Senators on Hand as NIMF Report Card Zings Game Biz for "Ominous Backslide"

December 4, 2007 -

Dr. David Walsh (left) of the National Institute on Media & the Family issued his 12th Annual Video Game Report Card this morning. In doing so he criticized the video game industry for "an ominous backslide on multiple fronts."

Flanked by a pair of U.S. Senators (Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota) as well as  Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Walsh awarded an overall grade of C to the game business. The report card explains:
 

Assessing the performance of the gaming industry this year is a difficult task... Console manufacturers, for the most part, seem to understand the importance of making games safe for kids. Microsoft included a timer feature that allows parents to limit their children’s video game playing time, a praiseworthy innovation...

Some software makers made great games that pushed the edge of the envelope in creativity and storytelling. Others, once again, dredged the well of poor taste, with titles like Rockstar’s Manhunt 2 and Eidos Interactive’s Kane & Lynch: Dead Men.

Some game makers also found creative new ways to market adult games on kids, a disgustingly familiar practice over the years. Too few game makers disclose when illegal versions of their games are stolen from their facilities and leaked on the Internet.


Some explanation of "creative new ways to market adult games on [to?] kids" is needed. That's quite an accusatory statement. What games? What companies? What strategies?

The same applies to the statement about leaked games. Is NIMF referring to the notorious Manhunt 2 leak? If so, that was disclosed immediately - by the people who leaked it. In fact, on those rare occasions when a game is leaked, it's always big news in the online game community. Explain, please, NIMF...

National retailers, who did so well on last year's Report Card, got slammed this time around. Big box stores slipped from an "A" to a "D". Meanwhile, game specialty stores moved in the opposite direction, jumping from last year's "F" to a respectable "B". Rental stores, however, flunked. Such dramatic jumps - in either direction - seem a bit odd.

The general category of "Retailer Policies" earned a C+:
 

We were surprised by this year’s surveys... that showed one out of three retailers does not educate its employees on the ESRB ratings. That’s a significant drop from last year. Even more shocking was that only 30 percent of local retailers provided families with information on the game rating system.


The ESRB also received a C+ but, as expected, NIMF did not let the Manhunt 2 controversy pass unnoticed:
 

The Manhunt 2 rating debacle shows that the ESRB needs to change its procedures to close a gaping loophole that some game publishers are all too eager to slip though. The ESRB rating should be based on all of a game’s content and code, locked or unlocked, blurred or unblurred. A game’s rating will be meaningless unless serious steps are taken to prevent games from being unlocked.


NIMF also took the opportunity to renew its call for a universal media content rating system. The Halo-in-church controversy came in for a mention as well:
 

Libraries, schools, churches and other pubic institutions should follow the game’s rating and only allow games appropriate for the age of the youth. By promoting M-rated games, they are undercutting the ESRB’s rating system and undermining parental credibility and authority.


Also included are the results of a lengthy Harris poll on the role of video games in the lives of children. Read the full Report Card here (26-page pdf)...

Comments

Maybe I'm just living in an idealized world within my mind, but it seems to me that none of these "watchdog" groups has done the one thing that might actually benefit parents: Point out the game rating limiter built into all three next-gen (well, I guess they're current-gen now) consoles.

Maybe the NIMF and others realize that if parents could automatically prevent little Tommy from playing 'Kane & Lynch,' there would be no use (and/or publicity/money) for year-end reports like this.

@ Anonymoose

I blame those darn video games.

[...] Every year the National Institute of Media and Family (NIMF) produces the “Annual Video Game Report Card”.  This report is often cited each year by political candidates in the issue of violence in video games and how we are protecting our children.  The 27-page document was released today at an event attended by Senators Joseph Lieberman and Amy Klobuchar.  To cut to the chase, the overall rating given was a “C”.  It seems odd that they would get a “C”, given that last year’s report seemed to be pretty positive (though no overall grade was given last year).  Granted, this has been a year of controversy.  Whereas last year’s ESRB reaction to the Hot Cofee mod in GTA was applauded by the industry, this year’s Manhunt 2 controversy clearly set a different tone for this year’s reaction.  David Walsh, who penned the report, firmly states And, at the same time, while the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has continued to educate the public about its video game rating system, several shocking incidents have inadvertently revealed dangerous loopholes in the ratings process. Simply put, some of the hard-won progress seen in previous years has been lost, and now, too many children are spending too much time playing inappropriate video games that can harm their health and development. [...]

*sigh* And this is why I hate Rockstar so much.


The gaming industry would be so much better off without them.

Awwwww... it's really cute when the NIMF tries to pretend they're a relevant organization.

God I'm suprised Dennis hasn't made an article about Jack Thompson's "Video games caused 9/11" comment.

