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Arcades get failing grade on monitoring graphic games

arcade December 5, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 p.m. EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Video games can be brutally violent, to the point that parents worry the games will permanently warp their children's minds. For that reason, millions of parents use video ratings systems to keep questionable games out of the home.

However, according to a report released by the National Institute on Media and the Family, parents' best efforts to keep adult materials away from their children are being undermined by local arcades which fail to enforce hands-off policies for young children.

Doom

It is no surprise that sex and violence are leading features in the $15 billion video game market, since that's exactly what kids say they want -- as one child put it, "Yeah, the blood, the action, the sounds, the finishing moves, the characters, everything, the weapons."

And even with widespread use of new ratings systems that tell parents how much blood and gore is in a particular game, games featuring grotesque murders and bloody battles are still the best sellers. movie icon (1.4MB/36 sec. QuickTime movie)

But the institute's Second Annual Video Game Report Card says that where parents get an "A" for responsible monitoring, arcades get a "D."

Walsh

"I saw kids -- 8, 9, ten years old -- playing some extremely violent games," said Dr. David Walsh of the institute. "We're calling upon the arcade industry to kind of take a look at their practices."

While arcade operators got the worst notices, retail and rental outlets were also criticized, because employees frequently didn't give out rating information, or gave misleading instructions.

For example, at E-Land in Atlanta, employees follow rating guidelines, but don't restrict use of unrated games. "We don't look at this child and say, 'No, you can't have this game because it is too violent.' That's not our place," said one employee.

The informal survey was based on telephone interviews and spot checks of roughly 90 arcades, rental stores and retailers. The stores were not identified but were in Dallas, New York, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Atlanta, San Francisco and Chicago.

The report card also included the so-called "Dirty Dozen," described as the most dangerous and anti-social games. Many are favorites among children.

"The ones we rate badly, the ones that we're saying to parents are dangerous, they reward the kids who are playing the games for successfully completing violent acts," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Connecticut, explained.

Home computer games can be even more disturbing. Lieberman showed a game in which the winning creature actually urinates over the body of its victim.

Critics say that parents can't duck this issue, and software makers say they've done their part, by making it convenient to find out how graphic a game is. Almost all new video and computer games now carry ratings, compared with only 80 percent last year.

Correspondent Leon Harris and Reuters contributed to this report.

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