Wednesday, November 29, 2006

MediaWise Video Game Report 2006

Correction: It seems that many of these initial reports were actually referring to LAST year's report, as THIS year's report is actually much harsher on parents than on many retailers. In the intro to the report, NIMF states:
This year we acknowledge the strides taken by both sectors of the industry. For example, the major retailers have made real progress in fulfilling their commitment to restrict the sale of mature-themed games. [...] This report suggests that the solutions to the problems presented by video games lie in eradicating ignorance on both the scientific-technical and the parental knowledge levels. Simply put, parents need to step up to the plate and the experts need to conduct more and better research. The research and anecdotal findings we already have portray the present rating system is broken and can't be fixed. Growing health crisis on multiple levels, each of which shows an important link to video games. [...] As the world of video games continues to evolve, parents are falling behind. As we found last year, this year’s parental survey uncovered an alarming gap between what kids say about the role of video games in their lives and what parents are willing to admit.

The report goes on to outline several areas of research in need of deeper study, as well as strategies for parents to assume more control over their kids video game consumption. Sounds a bit like my own thoughts below - apologies for the erroneous info, however, as I certainly jumped blindly onto the bandwagon on this one.

Original Post:
Joystiq and 1Up have both published sneak peaks of the centre-to-right-wing National Institute on Media and the Family's annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card, which will be released today. According to these sources, they give the video game industry an overall grade of "D+" and call it "beyond repair." Read the Joystiq coverage here and here. For the 1Up coverage, click here.
Why the National Institute on Media and the Family chooses to single out the titles it does remains a mystery. All of the games listed above already carry M-ratings, as do countless others not on the list. Wanna protect your kids? Just go with the rating on the box.
The report calls the ESRB's rating system "beyond repair," and questions why so few games receive an Adults Only (AO) rating. It is wise to read the report, even if you do not agree with it, because these are the kind of sentiments that mainstream media will pick up.

The selection of "blacklisted" games does seem pretty arbitrary, and I agree with Joystiq that the best way to ensure that kids aren't playing inappropriate games is to take the ESRB ratings seriously. Kids shouldn't be playing an M-rated game any more than they should be watching R-rated movies. The ratings themselves may need to be tweaked - and I definitely think that Canada should branch out on its own in this regard, seeing as American sensibilities are so divergent when it comes to violence and sexual content. On the other hand, I can also see the usefulness of a media watchdog providing parents with guidelines (assuming their priorities are in tune with those of the organization providing the advice). But the best first line of "defense" here really does seem to be parents taking on a greater role in their kids' media choices/allowances. I think that the best way to accomplish this, mandatory ESRB ratings aside, is media education for families...both kids AND that they can better understand the issues and research, and become better equipped to make well-informed media decisions, as a family.

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