In its fifth report since 2000 on entertainment industry marketing and advertising practices, the FTC stated that the video game rating system is a “useful and important tool” for parents, retailers have made “substantial improvement” in limiting sales of Mature-rated games to minors, and its support for “private sector initiatives by [the video game] industry and individual companies.”
“We’re pleased that the FTC has acknowledged what we in the industry have long known: the best way to help parents are industry led, self-regulatory efforts that can provide them information they need,” said Carolyn Rauch, senior vice president of the ESA, the trade group that represents U.S. computer and video game publishers.
The video game industry’s work to help parents and caregivers has several important components. The first is the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which is an independent body that rates computer and video games. The FTC said today that the ESRB is a “useful and important tool that parents increasingly use to help them make informed decisions about games for their children.” Second, the industry also provides caregivers built-in, password-protected parental controls that limit which types of video games can be played in all new game consoles. Additionally, the industry also strongly encourages retailers to continue enforcement of policies against selling M-rated games to minors.
The FTC commented in its conclusion that it “will also continue to work with industry and others to encourage efforts to provide parents with the information they need to decide which products are appropriate for their children.” In response, the ESA’s Rauch said, “We share that goal and look forward to continuing our efforts to establish public/private partnerships that can aid parents.”
Other key FTC findings include:
- Awareness levels of the ESRB system have risen significantly since the 2000 survey. Nearly nine in ten parents (87%) and 75% of children said they are aware that the game rating system exists (compared to 61% of parents and 73% of children reported in 2000). More than eight in ten parents say they are aware of and at least slightly familiar with the system.
- Ninety-four percent of parents said the ESRB ratings are easy to understand, up from 77% in 2000, and 87% are either very or somewhat satisfied with the ESRB system, up from 76% in 2000.
- Parental involvement with the purchase or rental of games is up to 89% from 84% in 2000.
- The number of parents who restrict the games their children play is up to 85% from 69% in 2000.
- “Video game retailers substantially improved their enforcement of policies prohibiting children under 17 from purchasing M-rated games without parental permission.” According to the FTC, this is “a statistically significant improvement” from the 2003 survey and is similar to the theater owners’ enforcement rate, which is considered the gold standard.
“It’s our hope that these positive findings on our industry’s self-regulatory practices are a reminder to legislators that the most effective way to protect children from mature content is not legislation that has been repeatedly declared unconstitutional by the courts,” continued Rauch. “We once again offer to work with any elected officials, as we have done across the country, in a collaborative way to maintain high levels of awareness and usage of not only the ESRB ratings but also parental controls,” she concluded.