I just finished wading through all 26 pages and I have to say that while the inaccuracies and assumptions are disturbing (expected, but disturbing), the atrocious grammar, punctuation and general usage of the English language is appalling. These people hold doctorates? Really?

This little gem just can't be missed:

"But, 38 percent of mothers and 31 percent of fathers of the kids who play video games reported that their parents never play any of the games with them."

I'm going to go home and tell my son that it's not his fault that he's going to grow up warped after playing GTA. Nope- it's your grandpa's fault, son. That rotten old man won't play GTA with me.

Seriously... can't NIMF afford a decent editor?

@Saint13: Two cookies to you. One for finding that spectacular example of a dangling modifier, and one for simply having the intestinal fortitude to wade through all 26 pages of their crap report.

@rabiwaff

if it wasn't rockstar, it'd be someone else.

@Saint13

NIMF has the same editor, as Jack Thompson.

@ Geno

Was that already deleted? Because i can't see it. I would have liked a laugh today.

I'm baffled that games like "Kayne & Lynch" as well as "Manhunt 2" (both of which have been reviewed poorly and for which sales have been poor) seem to have held more weight in this report card than Guitar Hero, and Rock Band and the numerous other great products that were released this year.

I can't help but feel that NIMF's "Report Cards" are nothing more than a place where you can see the results of Jack Thompsons little "sting operations" and sensationalized media headlines about a game that no one bought (Manhunt 2).

The fact that the "Report Cards" simply list grades instead of going to in depth detail of how they got their information. To me makes their "Report Cards" as meaningless as recieving a "You just won $10,000,000.00" letter from the publishers clearing house.

Did they send kids into stores to buy M rated games across the country?, Did they poll kids to find out if they were more intrested in playing manhunt 2 vs rock band?, did they ask kids if they knew what the ESRB ratings on box's were? Did they ask employees if they knew what ESRB ratings were? (and did those employees say "No" simply so they wouldn't get fired for not enforcing company policy?)

As car as I can tell NIMF's "Report Card" is nothing more than their opinion on how well the industry did, and from what I can garner it's based on nothing more than internet blog headlines and stories that made the papers as well as news.

Saint13 must have the patience of a.... well a Saint, and not the JBT kind.

I have a feeling that they did not really expect anyone to really read those 26 pages you know, much less understand them. It was more a matter of weight then of literary merit. To WOW the people with their "name" and a fat sheaf of pages.

Curious though if they are really claiming that the problem with the current generation parents was that their parents did not play games with them. Last I checked video games did not exist then, hell they were still in the dreaming stage at best.

And no they probably cannot afford one.

@Jabrwock

[By promoting M-rated games, they are undercutting the ESRB’s rating system and undermining parental credibility and authority.]

"Even though they make parents aware that M rated games are played and require parental permission to attend? How exactly is this “undercutting” the ratings?"

well it's just like how r-rated movies undercut the MPAA's rating system because R isn't a rating that is safe for children and that means it's bad because all the children go to R-rated movies because they're not supposed to and that's bad because we didn't think of the children, which is bad.

@Icehawk:

Curious though if they are really claiming that the problem with the current generation parents was that their parents did not play games with them. Last I checked video games did not exist then, hell they were still in the dreaming stage at best.


Not entirely true. Pong existed in the 70's. That said, the sensationalists are trying for extreme dynamics. Technically, people in their 20's to 30's (around my age) are parents. That would mean that they grew up in the 80's and 90's, and video games existed at that time. Going from the Arcade Classics (the Atari Era), through the "Age of the NES", and onward. And many of these people probably didn't play many video games with their parents (like I myself stated earlier). As to the age of this generation's kids... one of my friends who is my age has a boy who is a freshman in High School. Another couple of my friends have a little girl going into Junior High. So... the NIMF's assessment isn't necessarily too far off (on this one point).... if you account for these things.

So the National Institute on Media and “The Family” has given the gaming industry a failing grade. What with this being finals season, I doubt we’ll see have the regular chance to retake the test. And it’s almost like they didn’t even read over the essay portion, just assumed it would be bad. Here’s a few points of interest:

1. They claim that being able to hack the source code for the PSP Manhunt 2 makes the AO version of the game playable. True except for the fact that under the terms of use AND under the DMCA, this is a crime. Giving the ESRB a C because of this is unfair. It is not the ESRB’s job to hack the source code of games to see what’s in there.

2. The report card also claims that M-rated games are made “easily available” to kids under 17. Oh how I wish this was the case. I am nearly 21, 5?9? and I got carded for both Gears of War AND for Unreal Tournament 3, both M-Rated games. It’s almost insulting.

3. Grammar errors run rampant throughout their report. I hardly read things on the internet because of bad grammar. Heck, I myself have forgotten a comma here and misspelled a word there. But didn’t these people graduate high school?

