If Your Kid's Playing M-Rated Games, You Can't Blame The Retailer
from the ESRB:-thinking-about-the-children-since-1994 dept
The nationwide discussion revolving around violent video games and what’s to be done with them continues without any signs of abating. The usual handwringers (both professional and amateur) continue to express their dismay that games with guns and shooters are being sold to the youth of America, leading us into a future of non-stop mass shootings and Grand Theft Auto-inspired bursts of nihilistic violence.
The concerned cries of “won’t someone think of the children” will likely never subside, at least not as long as video games are perceived to be kid-only distractions. (Note to Nintendo: you’re really not helping out with this misconception.) The moral panicists paint a bleak picture in which hypothetical 10-year-olds are walking out of Wal-Mart with newly purchased copies of Murder Simulator 5000 and disappearing into their darkened bedrooms, only to emerge moments later armed to the teeth and greatly overestimating their hit points.
It’s a terrible future, and one we should all be prepared for. If only it were true.
You see, the proverbial 10-year-old rolling out of a retail outlet with an M-rated game would now be 23 and perfectly capable of purchasing his or her own M-rated games. Every year, the FTC audits retailers and movie theaters with an army of underaged secret shoppers. And every year, these numbers improve.
Thirteen years ago (2000) was the low point: 85% of minors were able to purchase an M-rated game. As of last year, that number was in the low teens.
Only 13 percent of underage shoppers were able to purchase M-rated video games, while a historic low of 24 percent were able to purchase tickets to R-rated movies. In addition, for the first time since the FTC began its mystery shop program in 2000, music CD retailers turned away more than half of the undercover shoppers. Movie DVD retailers also demonstrated steady improvement, permitting less than one-third of child shoppers to purchase R-rated DVDs and unrated DVDs of movies that had been rated R for theaters.
Not only has this number improved dramatically over the last decade, but it’s done it voluntarily. The ESRB sets the ratings and retailers enforce it, all without the threat of fines or legal action. So, if these 10-year-olds are shooting each other in the face with fake guns made of pixels, they’re doing it without much assistance from retailers.
And, as stated above, retailers aren’t just keeping video games from falling into the wrong hands. Other “destructive” influences like violent movies and sweary rock/rap/bluegrass are also being kept away from impressionable teenage minds — at least by retailers.
So, while the debate will rage on and the fingers will be pointed (but, good lord, not in a gun-like fashion), those who wish to regulate the sale of “violent media” will have to look elsewhere to find a villain willingly supplying the Youth of America with evil playthings. And every year this number remains low is another victory for systems of voluntary compliance and a swift kick in the forebrain for those who believe nothing can be achieved without legislation.