The non-profit National Institute on Media and the Family organization has released its Tenth Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card, in which the group highlighted what it sees as serious issues with the ratings system and lack of parental involvement, but also commended the responsible retailers and game console makers.
David Walsh, Ph.D., president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family, presented the 10th Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card and was joined by Senator Joe Lieberman to unveil the report card. The duo also announced that the Institute will convene a Ratings Summit in 2006 to be held with leading parent, health and child welfare groups, and is also calling for an Independent Universal Ratings System to replace the ESRB.
Dr. Walsh, whose organization was significantly active
in the controversy over Grand Theft Auto
's 'Hot Coffee' mod, and more recently disassociated itelf
from anti-game lawyer Jack Thompson, commented of the results: "There has been significant industry progress and reforms over the last decade, but ever more violent and sadistic games are still ending up in the hands of children. We feel the ESRB, which is owned and operated by the video game industry, needs to be overhauled. Retailers need to stop selling violent video games to children, and lead all entertainment sectors by embracing a universal independent ratings system."
Based on studies of retail enforcement, the Institute found that retailers were actually more lenient in their selling practices this year compared to last year's results
. According to the survey, boys as young as 9 were able to buy M-rated video games 42 percent of the time and girls were able to purchase M-rated games 46 percent of the time. Last year, girls were only able to purchase games 8 percent of the time. However, one exception is Best Buy Corporation, which implemented its policy in 2005 and scored a perfect 100 percent in clerk enforcement in what the Institute described as its 'sting efforts'.
The Institute also reinforced that "parents and children are on different planets when it comes to what parents think their children are playing, and the games they are actually playing", and announced that it will renew and expand its "Watch What Your Kids Watch" PSA campaign in 2006.
Trends for the next 10 years of video games were also examined, with the Institute claiming: "Increasingly, it seems that the average gamer is getting heavier", and also noting: "Although the Institute was initially very skeptical about whether computers and video games were "addicting" to some individuals, there is now scientific evidence that the concept has validity". On the plus side, the Institute praised the incorporation of parental controls and family settings into next-generation consoles, announced earlier this week, and also pointed out the proliferation of "games that teach learning skills, make exercising fun, train professionals, and offer fun, safe and engaging entertainment."
Finally, the Institute listed its 'Parent Alert' and recommended games for children as follows:
NIMF 'Parent Alert!' games (all M rated except T-rated Urban Reign
1. Far Cry
3. The Warriors
4. Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse
5. True Crime: New York City
6. Blitz: The League
7. Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
8. God of War
9. Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil
10. Urban Reign
11. Conker: Live and Reloaded
12. Resident Evil 4
NIMF Recommended games for children/teens (E/E10+ rated, except Narnia
's T rating):
1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2. The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer
3. Peter Jackson's King Kong
4. Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
5. The Chronicles of Narnia:
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
6. Sly 3: Honor Amongst Thieves
7. We Love Katamari
8. Sid Meier's Pirates!
9. Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix 3
10. Backyard Baseball 2005