Families also received some good news in 2007. In February, GameStop, one of the nation’s largest specialty retailers of video games, clamped down on the sale of M-rated (Mature) video games to minors by terminating sales clerks and store managers who sell these games to minors. The Target Corporation took a bold step in pulling Manhunt 2 from its shelves after it was revealed that AO (Adults-Only) content was viewable, on the Mrated game for Sony’s PSP and PS2, by changing the game’s code.

Look, it is VERY simple. In a paragraph, you choose in which tense you desire to write. You do NOT jump from one to the other. And that is just the third paragraph of the report. Also, may I point out that their lack of knowledge in the industry comes off on the cover of the report, where there is a group of kids playing games using original Dual Shock controllers, the second iteration of controllers for the PS1, which would make them about 20-24 years of age now.

Also, NEVER jump between numbers spelled out and in numerical format, such as “seven out of 10.” It’s REALLY bad grammar and is very irritating. Pick one.

3. Most importantly, I refuse to have my industry judged by an institute whose website does not even exist. For the last twenty minutes that I have been writing this blog, their site, MediaWise.org, has given me nothing but a blank white page. Obviously these people have not kept up with the times since that photo of the kids playing their Playstation was taken.

At the same time, we have people warning of games not to buy for your kids this Christmas season, which include GTA, 50 Cent Bulletproof, and… Killer 7? Wow. Hey, 2005 called. They want their video games back. And seriously, if anybody can FIND Killer 7 on a store shelf, BUY IT. It’s a rarity. Granted, not as impressive as finding a copy of REZ (which my friend and I managed to do once), but still pretty good.

I think the gaming industry needs to stand up and write our own report about how we have been treated in this last year, about the misinformation and lies spread about us, and give A-F grades. Here’s my final judgment, Dr. Walsh.

2007

Public Involvement: C
I am yet to hear the American public speak up about this issue. Video games were left out of the Republican National Debate. It is an issue that is being ignored, despite the fact that many candidates have a position on it. However, I am grateful to the ESA, the ESRB, and GamePolitics for helping bring these issues to light.

Ratings Education: A
The ESRB has done an amazing job bringing their ratings to light. The PSA’s are informative, their are giant posters in every store, and there are free fliers that anyone can take. What more do you want?

Retailers’ Policies: D
This rating is for anyone who sells games, small or national. Obviously if Johnny 12-Year-Old is trying to buy Manhunt 2 without parental/guardian supervision, he shouldn’t be sold to him. But even 12 year olds can get into R-Rated movies with parental/guardian supervision. I have never been carded for a movie, and just now I have begun being carded for games, despite the fact that I am obviously over 17. Either the retailers need to readjust their policies to, “No sale to persons under 17 without proper ID or Parental Supervision” or they should put on glasses to see who’s actually buying the game.

Game Specialty Stores: F
This is just for my general hatred of GameStop employees who nothing about where they’re working or what’s going on in the industry, i.e. which games come out when, whether or not they have a game in stock, where their store is located, or if they have any of their pot left.

Video Game Industry: A
The video game industry has made some amazing moves this year to attempt to counter the AGA’s harsh words and ignorance. Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB, began the campaign to educate the general public on the ratings system, and has intelligently defended the ESRB’s position on many ratings. Hal Halpin, president of the ESA, had the difficult job of filling Doug Lowenstein’s shoes, and has done a fine job at doing just that, hiring those already familiar with similar ratings systems, and urging the gaming community at large to get involved in the controversy by submit questions to the presidential candidates. I would say the industry has done a fine job of defending itself this year.

Anti-Game Activists: F
Would you expect me to give them anything else? Unfortuantely for the AGA’s, they really have no clue what they are talking about. They encourage education on the subject of games, yet refuse to learn anything themselves. They are still referencing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a game that came out almost three years ago. They reference studies of violent behavior in youth without knowing they were proven incorrect (see: the Jack Thompson vs. Lorne “Money Hat” Lanning debate), and apparently can’t write reports on their findings without dozens of grammatical mistakes.

Presidential Candidates: D
The 2008 Presidential Candidates are walking on thin ice, especially since I don’t believe in +’s or -’s anymore since attending SCAD. The problem is not that some of them refer to video games like the curse of the 21st century and must be banned forever, but that many refer to them as time-wasters. Haven’t we gone through this enough with music, comic books, movies, and television in the last 100 years? Let’s not forget that so far none of the GOP candidates have taken time to point out bills submitted in the senate by certain other candidates which blatantly disregard the first amendment of the United States Constitution.

Please remember that this is just one man’s opinion, as is the 26-page rant printed by NIMF. And may I also point out that NIMF sounds exactly like nymph. Just sayin’.

