IEMA responds to video game report card
Video games are the work of evil?
Reacting to the NIMF press conference this morning the IEMA issued the following statement which may be attributed to Hal Halpin, president:
It is our belief that it is premature to judge the effectiveness of new and not yet fully-implemented industry self-regulation due to the timing of the research in question. The industry's leading retailers of computer and video games made a substantial and tangible commitment last December (2003) to begin or otherwise re-double their individual and collective efforts in inhibiting the sale of Mature-rated games to minors by this coming December (2004). Performing "sting operations" earlier than that date is divisive, intentionally contrarian, and ultimately renders the data statistically-irrelevant. Questioning the retailer's commitment to programs which are just being rolled-out is fruitless in that they haven't been given a fair opportunity to implement these policies.
It is important to mention that IEMA members chose December in which to have all of their new or newly-improved policies and procedures in place because it is December and January in which children have the necessary discretionary income with which to make these $50 per item purchases. While it is true that the "holiday buying season" starts earlier than December, it is not children who are out buying themselves Christmas presents in October and then waiting until December 25th to enjoy them, it is their parents. These retailers are in locations which require adult transportation and the amount of money needed to make the purchase is more significant than is readily-available to a child before the holidays.
As we pointed out last year, the IEMA carding announcement was made in the spirit of cooperation and because our members believe that they have a social responsibility to work with our consumers and parents. Retailers have made significant investments in educating parents and their own staffs about the ratings system, and have, through this commitment changed the very nature of the business and the way in which people purchase one of the fastest-growing forms of entertainment. We stated that it would take twelve months to change policies and procedures in thousands of stores and educate many times that clerks, staff, and managers - all which too is an incredible voluntary investment in time and money.
It is our belief that it is quite simply too early to assign a grade to the retailer's enforcement policies, but that if a grade need be assigned out of habitual ritual nothing less than an "A" is worthy of their collective efforts over the past eleven months.
Here is the entire press release document released today by the collective groups mentioned above:
Warning for Parents and Grandparents
GROUPS: 10 MOST VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES SHOULD NOT BE ON HOLIDAY SHOPPING LISTS FOR CHILDREN, RETAILERS & INDUSTRY URGED TO CLEAN UP SALES, RATINGS
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Halo 2 Highlighted As Off Limits for Young Children; Unwary Adult Shoppers Not Aided by Weak, Poorly Promoted Rating System and Confusing Ads.
NEW YORK CITY//November 23, 2004//Five leading parent, church and womens groups along with New York City Council Member Eric Gioia today issued a 10 worst violent video game list in the hopes of alerting unwary parents and grandparents to the blood-soaked and anti-social content of the games that might otherwise be purchased as holiday gifts for children. In a joint statement, the groups also urged retailers to stop selling the inappropriate games directly to children and called on the industry to come up with an improved and more widely promoted game rating system that parents can understand.
The five groups -- the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), the National Committee on Women's Organizations, Mothers Against Violence in America, Center for Advancement of Public Policy, Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ and NYC Council Member Eric Gioia - highlighted 10 video games as the worst in terms of violence (in alphabetical order): (1) Doom 3; (2) Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas; (3) Gunslinger Girls 2; (4) Half Life 2; (5) Halo 2; (6) Hitman: Blood Money (releases in 2005); (7) Manhunt; (8) Mortal Combat: Deception; (9) Postal 2; and (10) Shadow Heart. The list of problem games also extends to all earlier versions of the problem games, such as the Grand Theft Auto series and Hit Man series. The groups also voiced their concerns about a free, Web-based game Americas Army, which is used to promote enlistment in the U.S. Army, but is accessible to the youngest of children. [BREAK]
Sister Pat Wolf, executive director, ICCR, said: To parents and grandparents faced with confusing advertising and a vague and poorly promoted rating system for videogames, I say this: Take the time to learn about the worst games and steer clear of them. While I doubt that many parents or grandparents would deliberately put a copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in the hands of a pre-teen, it is all too easy to see how that could happen today. Many adults who have not played video games may not realize that these games will typically force an impressionable child to kill in order to win. Adults buying video games for children need to understand that the game makers and retailers are not on their side when it comes to these violent video games. This fast-buck-at-any-cost mentality is something that is a real danger to kids.
Pamela Eakes, president and founder, Mothers Against Violence in America, said: No parent or grandparent should succumb to the pressure from a young child who requests one of these violent video games, which put the player in the positions of a mass murderer, a gun-wielding street thug, an abuser of women, an indiscriminate sniper, a cop killer and so on. There is no seven- or eight-year-old child in America who will be well served in any way by gaining access to these cesspools of bloodlust, degradation of women and racial stereotyping. I wonder what it will say to a child if they receive such a game from a parent or grandparent, no matter how unwitting the gift giver might be.
