FTC Finds Video Game Industry Helps Families Make Smart Choices about Game Content

Posted by Steve Crown 
Deputy General Counsel

The Federal Trade Commission has just released its biennial report to Congress on “Marketing of Violent Entertainment to Children” by the motion picture, music recording and video game industries.

Microsoft and other members of the video game industry take seriously the issue of gaming safety, so we are pleased that the FTC recognized the progress our industry has made as we work to help families make smart decisions about game content.  The FTC concluded that the video game industry’s rating system, administered by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), is particularly useful.  The report found that “87% of consumers with children who play video games are aware of the ESRB system, and 76% check the rating every time or most of the time when buying and renting games.” Game ratings range from “E,” meaning a game is suitable for everyone, to “AO,” meaning a game is suitable for adults only.

Still, as the Commission also noted, educating parents is only part of the battle.  So it is great to see that, according to the report, video game retailers are enforcing the ratings system by checking IDs and preventing under-age kids from purchasing mature-rated games.

Microsoft has developed a number of resources to help retailers enforce the ESRB ratings. One is our free online “ExpertZone,” which has helped thousands of retail employees explain the ratings and content descriptions to customers and consult the information before ringing up a sale.

Once a game’s been sold, additional steps can be taken to ensure kids play only what moms, dads and caregivers deem appropriate.  Effectively deploying parental controls tops the list.  Microsoft builds robustFamily Settings into Xbox 360, Windows 7 and other products that provide an easy and consistent way for parents to manage content.

The video game industry is also improving safety is by promoting strong dialogue among parents, caregivers and kids about ways to be safe and healthy in a digital world.  Microsoft is leading a public education effort  called Get Game Smart that helps parents and kids get on the same page about what is appropriate to  watch and play,  who is appropriate to interact with online  and  even how long to play on their Xbox or PC. 

In addition to our own education efforts, Microsoft is partnering with more than a dozen non-profit organizations that are leaders in online safety and children’s advocacy to help parents better understand how to enforce rules about media use in their homes, set family guidelines and improve communication between parents and children. 

In its report today the FTC noted that “the video game industry outpaces the movie and music industries in the three key areas that the Commission has been studying for the past decade: (1) restricting target-marketing of mature-rated products to children; (2) clearly and prominently disclosing rating information; and (3) restricting children’s access to mature-rated products at retail.” We at Microsoft will keep working with parents and our fellow industry stakeholders to ensure that we build upon the progress to date.

Here’s wishing all families enjoyable and safe gaming experiences this holiday season and into the future.

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