FTC Hires Undercover Kids To Buy Adult Games With Surprising Results

The FTC turns into the CIA for video games. I, for one, am filled with patriotism.

Everybody knows that nobody actually cares about selling violent video games to kids. Every teenager in the US has probably strolled into their local game/technology store and come out with an ID-free copy of Call of Duty, right? 

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Actually, the Federal Trade Commission reports, that’s exceptionally untrue. It turns out that during 2012, the purchase of mature games by minors was the lowest of all other adult-rated media sources–movie tickets, DVD sales, and CD sales. 

The FTC arranged for 13- to 16-year-olds, unaccompanied by a parent, to attempt to buy R-rated movie tickets; R-rated DVDs; unrated DVDs that were R-rated when first released in theaters; music CDs carrying a Parental Advisory Label (PAL) that warns of explicit content; and video games rated “M,” which means they may be suitable for persons age 17 and older.  Between April and June 2012, the teenagers attempted to buy these products, which are rated or labeled by self-regulatory bodies of the entertainment industry, from national and regional chain stores and theaters across the United States.

Roughly 47% could of the undercover shoppers could purchase CDs with explicit lyrics, 30% managed to buy  adult-restricted DVDs and movie tickets, and a shockingly low 13% of kids were allowed to purchase M-rated video games, which the FTC cites as “the highest level of compliance among the industries.”

The blurry numbers at x-axis roughly measure sales from 2000 to 2012. It’s not a perfect graph, but you get the idea.

Figure 6 demonstrates the significant improvement since 2000 in retail enforcement of the Mature rating for packaged video games.  Four of the six major game retailers refused to sell M-rated games to 90 percent or more of the underage shoppers.

The surprising king of the ‘don’t-sell-adult-games-to-kids’ isn’t everyone’s favorite game retailer. It’s box-store giant, Target. 

Target registered an impressive 100 percent enforcement rate for all 37 undercover shops, the first time a major retailer has accomplished this feat in any category when shopped on more than ten occasions.  However, Target’s enforcement record on R-rated DVDs which, like M-rated games, are rated as appropriate for ages 17 and up, was not as impressive.  As shown in Figure 3, Target permitted 51 percent of underage shoppers to purchase R-rated DVDs.

With very few exceptions (Wal-mart above 20% and Best Buy just above 10%), most game retailers sold M-rated games to minors under 10% of the time, which strikes me as a radically low number.

So suck it, politicians.

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HC Billings
HC Billings is an excellent gamer, acceptable writer, and laughable parkourist.