The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has
released the results
of a survey that shows that retailers are doing better than in years past to stop selling “Mature”-rated games to minors — though the government agency said that retailers still need to do a better job.
Video games sold in the United States often carry a ratings stamp and descriptor of contents created by the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB). The rating system has been put in place by the video and computer game industry, much in the same way that movies shown in theaters across the United States are rated. And “M” rated games typically feature violence, language or adult situations that the ESRB has deemed are best suited for players 17 years of age or older.
Room for improvement
The FTC performed “undercover shops” of electronic and video game stores around the country between October 2005 and January 2006. It’s the fourth such operation the federal agency has conducted since it started collecting data on Mature-rated game sales to minors in 2000. The study was conducted in 406 stores in 43 states. Three hundred and six of the stores were part of national retail chains; the other 100 were regional or local resellers.
The FTC concluded that 42 percent of the time, underage shoppers were able to buy M-rated games — that compares to 85 percent in 2000 and 69 percent in 2003. Forty-four percent of the time, the store provided clearly visible information about ratings or ratings enforcement — that’s up from 12 percent in 2000 and 27 percent in 2003. And half the time, the cashier or sales clerk asked the minor’s age before conducting a sale of M-rated games — again, up from 2000, when salespeople only asked 15 percent of the time, and 24 percent in 2003.
There’s apparently a broad disparity between ratings enforcement by national resellers and local or regional resellers. The FTC reported that underage buyers could only purchase M-rated games 35 percent of the time at national chains, while local or region shops sold M-rated games to minors 63 percent of the time. There was a similar disconnect between national and local or regional stores concerning posted ratings information and age checks by sales clerks.