Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gaming Retailers Policing Sales Just Fine

Without the man hanging over their head, that is. In one of the few pieces of news that makes me giggle with delight, the FTC conducted their yearly check on who's been enforcing R/M rated material and who hasn't. And guess what? Gaming retailers did the best job.

Basically this is a breakdown of how it works. The FTC has a random sample of children aged 13-16, paid of course, and sets them loose in a few cities to attempt to buy M rated games, tickets to R rated movies, and purchase Adult Advisory music CD's. The gaming retailers at GameStop, Toys R'Us, and Target only sold M rated games to 13% of those who attempted to purchase the items. It's a sharp decrease over the past decade. Mostly because the majority retailers have a policy that if you're caught selling an M rated game to anyone under 17, you can, and most likely will, be terminated from the job (speaking as someone who has worked in the business).

When compared to R rated movie tickets (38%), R rated DVD's (33%), and music with the Parental Advisory Label (whopping 64%), gaming is doing pretty well at keeping themselves monitored.

It's interesting how the stereotype of gaming employees goes right out the window with this study. While I can't speak for every retailer, I know that at certain locations, even though I'm 27 and clearly look like an adult, I'm always carded if I'm purchasing an M rated title. The ESRB has been steady in their enforcement of their rating system and has been working well with retailers to ensure that the system stays in place. Otherwise we'll have the government step in and have some "wonderful" repeats of our media history hit video games.

To be clear, this was focused on children purchasing games directly from the retailer by themselves. No adults were involved in the purchase. Makes me wonder where kids are getting the M games, mom and dad and grandma and grandpa and cousin Mike and uncle Jim. >.>

Story time! Back in the before time, the long long ago, I received a call from a woman complaining left and right about an employee not selling her a video game and her 7 year old son was crying for it. I asked the title of the game. It was Gears of War. Because I was required to ask, I needed to know if she intended on buying that game for her child. Of course, she said yes. To which I politely informed her that Gears of War is an incredibly violent video game. Not just all of the shooting, massive amounts of blood and body parts and intestines rolling about, and the disgusting aliens, but you can use a chainsaw on your gun and hack someone to death right in front of you, with blood and guts and heads splashing all over the screen. While cool to me, not so cool to a 7 year old. Knowing this! and being informed by the employee and myself, she still wanted to buy the game for her child

I realize I don't have the best moral compass for media (I grew up watching Apocalypse Now), but that was one case where I had to say no. You're not filling a complaint against the store and you're not going to be purchasing that game for your son. The one fallback, awesome rule that we had at this place was that employees had the right to refuse service if they felt an inappropriate game was going to be given to a child.

Of course she yelled and screamed that she was going to buy it at Wal-Mart. A few days later I overheard a co-worker taking a call and, very clearly on the other end of the line screaming as if she were dying, was the woman who wanted to by Gears. She apparently went to another store, same company, without her child and said it was a gift to her husband. Why did she call to complain? She claims that no one informed her how violent the content was.-_-

This is one way children get M rated games. The retailers are clearly doing everything within their power to police the content being purchased by those under the age of 17. Stores are not there to parent children. It's up to the adults in that child's life to do the rest.

/end rant

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