not that every teen who plays an ultraviolent game is going to go out and pick up an Uzi. The real impact is more subtle."

The result of that subtle impact? "The worst effect of M-rated games is the culture of disrespect they create. Whoever tells the stories defines the culture. What do we think the effect is when our kids' storytellers are violence simulators that glorify gang culture, celebrate brutality, lionize crudeness, and trivialize violence toward women."

In response, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the group that carries out the rating of games on behalf of the industry, retailers, and consumers, issued a statement shortly after the NIMF press conference.

ESRB president Patricia Vance said, "The National Institute on Media and the Family report card does a grave disservice to America’s parents by suggesting that they cannot trust ESRB ratings. The fact is that a new comprehensive study conducted on the reliability of the video game rating system found that parents agree with ESRB 83 percent of the time."

"If NIMF were forthcoming," Vance continued, "it would acknowledge that its own ratings are in sync with ESRB’s virtually all of the time."

Not too surprisingly, games that qualify for the "Parent Alert!" designation (all M-rated) are:

Doom 3 - M
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - M
Half-Life 2 - M
Halo 2 - M
Resident Evil: Outbreak - M
Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy - M
The Guy Game - M
Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude - M
Mortal Kombat Deception - M
Rumble Roses - M

Recommended games for children and teens are:
Pikmin 2 - E
Sly 2: Band of Thieves - E
Karaoke Revolution: Volume 3 - E
Madden NFL 2005 - E
Jak 3 - T
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time - T
Myst IV: Revelation - T
RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 - E
SimCity 4 - E

The full text of the NIMF and ESRB statements can be found online at each group's respective Web site.

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