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Ultraviolent Video Games Too Accessible for Kids

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WebMD Health News

Jan. 25, 2001 (Washington) -- What's the good of standards, if they aren't enforced? Video games are now age-ranked according to their content under a voluntary industry system, but those ratings are rarely enforced in stores, according to a report released Thursday.

In its fifth annual report card on video and computer games, the National Institute on Media and the Family gave ratings enforcement a D+. The report noted that "sting operations" with children aged 7-14 have found that most retail chain stores allow youths to purchase even those games that are rated "M" as suitable only for persons 17 and older. According to the report, only Target and Funcoland were enforcing policies to prevent the sale of violent-rated games to youngsters.

For the release of the report on Capitol Hill, organizers played a video depicting some current games, including the M-rated Activision game "Soldier of Fortune," which allows players to realistically blow opponents' heads off with guns and dismember dead bodies. Industry observers say that these already high-tech games are only going to get more realistic.

The report gave the industry grades of C on educating parents about its rating system and for its marketing/advertising practices. And it emphasized that the game industry had been responsive to earlier recommendations to improve its education and marketing efforts.

In a statement, the Interactive Digital Software Association, which represents game makers, said, "We are constantly exploring additional steps that can be taken both to educate parents about the ratings system and to develop new guidelines to restrict advertising that inappropriately targets kids."

Daphne White, executive director of the Lion and Lamb Project, a group that opposes the marketing of violence to kids, tells WebMD, "I applaud the report, but I might have been a little tougher." She and the institute support a single, independently controlled rating system that would cover TV, video games, and movies.

According to White, "The video game industry has taken some toddler steps, but it is young, and there is a lot of room for it to be more responsible. Things have improved in that there is a rating system, and the software industry has started an advertisement review board, so I think the ads have been toned down somewhat."

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