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Group Says S.D. Stores Sell Adult Video Games to Minors

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Some youth advocacy groups in San Diego say retailers are selling adult video games to minors. The groups unscientifically surveyed a dozen stores around the county. KPBS Radio’s Andrew Phelps has details.

Undercover 16-year-olds at different stores tried to buy a game called NARC, which features violence and heavy drug use. You play a federal agent surrounded by temptations. 

Life as an undercover narcotics officer isn’t easy. Sometimes the temptation is too much to bear…

The Entertainment Software Rating Board gives the game an "M" for "Mature." That means it’s meant for players 17 and older. Only one of the 16-year-olds was turned away. Dan Skiles helped organize the sting for Institute for Public Strategies. Skiles says the video-game rating system is useless without enforcement. 

Skiles: Parents are not aware of the content of the video games the kids are watching. And they're relying on this rating system to give them a good sense of what the content is.

It’s up to retailers to decide how they enforce video-game ratings. Last year, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that bans the sale of violent video games to minors. But a federal judge blocked that law on free-speech grounds. 

Derry: I would think it would be kind of a silly law, personally.

That’s Treg Derry. He owns Luna, an independent video-game shop in Ocean Beach. He says a ban on certain video games amounts to censorship – and it would be futile in the real world. 

Derry: Usually their parents don’t have too much of a say, 'cause if the kids keep asking for a certain game – “I want Grand Theft Auto! I want Grand Theft Auto!” “Do you want any other games?” “No, I want Grand Theft Auto!” – The parents are going to break down usually and get them Grand Theft Auto.

Skiles disagrees.

Skiles: Free speech does have limitations. Drug abuse is such a big problem, and kids are so vulnerable, that we think it rises to the standard that there's a real potential for danger here.

His organization is pushing for legislation that stands up to court challenges and keeps adult video games out of children’s hands. For KPBS, I’m Andrew Phelps.

 

 

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