"A game’s rating will be meaningless unless serious steps are taken to prevent games from being unlocked."

right and how do you propose that should be done? attempting to limit the mod community is not going to do jack shit.

@Xlorep DarkHelm - "So… the NIMF’s assessment isn’t necessarily too far off (on this one point)…. if you account for these things."

Only if you're willing to take their word for it, because parents weren't asked in the polls (as published in the report) if *their* parents had played games with them.

In fact, parents don't even appear to have been asked if they play games with their kids. The kids were asked how often their mother and father played games with them, but there is no similar question to the parents.

You'll also notice that the question identifiers (Q926, Q766, and so on) are not sequential (a lot of numbers are skipped) and that isn't explained (unless we're meant to assume that it was part of their "weighting" it towards the 8 - 18 year old gaming population).

Are the missing question numbers available somewhere? Or is this the way Harris numbered their poll for some arcane reason?

Since when did NIMF had any power? Anyway. On to their report.

"Some software makers made great games that pushed the edge of the envelope in creativity and storytelling. Others, once again, dredged the well of poor taste, with titles like Rockstar’s Manhunt 2 and Eidos Interactive’s Kane & Lynch: Dead Men."

Why should that matter, it's entertainment first and foremost. Some people enjoy those kinds of things so why should the game industry be penalised for catering to their wants?

"Some game makers also found creative new ways to market adult games on kids, a disgustingly familiar practice over the years. Too few game makers disclose when illegal versions of their games are stolen from their facilities and leaked on the Internet."

There's a reason for that and it's not because they don't want bad press (althoug hthat may be part of it). The thing is, that those versions are illegal and everytime someone downloads one instead of buying one it costs them money (although that's only if they had an intention to buy the game in the first place). Would you yell at the RIAA for not informing people that they could download their songs for free from a pirating site? The same principle applies.

"The Manhunt 2 rating debacle shows that the ESRB needs to change its procedures to close a gaping loophole that some game publishers are all too eager to slip though. The ESRB rating should be based on all of a game’s content and code, locked or unlocked, blurred or unblurred. A game’s rating will be meaningless unless serious steps are taken to prevent games from being unlocked."

I'm sorry but I don't think the ESRB should be influenced AT ALL by the BBFC because they clealry show a bias in favor of games, although I have a feeling that if the BBFC unbanned it and the ESRB still kept an ao rating you'd be singing a different tune. Anyway the rating should be based on what the consumer can accsess without having to illegally hack it, nothing more. To say otherwise is ludicrous.

crud I meant to say that the bbfc shows a bias against games not for games.

Anyway E. Zachary Knight how do you quote the passages like that, I've never figured out how to do it.

Let's try and get something clear here, NIMF members. "Poor taste" is an opinion, and one that is wildly subjective and highly varied. It matters not that you think something is in "poor taste", as there is a market for it. That market is adults, 99.9% of them are not disaffected or dangerous in the slightest way. You are fully entitled to your opinions and free to speak about them, but they are just that. You know what they say about opinions.

@Xlorep DarkHelm

Oops I had forgotten the Coleco vision~~>Atari 2600 days. Of course that is akin to comparing a safety match to a flamethrower but you are right (and I stand corrected).

There was NO Manhunt 2 Debacle. The game was intended for mature audiences. It got the dreaded "AO" for being a touch too gorey. They reduced the realism and it got an "M." This is the way the ESRB works, and it worked correctly with Manhunt 2. Someone altering the running version of the game is not the manufacturer's fault. That's like blaming the car manufacturer for an ugly paintjob that was custom painted post-purchase and not factory. Whenever software is stolen is an internal affair and nobody's business. It allows the company to "watermark" the final version to distinguish it from the stolen version.

"Halo-in-church" was also simply a story, not a controversy. NIMF does not rule the churches. They have some religious investors, that's all.

Once again, NIMF is getting an "F" for accuracy and making shit up.

the NIMF is an organzation concsisting of sensationalists who don't know anything about the game industry, let alone have someone inside the industry tell them anything, they get their "information" from Jack Thompson.

Quote:_________
By promoting M-rated games, they are undercutting the ESRB’s rating system and undermining parental credibility and authority.
_______________


Aren't the NIMF and other organisations of their ilk undermining parental authority by abrogating it in favour of governmental oversight?

Their inference that the rating on the game isn't enough seems to infer that knowing how bad a game is just isn't good enough any more...

When you compare the NIMF's position to this quote from Vance (ESRB)

Quote:_________
Its nationwide survey of over 1,300 parents showed that nearly nine in ten parents with children that play video games are satisfied with the ESRB rating system, three in four use it regularly, 94% find the ratings easy to understand, and 59% never let their children play Mature-rated games.
_______________

So, virtually the entire pool of the surveyed UNDERSTAND the risks, but 40% just don't care...

