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Minors can easily buy adult-rated video games: Gioia

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Racists, women-haters and cop killers.

That’s what a Queens councilman says video game retailers in the borough are routinely allowing minors to be exposed to.

Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside), along with council members Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan) and Phil Reed (D-Manhattan), launched a covert investigation last month into stores in Queens that sell video games. He said minors were able to purchase video games with adult-only ratings in 91 percent of attempts.

The council members did not say which stores were surveyed.

Gioia, who is the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, has called on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, a non profit-organization that sets age-restriction ratings on games, to get tougher on enforcement of its age-restriction ratings for video games.

“This study clearly underscores the video game industry’s lax standards of policing their own ratings system,” Brewer said.

Last month the council members sent minors into an undisclosed number of video game stores in the borough to try to purchase games with M (mature) ratings.

The minors, according to the council members, were able to purchase M-rated video games at most of the stores, with only 9 percent of the stores asking the minors for identification. About 83 percent of the stores had no posted explanation of their policy on the sales of M-rated video games, while about 71 percent did not display ratings and game-content descriptions, Gioia said.

“Parents, beware, the video games your children are playing are so graphically violent and so sexually explicit, if they were movies they could be rated X,” Gioia said. “Killing cops, maiming women and committing hate crimes are only some of the deplorable acts depicted in these games.”

“It is unconscionable that retail stores in NYC would completely disregard the video game ratings system and make these games readily available to children as our investigation revealed,” Gioia said.

Brewer said the results of the study underscored the need for legislation that would fine retailers for selling M-rated videos games to minors.

The council members called on the ESRB and the video game industry, to better educate small, independent video game retailers on video game ratings enforcement.

Reed suggested retailers should treat M-rated video games the same way as X-rated videos.

“We should separate them in stores so that young people who going to purchase video games aren’t exposed to the M-rated games,” Reed said.

The council members also recommended legislation that would require visible signage describing ESRB video game ratings and urged the city Department of Consumer Affairs to produce and distribute an informational pamphlet for video game consumers.

The council members released statistics related to video game use, which showed that by the age of 18 many children in America have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence by playing video games. About 60 percent of Americans 6 years and older routinely play video games, logging as much as 38 hours per week playing the games.

Reach Reporter Tom Nicholson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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