Lawmakers, watchdog groups blast violence in games, films

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Marketers are continuing to market violent video games to underage teens, risking lawsuits and legislation, two congressmen told a Federal Trade Commission workshop late last month. Consumer groups also complained that ratings for violent movies and video games are creeping downward.

"The industry is doing a pitiful job at self-regulation," said U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., ripping the industry for marketing violent games and warning that lawsuits against game marketers are likely. "What are you going to say to the parents of children who are killed at Columbine, Paducah and Jonesboro?"

U.S. Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., said he is joining with Rep. Tom Osborne, R-Neb., to create a congressional caucus on sex and violence in the media. "As a parent, grandparent and member of Congress, I cannot sit quietly while these video games are poisoning our children's minds," he said. "We need a federal law helping parents monitor what games their children play. "

talks

The comments came as the FTC, which several times before has reported on the marketing of violent video games, movies and music to minors, convened a workshop to talk about industry progress before issuing a new report.

Most of the discussion was about video games and films, and officials of those industries rejected the idea that the problem is marketing or ratings.

Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, said the problem is that younger teens can still buy video games rated for use by over-17-year-olds. "We have been proactive and responsible," he said. "I understand what [Rep. Wolf] is upset about, but at the end of the day, the policy objective is not to ban the violent games, it is to limit their sales to minors and on that we agree completely."

Jack Valenti, president-CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, said groups that complain his industry should be tougher or more consistent in ratings are asking the impossible. "We are not dealing here with Euclidean geometry, we are dealing with the vague air of subjectivity," said Mr. Valenti.

Consumer groups disagree. They charged that video games are getting more violent; that games based on movies rated for one audience get rated for different audiences, and that violent movies are advertised on programs watched by many underage teens. They also suggested that movie subjects that used to be rated strongly now carry lesser ratings.

Nell Minow, founding board member and lead reviewer for Common Sense Media, called the ratings systems impossible to understand. She also said the PG-13 rating for "Scary Movie 3" and the R-rating for "Kill Bill" goes too easy on both.

Laura Mahaney, director-external relations for the Parents Television Council, said ads for DVDs of the R-rated "8 Mile" had appeared on Fox's "American Idol," while "Kill Bill" ads had run during the baseball playoffs.

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