The natural conclusion is that the game industry will never win. No matter how strictly it adheres to the guidelines, some parents will willingly let their children play content that is contra to the ESRB rating. The bleeding heart organisations recognise the fact that some parents will not enforce the rating advice and ergo tries to legislate the industry in to sanitising content "just in case" kids get a look at it, including prevention of hacks...

How long does everyone else have to pay for some parents bad decisions re: their kids??

I will put a plus infront of the ones I have played and don't belong here.

Parent Alert! Games to Avoid for your Children and Teens
Game Rating
+Assassin’s Creed M
+Call to Duty 4 M
Conan M
+The Darkness M
+Jericho M still sucks
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men M
Manhunt 2 M
+Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles M
Stranglehold M
+Time Shift M

Here

@Saint13

I don't dispute anything you said about the NIMF's "questionare" practice/methodologies. I said that when it came to one specific point, which Icehawk commented on, I quoted, and then responded to, they aren't completely off-base. That one point being related to the notion that parents today didn't play video games with their parents. Icehawk said that today's parents were kids predating video games, which isn't entirely true -- sure, there are some which grew up predating video games, but there are also a number which grew up with video games.

About Harris' numbering scheme. The Harris Group's question numbers are somewhat confusing. My own company builds and runs reporting for surveys. When a survey is built, the numbers originally are in sort of a chronological order. However, sometimes a question is re-done, and can't simply be altered, but a new question needs to be added. Other times, the question order is changed around, what is 'Q05' in the database, and jumps to 'Q06', it might become that 'Q06' instead skips to 'Q05'. Some questions are removed, reworded, or replaced. It happens during the construction of the survey. Depending on how nit-picky the customer is, we can have very unobvious question numbers. Typically, when a survey is "launched", the questions don't change places any more, but even then, that isn't true.

Harris happens to be one of my company's competitors, for the record.

@ Devil's Advocate

Anyway E. Zachary Knight how do you quote the passages like that, I’ve never figured out how to do it.


You use the standard html blockquote tags.

LT - Less then sign
GT - Greater than sign

LT blockquote GT THe quote here. LT/ blockquote GT

"Some software makers made great games that pushed the edge of the envelope in creativity and storytelling. Others, once again, dredged the well of poor taste, with titles like Rockstar’s Manhunt 2 and Eidos Interactive’s Kane & Lynch: Dead Men."

So because of two mediocre games no one wants to play the entire industry's creative power takes a hit? I wonder if they'd grade the movie industry the same way.

My response to the whole "loophole" nonsense can be found here if anybody cares:
http://www.illspirit.com/blog/16/the-blur-loophole

I'm not trying to spam, it's just that the trackback thingy won't work for me. Possibly because I don't use WordPress?

The Manhunt 2 rating debacle shows that the ESRB needs to change its procedures to close a gaping loophole that some game publishers are all too eager to slip though. The ESRB rating should be based on all of a game’s content and code, locked or unlocked, blurred or unblurred. A game’s rating will be meaningless unless serious steps are taken to prevent games from being unlocked.

While I don't necessarily agree with this, I have to say it's pretty inconsistent of the ESRB to re-rate Manhunt 2 to an M on the basis of content being "locked out" when the Hot Coffee debacle earned GTA:SA a rerate to AO despite it being "locked out."

to note -- the hackers figured out how to remove the blurring effect. But there is no way to put back the content that Rockstar completely removed from the game -- the far more graphic kills, like pliers to genitalia.

[i]"too many children are spending too much time playing inappropriate video games that can harm their health and development"[/i]
Since when was this ever proven? Sure, spending all your time on the couch is a bad idea from a physical standpoint, but the content of the study implies psychological impacts, especially with their focus on "ultra-violent" video games.

[i]"allowing 13- and 14- year old teenagers to play games that are rated for players over the age of 17 is irresponsible"[/i]
I tend to agree with this statement. Though there are some disparities between what a parent thinks is ok and what the ESRB thinks is ok for children. But since this report is addressing churches playing Halo, I will stick to that. I have seen/been to such Halo parties, even ones in a church. All of these required written parental consent, letting them know that Halo, an M-rated game, was being played. However, I am on the report's side for those churches that do not have permission forms for those under 17.

[i]"All of us care about children, and thanks to years of study and
practice, we know how to maximize the benefits. But right now, families and retailers have put too much faith in the current ratings system; the ESRB has put too much trust in the gaming industry; and some in the gaming industry have not done enough to monitor themselves."[/i]
If I could say what I want to say without being booted off this website, I would. But I'll leave it to shameless self-aggrandizement, self-importance, and self-appointed authority. This line in the study makes me sick. So I will leave it at that and keep swearing to myself.
As for the second sentence, I agree with the family part, and to the smallest extent the retailers part. The root of this "problem" is that parents are refusing to take responsibility for raising their own kids. No senator in his/her right mind would ever say that Americans aren't raising their kids good enough. It's political suicide. Better to shift the blame on to the stores and the makers of these games. The effort that many parents put into the lives of their children is pathetic.

