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FTC: Video game industry did better than movies and music at shielding kids from violent content

December 3, 2009 |  3:15 pm

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission today issued its report on how well the entertainment media enforces its voluntary ratings for violent or explicit content.

The results: Seven out of 10 underage "mystery shoppers" were able to buy music with parental advisory warnings at stores, while half were able to get their hands on R-rated movies. In addition, three out of 10 were sold tickets to R-rated films at theaters.

Games were a different story. Only two out of 10 underage shoppers were successful when they tried to buy Mature games.

After being the government's poster child for media violence for years, the game industry in recent years began to crack down on underage access to violent games. It worked with retailers, putting up signs in stores about game ratings and developing automatic systems at the cash register prompting clerks to request photo IDs before selling M-rated titles.

Those efforts were rewarded with uncharacteristic praise in the FTC report, which said: "Of the three entertainment sectors, the electronic game industry continues to have the strongest self-regulatory code."

When it comes to marketing violent content to kids, however, all three sectors got dinged.

"Companies in the entertainment industry routinely undercut their own rating restrictions by target marketing violent films, records, and video games to young audiences," chided FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky.

The FTC also flashed a warning signal specifically aimed at the game industry: Online games and game gift cards are potential loopholes that need monitoring. That's because online games aren't systematically rated, so parents don't have an easy way to see whether the content is appropriate. Gift cards allow kids to buy and play games online, where there aren't any store clerks verifying age.

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.