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Parents TV Council criticizes 'abysmal' ESRB retail compliance

The Parents Television Council has issued a PTC Alert this week based on a secret shopper ‘sting operation,' meant to verify retailer compliance with ESRB ratings. Secret shoppers aged 12 - 16 were sent to 109 stores in 11 states where they attempted to buy ‘M’ rated games (for ages 17+) without adult escort. The PTC was not happy with the results. Citing that 21 of the venues (~19%) were willing to sell ‘M’ rated gamesto minors, the PTC has accused retailers of ‘abysmal’ compliance with ESRB standards despite the improvement of over 35% non-enforcement from 2008.

Above: PTC findings table

Alternately a Federal Trade Commission study from 2009 also found a roughly 20% ESRB non-compliance ratio among retailers, but noted that video games still outpace other entertainment mediums in self-regulation.

Above: FTC findings table

This 'study' comes less than a week before the Supreme Court hears arguments for the Schwarzenegger v. EMA suit torule onthe infamous California Video Game Law, which will determine whether or notminors will be legally allowed to purchase certain violent video games.

"The industry’s PR spin about how ratings empower parents is specious if unaccompanied minors are able to purchase adult-rated games," said PTC president Tim Winter in a statement. "Parents deserve to be assured that reasonable age restrictions for adult entertainment products will be enforced at the retail level. California law that would simply put consequences in place for retailers who sell exceedingly violent games to minors has been fought tooth and nail by the gaming industry and will come before the U.S. Supreme Court in a matter of days. We urge the Court to uphold the California law and heed the calls of concerned parents by requiring retailers to check IDs."

ESRB’s Director of Communication, Eliot Mizrachi, sees things quite differently: “Altogether, retailers’ rate of restriction for Mature-rated games is the highest of any entertainment product tested by the Federal Trade Commission, including DVDs, CDs and admittance to R-rated films in theaters. Putting aside their questionable methodology – which precludes their studies from being compared to those commissioned by the FTC - the Parent Television Council’s mystery shopper results actually reveal significant improvement despite their efforts to disguise that fact."

Yet again, we urge you to read up on Schwarzenegger v. EMA to better understand how it could affect our freedom to produce andplay games (see theVideo Game Voters Network's angle, for starters).


Oct 28, 2010