[i]"We know how to keep adult games out of the hands of kids, but ignificant changes are needed in the ratings system."[/i]
Again, the fundamental crux here is that parents aren't taking responsibility.

[i]"Video games are causing family friction"[/i]
Everything causes family friction.

[i]"only 30 percent of local retailers have any
system of educating the public about the ESRB ratings"[/i]
There are more that naught hole-in-the-wall specialty shops that cater to regular gamers, who understand the rating systems and/or are older than 18 anyway. Also, the atmosphere that I've found in most of these places isn't very conducive to a child-friendly environment anyways. Let the young ones go to nice and shiny EB games or Toys'rUS

[i]"As in past years, the National Institute on Media and the Family conducted a “sting” operation to determine the extent to which retailers enforce their ratings policies with 58 sting operations performed across the country."[/i]
Somebody needs to be educated about the magic of statistical analysis, and what sample size is needed to have a reliable distribution of values. Not to mention the human error that riddles such things.

[i]"Another dimension is the lack of education sales clerks receive from their employer."[/i]
Although the employer may not have specifically explained the rating system to their employees, I know that, for at least Gamestop, their clerks are required to be able to speak intelligently about every game in stock. This speaks volumes more than a rating system, and provides better insight for their customers that is, in my opinion, superior to the ESRB system.

[i]"Although certain violent depictions were removed entirely from the game’s disc, others were simply blurred the code using a special effects filter incorporated into the game’s code."[/i]
Please learn to speak intelligently about the fundamentals of.... well.... computers in general before trying to criticize it. From a programmer's standpoint, I am slapping myself in the face.... Or perhaps the study just needs to be proof-read.

[i]"such barriers are quickly compromised by gamers who love to explore a game’s every possibility."[/i]
So what of games that release their dev kits to the public? Is Valve suddenly evil because they release source along with Half Life 2? Is Bethesda to blame as well because of releasing their Construction Kit along with Oblivion (and Morrowind)? This is, of course, absurd.

[i]"In September, two months before retail release, an unauthorized AO-rated version of Manhunt 2 was leaked on the Internet. This allowed hackers the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the game’s basic code so that once the retail M-rated versions were released; they could find ways to remove the blurring effect on certain adult content that was still on the discs. The hackers then released the instructions on the Internet on how to remove the blurred content so that others could view certain graphically violent scenes that had originally garnered Manhunt 2 its original AO rating."[/i]
"Hackers" would have found a way to remove the blurring effect whether or not a leaker version was available. This whole thing is based upon speculation and nothing more. More so, a third party removing protections from a game has no basis for outrage. I doubt many 12 year olds would be able to even follow the instructions given online. If they can, I actually congratulate the parents for raising such a smart child.

[i]"Sadly, the problem of hidden or blurred content which is inappropriate for kids is not a new issue and undermines the ESRB rating. The Manhunt 2 controversy was reminiscent of the infamous “Hot Coffee” incident involving graphic sexual content in a Grand Theft Auto game. Manhunt 2 is the latest example of what is becoming a disturbing pattern."[/i]
So... two titles from the same company is indicative of a disturbing trend that plagues the entire video game industry? That logic is laughable at best.

[i]"Rather than admit that its current procedures fail to prohibit children and youth from accessing adult content"[/i]
IT'S CALLED AN "M" RATING FOR A REASON!!!!!! I FAIL TO SEE THE JUMP FROM WHERE THE RETAILERS DID WRONG TO WHERE THE ESRB DID WRONG!

[i]"M-rated games, officially sanctioned for 17-year-olds and widely available to much younger children,"[/i]
So a failure is enforcement is pushed back on to the ESBR? What kind of backward world do we live in? Video games need a good public figure to rally behind.

[i]"the ESRB fails to discourage hackers"[/i]
This is not the ESRB's job. If anything, it's up the the game makers.

[i]"Parents are still largely ignorant of the ratings."[/i]
Their own fault.

[i]"Retailers still treat the ratings’ importance as optional."[/i]
Um.... they [b]are[/b] optional.

[i]"In one instance, an M-rated game, Kane & Lynch: Dead Men, was promoted on MySpace.com with a contest to win attendance at a Playboy photo shoot."[/i]
Need to be over 18 to enter the contest...

[i]"Any parent who is paying attention cannot help but question the credibility of a ratings system employed by an industry that seems more than eager to circumvent it."[/i]
No many parents do.

[i]"Console manufacturers, for the most part, seem to understand the importance of making games safe for kids."[/i]
Easy for them. They don't make any games.

