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Wednesday November 29, 2006 11:40 am

Video Game Report Card: Games To Avoid

Institute LogoThe National Institute on Media and the Family annually releases a Video Game Report Card that rates the industry on violence in video games as well as how well publishers and retailers are policing themselves. ABC News reports on the latest release from the organization. They don’t have the official industry report card listed, but do have a list of recommended games as well as a list of games that are deemed inappropriate for teens and children. It will come as no shock that every game on the “inappropriate” list is rated “M,” including Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories for the PSP, Saint’s Row for the Xbox 360, and Mortal Kombat: Unchained. It seems odd to single out those particular games from the list of “M” rated titles; if the industry is doing its job, an “M” designation should at least be a warning flag for parents purchasing game titles for teens and children.

On the flip side, four of the ten “recommended” games are Nintendo exclusive titles, including Mario Hoops 3 on 3, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis, and Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, and Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz for the Wii. Other titles include LocoRoco for the PSP, and the latest Lego Star Wars for multiple platforms. While the list of software titles may help the average parent, more interesting should be the actual report card scores determining how the industry has done in the past year, particularly with the new education and enforcement efforts being made by the ESRB.

Update: The Institute has now published their full report. Overall, the NIMF seems to be stumping for the same issues they have targeted over the years: video game ratings, parental involvement, the impact of violent games on children, and increasing obesity.

Further analysis after the jump.

Read More | National Institute On Media And The Family

There was a different focus on this year’s report card. While last year’s focus was on the accuracy of the ESRB’s ratings and enforcement, this year seemed to target parental involvement a lot more. Rating accuracy dropped off the report card, perhaps due to the ESRB working more closely with the NIMF to improve the rating system.

Enforcement this year was split; large “big box” retailers like Best Buy and Target aced the test, and specialty retailers failed miserably. Ratings education and policies generally did better this year over last.

Arcade games were targeted last year; this year focused on the next generation consoles. All of the new consoles support parental restrictions based on ESRB ratings, so all console makers got an A this year.

While it is hard to argue with the successes and failures of retailers in enforcing sales policies for “M” rated games, some of the other conclusions in the report seem suspect. Childhood obesity seems to becoming a bigger problem, but laying the entire blame on the video game culture may be a bit harsh. The data correlates, but correlation is not the same as causation. There are many, many factors contributing to the growing waistlines of all Americans, not just the youth. The NIMF also reiterates previous studies linking violent video games to aggression in video game players, but for every study that claims to establish a link, another appears to disprove that conclusion.

The NIMF claims that there is a difference between what parents say they do and what children say their parents do. This hardly seems like a huge revelation, but when the NIMF had to decide which group was more accurate in their assessment, they chose the children. However, it seems like the truth doesn’t lie with one group or another, but somewhere in between. Overall, one can’t really argue about the core theme of this year’s report; parents do need to be more involved with their child’s video game playing. Along the way, however, it seems like there are some flimsy statements used to support their conclusions.

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