National Institute on Media and the Family Rates Game Sales Again

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The National Institute on Media and the Family has released its 12th Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card.
FI doesn't particularly agree with NIMF's agenda, which often seems to be willing to limit free speech to prevent children from accessing media NIMF considers inappropriate. That said, NIMF has recently focused more on parents' need to understand the video games their children play, the standpoint that FI believes is critical to ensuring that children only interact with entertainment their parents deem appropriate.

The full report card can be found at the NIMF site. NIMF still feels that research supports findings that video games negatively impact youths, a finding that is at best controversial, and probably erroneous (as most legal cases concerning the restriction of video game sales have not found this to be the case). NIMF objects to the use of video games such as Halo 2 by churches and libraries to engage patrons and wants a major revision in the way games are rated.

This edition of the Report Card included a poll that determined that 49% of kids 8-12 and 78% of teens have played an M-Rated game. FI doesn't think this is surprising or problematic, as long as those children's parents were aware of the content of the game. Fortunately, the poll found that four out of five parents had played games with their children.

Not surprisingly, 38% of parents have argued with their kids over the amount of time they spend playing video games. Again, this hardly seems like a surprising finding, as parents are often trying to diversify their children's activities. How many parents argue with their children over time spent watching TV?

For the above reasons, NIMF awarded parents a grade of "C" for their involvement in their children's gaming.

NIMF gave retailers a C- for their efforts to educate consumers on ESRB ratings. This grade is based on the fact that NIMF did not discover enough evidence of the ESRB's ubiquitous "OK to Play" campaign and that NIMF found nearly one-third of all stores did not have a system in place for educating consumers on ESRB ratings.

As before, NIMF had teens attempt to purchase M-rated games from 58 stores. 45% of these teens were able to purchase such games, although they were more likely to be able to do so from movie rental chains than from specialty game retail chains. Not surprisingly, NIMF found that eight-year olds typically couldn't purchase M-rated games, while teens could.

NIMF gave game retailers an overall grade of "C-," giving national retailers a "D," specialty stores a "B" and rental stores an "F."

One of NIMF's biggest beefs related to the rating system for the Entertainment Software Rating Board. NIMF felt that the ESRB ratings, particularly in light of the recent controversy over Manhunt 2 and its original AO rating, indicate that the ESRB's ratings aren't credible. The ESRB would argue that the original AO rating for Manhunt 2 is, rather, an indication of the robust nature of the ESRB ratings. NIMF argues that even if content has been covered (e.g. Manhunt 2's blurring), it should still be rated AO because small children might be able to hack into the code of the game and unlock inappropriate content. Despite the fact that such hacking is certainly against the user agreement and arguably illegal. Because of this, NIMF gave the ESRB rating system a "C+."

These ratings were substantially lower than last year's ratings, suggesting that NIMF was eager to forward a political agenda. To form an opinion about the report yourself, and see the full results of NIMF's poll, read the report.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board responded with a statement of its own. The ESRB's main point was that the "NIMF report card contradicts the recent Federal Trade Commission's findings." The ESRB is simply hanging its hat on the fact that the FTC report was more thorough and, in so many words, accused NIMF of muckraking.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 4, 2007 8:50 AM.

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