NYC Council Member Eric Gioia, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Investigations in the New York City Council, said: Some retailers are allowing children and teenagers to purchase the most violent, the most graphic, and the most sexually explicit video games ever created, notwithstanding ratings and warnings on the packaging. An investigation I conducted last year showed a minor could walk into almost any store selling video games in New York City and purchase them without difficulty. But killing cops, beating women, and committing hate crimes, are not something I want my children practicing, in living, vivid, color. The video game industry asked for a chance to let self-regulation work, and weve given it to them. In a few weeks, we will see the results when I release my follow-up investigation. In the meantime, I renew my request to all retailers to act responsibly; keep adult content away from our kids. And to parents, I remind them that a well-informed parent is our best weapon against the distribution of inappropriate, potentially harmful video games to children.
Dr. Martha Burk, president, Center for Advancement of Public Policy and chair, National Council of Women's Organizations, said: Video game retailers must commit to keeping video games with graphic violence or strong sexual themes out of the hands of children. The best way to do this is to not sell the games. Corporate responsibility must mean more than meeting minimal rating standards, which presently serve the industry far more than they serve the consumer. Retailers must develop their own standards in regards to the marketing of these types of games, and disclose how they are implementing and complying with these standards. Too many newspaper ads today mix in the videogames for toddlers with videogames no child should see. And on Amazon.com, when you pull up Half Life 2, you find that a purchase will be rewarded with a stuffed Shrek 2 doll. That makes the violent video game seem like something designed for kids.
Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, executive minister and officer, Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, and president, North American Region of the World Council of Churches, said: Our concern about these violent video games is not guesswork. For example, there is ample evidence today that playing violent video games leads to increased aggressive thought, feelings and actions. We also have considerable anecdotal evidence of the fact that parents dont understand the industry rating system. And retailers must stop turning a blind eye when it comes to sales to children. This is a huge problem: A New York City Council study found that such purchases by children of inappropriate games happened in 34 out of 35 stores. These games are bad for kids. The rating system does not work. Retailers are making a mockery of the supposed limits on sales. All of this paints a very unattractive picture of a violent video game system in America that just does not work at all.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE JOINT STATEMENT
The statement from the five groups reads, in part, as follows:
Video games have emerged as a popular form of entertainment, with 70 percent of children living in a home with at least one video game player, and 33 percent with one in their bedrooms. $7 billion were spent in the United States in 2003 on video and computer games. We are speaking today to corporations in the video game industry, and to adults who will be purchasing video games as holiday gifts for children. We believe that corporations in the video game industry, who may pride themselves as good corporate citizens, must assume greater responsibility in ensuring that violent interactive entertainment is not accessible to children and youth
We call on the marketers and sellers of video games to: publish standards for marketing video games that encourage or reward players for performing acts of violence and brutality, and that depict images demeaning to women and minorities; place M-rated games in a location separate from other games in stores; post signage describing the video games ratings systems; and evaluate and report on their enforcement and compliance programs of policies to prevent minors from purchasing violent video games
We urge those who purchase video games for children, or allow children to purchase such games, to do so with great care
We encourage parents to exercise their power as consumers and hold retailers accountable for the way that violent video games are marketed and sold. Parents need to visit retailers and find out how they display the games and how stores enforce the current ratings system. They should urge retailers to stop selling violent games or at the very least separate them from child-friendly ones. They can advocate by writing to companies and letting them know their concerns about the marketing of violent entertainment media. They can find out what their internet service providers are doing to prevent children from purchasing or playing violent video games online.
ABOUT THE GROUPS
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is a 30-year-old international coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors including denominations, religious communities, pension funds, healthcare corporations, foundations and dioceses with combined portfolios worth an estimated $100 billion. ICCR members utilize religious investments and other resources to change unjust or harmful corporate policies, working for peace, economic justice and stewardship of the Earth.
Mothers Against Violence in America (MAVIA) is dedicated to preventing violence by and against children through education, outreach and advocacy. Founded in 1994, MAVIA is a national leader in the field of violence prevention. Through a powerful network of advocates, MAVIA is creating strong and effective partnerships with school, business and community leaders in cities across America.
The National Council of Women's Organizations is the nation's oldest and largest coalition of women's groups. NCWO members include activist, business, church, legal, and policy organizations working for women's equality worldwide, and collectively represent 10 million women in the United States.
Eric Gioia is chairman of the New York City Council's Oversight and Investigations Committee. Gioia's hard-hitting investigations have uncovered waste and mismanagement citywide, and have shed light on such problems as defective bulletproof vests sold to the NYPD and the unlawful charging of sales tax. Last year, Gioia released a report that found 97 percent of retail stores surveyed had sold M (mature, 17+) -rated video games to minors. Gioia has been active in reaching out to and educating parents on ways to identify video games that are inappropriate for children. Gioia was elected to the New City Council in 2001 by the largest margin in the City.
Justice and Witness Ministries, one of four Covenanted Ministries in the United Church of Christ, helps local congregations and all settings of the church respond to God's commandments to do justice, seek peace, and effect change for a better world.
Source: Press Release