[i]"On the other hand, Nintendo Wii offered a blood-spattered special edition with a Manhunt 2 promotion."[/i]
This was not sanctioned by Nintendo. Please get your facts straight.

I find it interesting that this report would recommend viva pinata. I myself think that game is kind of twisted...
The recommendations offered by this study does not strive to solve any problems. Instead it just points fingers at the ESRB and retail stores. Some more concrete suggestions would be nice at least, but instead we get the same vague scolding the industry has always gotten.

Maybe I'm growing slightly too cynical about these punks, but is there not an air of desperation this time round?

"Assessing the performance of the gaming industry this year is a difficult task"

I know, It must have been excrutiating to decide between "Evil ubber dubber vidja games" and "Worse than heroine, meth weed, cocaine, rape, and murder combined" to describe their products.

@Skylar,

You need to put the greater than and less than symbols instead of square brackets to include html. I fall into that trap too, most of the boards I post on are php based.

@GoodRobotUs:

It isn't PHP-based vs. not PHP-based. Most Forum systems use what is called "BBCodes", which were made to prevent improper HTML tags from screwing up the formatting of a page. Blogs, like WordPress don't typically do that (but can with plug-ins/modules). WordPress is a PHP-based application, it just doesn't use BBCodes, instead, it restricts HTML tags to a specific pre-defined set of allowed tags.

What this means is, rather than using the BBCodes, just use the standard HTML tags (there are innumerable sites that provide in-dept listings of HTML tags). but basically, (greater than) and (less than) symbols in place of the open and close brackets of BBCodes will work for most things, if you are familiar with BBCodes. i (or em) for italics (or emphasized), b (or strong) for bold or (strongly typed), u for underline>, s for strikethrough, and for quotes, use the blockquote tag:
which gets an effect like this.

It appears that lists don't work. use the a (for anchor) tag to make links like a href="gamepolitics.com".

looks like strikethrough doesn't work. but underline should.

Ok, maybe underline doesn't ;)

If only we could edit our posts ;)

But anyways I'll justify this post by summing up my really long post from before.
Everything here is the parent's fault, but nobody that matters is willing to admit that. Therefore the blame is shifted down to the retail stores, which is shifted down to the ESRB. This is an inane rationale that only on the surface seems to try to keep the gaming industry accountable for it's actions. But if one just took the time to read the report, it quickly becomes apparent that those who are writing and endorsing the report (Lieberman, Klobuchar, and McCollum), are without any real base, and just want to curry some votes by pulling the family card.

I've said before that I have far more respect for Daivd Walsh than I do the likes of JT. Walsh at least is a reasonable man; willing to engage in dialogue, respectful of those who disagree with him and even does point out that there are plenty of good that games do.

That having been said, however, this report card reeks of poltical flip-flopping and seems highly biased. And while good games like Guitar Hero and Halo do get mentioned in a genreally positive context, Manhunt 2 is mentioned many, many times whereas the other games got mentioned maybe once or twice (BioShock one of those games that would have been considered as having "pushed the edge of the envelope in creativity and storytelling" didn't even get mentioned at all!)

A cursory glance of the report would give the impression that just because of one out of the hundreds that got released this year, it gives the NIMF enough reason to downgrade their assessment of the entire industry as the game gets held up as an example of all that is wrong with the ESRB when by and large they've done a decent job with everything else. It just makes them look like they give a bad rating when it becomes politically convenient to them and does undercut their credibility...what little there is of it.

I really had to laugh at that one bit about video games causing family friction. That's been happening since I was 13 years old and our family had an Atari 2600 in the house. And it took them how long to realize this? As our old nemesis would say, "Duh." Move along, nothing to see here.

@WholeFnShow

Maybe I’m growing slightly too cynical about these punks, but is there not an air of desperation this time round?

Just a little desperation maybe. As the various aspects that make up the "game industry" improve, it gets harder and harder for them to find fault, which is what this "report card" is all about. So the faults they're left with run fairly pathetic.

@ Xlorep DarkHelm

Completely of topic here, but how do you turn plain words into a link? eg getting "click here" to link to a reference?

One would think they'd catch on that the reason for the family friction is nothing to do with videogames; the parents generally don't understand what the kids like, why they like it, or what value it holds, and thus try to restrict it excessively. This has been the case since long before videogames and wil continue long after. When NIMF start to grade versus parental friction with children on other subjects, maybe they'll realize that this generation gap is nothing new.

In fact, this guide will continue to be relatively useless in any practical purpose until they start looking at the way reality works--like the fact that no degree of legislation will make a difference because the vast majority of parents either don't care about restricting mature content for older children (evidenced in movie and music purchases, as well as brushing off of cautions about older-rated games), or are already so wound-up about their kids' interests that they focus more on what others tell them "should" be done by their children rather than compromising based on what is actually appropriate for and desired by their individual children.

