Non-profit group the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) released its often controversial 13th annual Mediawise Video Game Report Card, issuing letter grades to parents, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, and retailers for doing their part to keep inappropriate games out of children's hands.
The ESRB received an "A" grade for implementing new ratings summaries to accompany its ratings for video games. The summaries elaborate on game ratings "in objective terms," explaining the rating's context and the content that factored into the rating decision.
The Institute, which has historically been critical of video games for their addictive and mature properties, gave retailers a "B+" grade for improving on its enforcement of ratings policies, as a recent Federal Trade Commission report found that only 20 percent of kids who tried to purchase M-rated games from stores were successful.
This is a significant improvement over results from a similar study conducted in 2003, which found that 55 percent of children were able to buy M-rated games.
The report card gave an "Incomplete" grade for parental involvement, as the Institute feels that too many parents are not using information like game ratings when purchasing games for the children. Parents were also criticized for not using parental controls or screen time limits enough.
To help parents, this year's report card [PDF link] includes a "Parent’s Guide to Video Games" and lists for recommended and inappropriate games for children.
NIMF also warned parents that excessive and compulsive video game play could be a sign of video game addiction, which the Institute and addiction experts describe as a "real problem." The group notes that the American Psychiatric Association has received calls to add video game addiction to its list of official mental disorders.
"Video games have become a staple in most American households as games like Wii Fit, Guitar Hero World Tour and Hasbro Family Game Night replace traditional board games and family movie nights,” says NIMF founder and president Dr. David Walsh.
He continues, “But too much video game playing can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle and can be a contributing factor to childhood obesity and sliding school grades, and, in some cases, may cause video game addiction."