The National Institute on Media and the Family has issues its 11th Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card analyzing the state of the video game industry from the perspective of parents, families, and controlling content available to children. After a disastrous report in 2005, which saw the industry given scathing reviews following the undisclosed explicit sexual content revealed by the “Hot Coffee” modification to Take 2 Games’ Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the report finds that things are generally looking up for the industry. Overall, MediaWise finds that retailers are doing a better job enforcing age restrictions associated with game ratings, and finds that increased parental controls present in next-generation game consoles are doing a better job of letting parents monitor and control gaming content accessible to their children.
The report generally finds that mass retailers are going a better job of enforcing age restrictions on video game titles than boutique dealers and small shops: while most major retailers did a good job enforcing age restrictions associated with a game’s ratings, kids were more likely to be able to set hands on “rated M” or adult-only games from small shops and specialty stores. Big retailers get a “A” for their efforts in 2006; speciality shops get an “F.” Overall, retailers got a “B” for at least having polices in place which, on paper, prevent teens and minors from purchasing M-rated games.
The three major console manufacturers—Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo—all got “A’s” for including parental control capabilities in their latest console systems (the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3, and the Nintendo Wii). “Considering that only a few years ago such parental controls were unthinkable, this is amazing progress,” says MediaWise. “The manufacturers of video game systems deserve praise for their efforts to make it easier for parents to protect their kids.”
The report card lists a new category this year—parental involvement—and issued a grade of “incomplete.” Although the report card feels parents could be doing a better job of protecting kids from inappropriate content, it admits they’re subject to mixed messages: on one hand, the industry advises them to follow the game ratings system to steer kids clear of inappropriate content, while at the same time denying video games can any any deleterious impact on children. MediaWise feels parents could do better, but puts at least part of that failure on the industry.