The Electronic Software Association (ESA) sent out a poignant reminder Thursday in the wake of President Obama calling for a study on the effects of violent video games on kids and a congressman introducing legislation that would fine anyone caught selling “Mature”-rated games to minors that the games industry outperforms the movie and music industries when it comes to enforcing ratings.
Utah Congressman Joe Matheson (D) introduced a piece of legislation (H.R. 287) Tuesday called the “Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act” that would levy a fine of $5,000 on anyone selling “Mature”-rated games to anyone under the age of 17 and “Adult Only” games to anyone under the age of 18. The bill also requires that all games be shipped with an ESRB rating label displayed in a “clear and conspicuous location on the outside packaging.”
If you read that and said, “The ESRB and retailers already do this voluntarily,” you’d be right.
I contacted the ESA for a response to the Matheson’s proposed bill and was reminded of a 2011 “undercover shopper” survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission. The results of the latest survey in April of 2011 show the games industry far outperforming the movie and music industries when it comes to selling products intended for adults to underage kids.
In fact, the survey shows that the worst retailer when it comes to selling M-rated games to kids was Walmart at 20 percent. Four of the six retailers surveyed were at 10 percent or less, with the remaining one at 16. Only the theater chain American Multi-Cinema was able to perform better than the worst game retailer. R-rated movies and DVDs plus music CDs with “Explicit Content” ratings all saw failure rates in the 30s, 40, 50, 60s, and 70s when it came to sending a child trying to purchase something that they weren’t supposed to.
This of course begs the question of why is the game industry being singled out when it comes to violence in media. As I pointed out in a recent opinion piece and VGW’s Russell Jones mentioned in a recent Unlimited Ammo video podcast, games are still a relatively new medium. We’ve seen this same kind of focus on comic books, movies, and music before. The movie industry also gets the benefit of extremely deep pockets when it comes to funding the campaigns and supporting candidates for elections.
For those curious about the statement that the ESA released in response to the “Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act,” here it is in full:
“The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shares Representatives Matheson’s goal of ensuring parents maintain control over the entertainment enjoyed by their children. That is why we work with retailers and stakeholders to raise awareness about the proven Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) system, the parental controls available on every video game console, and the importance of parents monitoring what games their children play.”
“However, this type of legislation was already ruled unconstitutional and is a flawed approach. Empowering parents, not enacting unconstitutional legislation, is the best way to control the games children play.”