US Report: Violent video games under fire

Violent video games found themselves in the crosshairs this week, when two US Senators took aim at the industry's escalation of blood and bashing in computer games.

"Killing and carnage is not enough any more," said Senator. Joe Lieberman, at an event in Washington D.C. "To torture and maim is often the name of these games now." Along with Senator Herbert Kohl, Lieberman unveiled the results of the annual Video and Computer Game Report Card published by the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF).

While giving the industry an 'A' for putting ratings on games, the survey gave stores a 'D' for their lack of enforcement of those ratings. In addition, the report flunked online advertising and marketing for being both unrated and, in many cases, more in-your-face than magazine ads.

The senators also accused the industry of foul play, tobacco-style. "There is evidence that some game-makers are targeting their marketing of adult-rated games directly at kids, suggesting that Joe Camel has gone digital," said Lieberman in a statement.

Some examples: Sports Illustrated for Kids had an advertisement for Resident Evil 2, and an ad for Carmeggedon sported the motto, "As easy as killing babies with axes."

"As parents, let's not let some of the video and computer game manufacturers get away with what the tobacco industry got away with for decades," said David Walsh, president of the NIMF. Senator Lieberman also connected video game violence with the previous year's schoolyard shootings. "I am not saying that violent games are to blame for these terrible tragedies," he said, "but as I have said before, these games and their awful ads are part of the toxic culture of violence that is enveloping our children."

The report pointed the finger at retailers as well, finding that only one-in-10 stores actually try to educate customers about the rating system. The primary voice for the industry, the Interactive Digital Software Association (IDSA), responded quickly. "The repeated, annual ritual of focusing on the tiny minority of games and, this year, ads with violent content creates a distorted view of our industry," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the association.

By the IDSA's accounting, almost two-thirds of video gamers are adults and less than 10 percent of games published have the mature rating. The Video Game Report Card is released every year as computer game stores ready themselves for the frantic Christmas season. According to a survey by the IDSA, more than one out of two kids and one of every four adults said interactive games are featured on their holiday wish lists.

The survey found that almost seven out of 10 families own or rent electronic games, and kids typically spend seven hours a week playing them.

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