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FTC: Games better regulated than music, movies

The video game industry is often accused of marketing overly violent games to children. But how does the industry stack up when compared to other mainstream media, such as movies and music? A new study (PDF format) released by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attempts to answer this question, and the results—while mixed—look pretty good for the gaming industry. 苏州美睫美甲

The report looks at the structure and operations of each industry's self-regulation programs, such as the ESRB for video games. It also examines how much each industry intentionally markets its "adult" or "mature" products to children. Its most dramatic study involves a "mystery" child shopper who entered a random selection of stores and attempted to purchase movies, music, and video games that had ratings prohibiting retailers from selling said items directly to children.

All three industries were found to be in compliance "for the most part" with self-imposed regulations prohibiting advertising adult products on television shows and magazines aimed at the teenage and younger markets. However, the FTC had harsher criticisms for Internet advertising, which it called "an increasingly important medium that reaches millions of children each day." While the report cited many examples of movies, music, and games advertised on youth-oriented sites, it noted that of all three industries, only gaming has rules that restrict such advertising. The gaming industry's rules state that ads for adult games cannot appear on sites where more than 45 percent of visitors are under 17. The report supports strengthening these regulations, and suggests that the movie and music industries should adopt them as well.

As far as the "mystery shopper" test goes, the report indicates that the video game industry has made the most progress in enforcing the existing rules at retail. The rate at which underage shoppers could buy M-rated games dropped nearly in half from to 40 percent from the previous report, which was issued in the year 2000. This figure is just three percent higher than the number of kids who could get into R-rated movies, and far less than the 70-80 percent who were able to successfully purchase R-rated DVDs and music CDs with explicit content.

Organizations such as the Entertainment Software Association are pleased with the FTC's results, calling them a vindication for their industry. "We're pleased that the FTC has acknowledged what we in the industry have long-known: the best way to help parents are industry-led, self-regulatory efforts that can provide them information they need," said Carolyn Rauch, senior vice president of the ESA.