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Some Retailers Ignore Video Game Ratings

The Parents Television Council announced the results of its latest survey, which collected data about the extent to which some U.S. retailers prevent unaccompanied minors from buying ESRB Mature-rated (ages 17+) video games.

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Edited press release follows:

PTC Secret Shopper Campaign Reveals Retailers Are Still Selling Mature-Rated Video Games to Minors

Failure Rates Are Better, but Not Good

LOS ANGELES (October 26, 2010) – The Parents Television Council™ released the results of its latest Secret Shopper Campaign, which revealed that video game retailers sold Mature-rated games to minors 19 percent of the time, only a slight improvement over the 20 percent failure rate reported by the Federal Trade Commission in 2008. With the U.S. Supreme Court slated to take up the issue of violent video games on November 2, PTC is urging the Court to act on the concerns of parents and recognize that this rate of failure remains wholly unacceptable.

During the course of the campaign, youths between the ages of 12 and 16 visited 109 stores in 14 states. Twenty-one stores sold Mature-rated games to minors. GameStop and Toys “R” Us were in full compliance with the video game retail guidelines 100 percent of the time. K-Mart and Sears had an abysmal 62 percent failure rate.

“Our research shows that nearly one out of every five underage children in America is still able to purchase a Mature-rated video game from a retailer. This failure rate, while not as bad as prior years, demonstrates the continued reluctance or refusal of some retailers to serve the needs of parents. 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.

“Parents deserve to be assured that reasonable age restrictions for adult entertainment products will be enforced at the retail level. A 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.

“We applaud Toys ‘R’ Us for their perfect score; and we appreciate the strides taken at Target. But it is the sales policies adopted by GameStop which continue to be the gold standard, and similar policies should be implemented by all video game retailers as an industry best practice.

“Studies show that repeated exposure to graphic sexual, violent and profanity-laced video games has a harmful and long-term effect on children. Many parents don’t even realize the depravity of numerous games that carry Mature ratings.

“We encourage the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold the California measure currently pending before the Court so that unaccompanied minor children are prevented from purchasing adult entertainment products like these Mature games,” Winter concluded.

The Parents Television Council™ (®) is a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. It was founded in 1995 to ensure that children are not constantly assaulted by sex, violence and profanity on television and in other media. This national grassroots organization has more than 1.3 million members across the United States, and works with television producers, broadcasters, networks and sponsors in an effort to stem the flow of harmful and negative messages targeted to children. The PTC also works with elected and appointed government officials to enforce broadcast decency standards. Most importantly, the PTC produces critical research and publications documenting the dramatic increase in sex, violence and profanity in entertainment. This information is provided free of charge so parents can make informed viewing choices for their own families.