The nation's leading computer and video game retailers, in conjunction with the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA), announced today a new initiative designed to prevent the sale of Mature-rated games to children under 17 years old and increase awareness of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) video game rating system. All merchants belonging to the association will now institute a national carding program and will implement an identification check process at the point of sale for games rated Mature by the ESRB.
"A national carding system will help ensure that games that are not appropriate for children stay out of their hands," said Hal Halpin, president of the IEMA, the association representing retailers of video and computer games. "Over the years, we have worked closely with Senators Joe Lieberman (news - web sites) and Herb Kohl and the National Institute on Media and the Family to address the issues of enforcement and education, and with the ESRB to put educational signage in our member stores and training for staff regarding the ratings system. We are united with them behind the goal of helping families make informed decisions about the entertainment they purchase for their children and the entertainment their children choose for themselves."
"This announcement is a great holiday gift to America's families. Parents are working hard to raise their kids right, but they need help. That's why I have been pushing the retailers to make a full commitment to enforce the video game ratings. And that's why I want to commend the leading computer and video game retailers for agreeing to institute a national card check program to prevent kids from buying or renting ultra-violent, adult-rated games. Now retailers need to follow through and strictly enforce this system. And I urge parents, who have the ultimate responsibility here, to pay closer attention and make better use of the ratings. That's the best way to protect our children," said Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Ct.)
Signing on to the IEMA carding program to be put in place by Holiday Season 2004 are: Best Buy, Blockbuster Entertainment, Circuit City, CompUSA, Gamesource, Electronics Boutique, Hastings Entertainment, Hollywood Video, KB Toys, Kmart, Meijer, Movie Gallery, Musicland, Shopko Stores, Target, Toys R Us, Transworld Entertainment and Wal-Mart. Taken together, these retailers sell approximately 85 percent of all computer and video games sold in the United States. Membership in the IEMA will be contingent on agreeing to implement the carding program.
"We commend the IEMA and the retailers they represent for this strong plan to ensure that Mature-rated games are sold only to those for whom they are rated appropriate," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Electronic Software Association, which represents computer and video game software publishers. "ESA has been a strong advocate of retail enforcement for more than five years and we believe that today's commitment by retailers to strengthen enforcement is a very positive step. Game publishers created a rating system that has been lauded as the best in existence. And ratings will be most effective when parents, who buy most games, use it and when retailers enforce it."
The retailers involved in today's announcement have either already begun carding, or will put carding procedures in place by this time next year. They will also continue cooperative efforts with the ESRB to better educate store employees about the importance of enforcement as well as on efforts to inform consumers about the rating system. These consumer educational efforts, which include various in-store displays and materials explaining the ESRB rating system, will vary from retailer to retailer based on store layouts and other factors.
As important as these steps are, Halpin stressed that M-rated games accounted for only 13 percent of total computer and video game sales in 2002, and that the Federal Trade Commission reported in 2000 that parents are involved in the purchase or rental of games 83 percent of the time. Additionally, the ESA reported that that 92 percent of all games are purchased by adults over 18.
"The actions we announce today are important and will make a difference," Halpin said. "But retailer enforcement is only a part of the equation. Parents need to be actively involved in their children's entertainment choices, and retail enforcement cannot replace sound parenting."