Well, it shows that they care, oy. Lolz. I'd love to see their views on Adult Swim stuff. I bet it would really get attention if it aired Higurashi No Naku Koro Ni (US title When They Cry). Brutal murders, child abuse, and town curses on today's menu! Why won't anyone listen to my proposal of the ESRB doing MPAA-style enforcement? Why?

What a bunch of rejects. The other thing that pisses me off is that most people tend to think like they do.

I kinda wonder why the video game industry even needs a report card in the first place. Does NIMF do this for music and movies too?

Then again, the evolution of the industry has been peculiar compared to music and movies. Video games did not start out as something that everyone embraced that whole families listened to, watched, or played together. For a long time now they have been niche, a medium seen as curious and perhaps even tribal by outsiders. I get the feeling that because of that NIMF views themselves as a teacher trying to discipline a delinquent student.

Video games have never outgrown that label until perhaps now, what with Nintendo reaching out with their arms to grab every corner of the known world at long last. Is there a hope that as everyone on the planet starts to play games, the industry will outgrow this report card?

It won't outgrow the report card, they somehow feel good enforcing what "should" be right in their eyes. They can't report favorably for the industry because it'll cause backlash for them, it is also clear they don't understand the silly fiasco that happened earlier and the faults in them. They are refusing to educate themselves and insist they are right based on what they believe.
 
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Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/25/lee-rigby-report-internet-firms-safe-haven-terrorists-pm wow... come on uk really?11/28/2014 - 2:39pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.nintendolife.com/news/2014/11/two_tetris_downloads_to_be_removed_from_the_3ds_eshop_in_europe Tetris to be removed from the 3DS VC at the end of the year in Europe. Other regions unknown, but will probably all happen too.11/28/2014 - 9:16am
Andrew EisenThe story you just linked to? The story you asked if anyone had seen? Yes, THAT obnoxiousness. I've heard it parroted for nearly two years now.11/27/2014 - 7:57pm
ZippyDSMleeAndrew Eisen: That shes an ex con man?11/27/2014 - 7:54pm
Andrew EisenI've heard the same obnoxious horse poo for years. It's nothing new.11/27/2014 - 7:45pm
ZippyDSMleeAlso anyone see this? http://guardianlv.com/2014/11/anita-sarkeesian-unmasked-feminist-icon-or-con-artist/11/27/2014 - 7:28pm
ZippyDSMleeEvil within is a badly designed game.11/27/2014 - 7:28pm
Andrew EisenSure but you said "widens," hence my confusion. Looking into it, yep, there's a tweak to completely re-frame the image, adding more info at the top and bottom. You apparently need a fairly beefy rig to keep it running smooth when you do that though.11/27/2014 - 6:48pm
Matthew Wilsonthere is vertical fov, not just horizontal fov11/27/2014 - 6:38pm
Andrew EisenWell, you can widen it to 3:1 or even 10:1 but I don't know why you'd want to. From what I understand it's the missing visual info at the top and bottom that some object to, not that there isn't enough on either side.11/27/2014 - 6:36pm
Matthew WilsonI think it widenss the fov, so you get to see more.11/27/2014 - 6:31pm
Andrew EisenI don't see how as doing so would not add any visual information to the top or bottom of the screen.11/27/2014 - 6:04pm
Matthew Wilsonfrom what I read, getting rid of the black bars and stretching it out made for a better play experience.11/27/2014 - 5:59pm
Andrew EisenFrom what I hear, there's a ton of "look up and shoot at the guys above you" stuff in the game that the wider frame doesn't accommodate such actions well.11/27/2014 - 5:55pm
Andrew EisenHaving a game run in scope is not necessarily a bad thing but like any aspect ratio, you have to compose your shots correctly.11/27/2014 - 5:55pm
Neo_DrKefkaThe Evil Within was pretty bad and to make it worse the way the screen size made it hard for you to see even on a big screen it really hurt the game. Being Artistic is great but when you focus on art rather than what sells you run the risk of that happen11/27/2014 - 5:33pm
Matthew WilsonI kinda hope this is not true. http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2014/11/nintendo_might_not_be_making_more_gamecube_controller_adapters_at_the_moment11/27/2014 - 1:34pm
Matthew WilsonI saw that. I wish people would stop preording, but sadly that will never happen.11/27/2014 - 1:26pm
Papa MidnightUbisoft has cancelled the Season Pass for Assassin's Creed: Unity (http://www.reddit.com/r/pcmasterrace/comments/2ni2ac/ubisoft_cancel_season_pass_for_ac_unity/)11/27/2014 - 1:08pm
NeenekoBut now I can use the christmas discount justification too,11/27/2014 - 11:46am
 

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