SEATTLE – As new legislation goes into effect this month requiring Washington retailers to inform consumers about video game ratings, Attorney General Rob McKenna and State Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, are warning consumers about the availability of violent and sexually explicit content.
“Parents need to be aware that some of the most popular video games contain content that is potentially harmful for youths and may be deemed offensive by some adults,” McKenna said. “At the same time, the video game industry and retailers have a responsibility to assure that minors are not able to purchase or download games inappropriate for their age and that consumers are able to make informed decisions.”
Video games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, a self-regulatory entity supported by the entertainment industry. Beginning July 24, new state legislation requires video game retailers to post signs in prominent locations that inform consumers about the ratings and to explain the system to anyone who requests information.
McKenna and Dickerson warned consumers that despite the new legislation, it may still be possible for minors to acquire games rated for older players. The National Institute of Media and the Family estimates that 50 percent of boys between the ages of 7 and 14 are able to buy games rated for those ages 17 or older.
An example of a controversial video game is “Grand Theft Auto-San Andreas,” rated “M” for mature audiences ages 17 or older. Scores of Internet sites recently began offering a code that enables “Grand Theft Auto-San Andreas” to include pornographic scenes.
“I was shocked by a video clip of the unlocked pornography in ‘San Andreas,’” said Dickerson. “But it is even more alarming to imagine children playing these first-person pornographic scenes interactively to engage in graphic virtual sex.”
The game’s manufacturer, Rockstar Games, issued a statement denying responsiblity for the sexually explicit content and blaming hackers for altering the game’s source code. The statement stops short of directly answering whether the content “unlocked” by the code is present on the game discs.
“Parents who don’t want pornography in the hands of their children need to be aware of what is contained in this game,” McKenna said.
More than 12 million copies of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” have been sold since October, according to its manufacturer. As recently as March, Toydirectory.com listed “San Andreas” as the third-best selling game in the United States. It was still the fifth top-selling game at Amazon.com as of this morning.
The video games rating system is as follows:
- EC (Early Childhood): Content may be suitable for ages 3 and older. Contains no material that parents would find inappropriate.
- E (Everyone): Content may be suitable for ages 6 and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
- E10+ (Everyone 10 and Older): Content may be suitable for ages 10 and older. Titles in this category may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language, and/or minimal suggestive themes.
- T (Teen): Content may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood and/or infrequent use of strong language.
- M (Mature): Content may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.
- AO (Adults Only): Content should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.
- RP (Rating Pending): Titles have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting final rating. This symbol appears only in advertising prior to a game’s release.
Additional information about the ratings is available from the Entertainment Software Rating Board at http://www.esrb.org.
For more information contact:
Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer
Attorney General's Office, (206) 464-6432
Robin Boyes, Public Information Officer
Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, (360) 786-7225