Video game retailers continue to lead in enforcement of age restrictions

Video game retailers continue to lead in enforcement of age restrictions

The Federal Trade Commission has the results from last year's underage mystery shopper survey. In an effort to analyze the rate at which inappropriate media is sold to minors, the FTC sent unaccompanied children, ages 13- to 16-years old, into retailers such as Target, Walmart, Toys 'R' Us, and GameStop with the intention of purchasing an M-rated game. Thirteen percent of the mystery shoppers were able to obtain the game, which is the same percentage as when the study was last conducted in 2010.

This 87% compliance rating was the highest of all retailers and media. The FTC also surveyed the rates at which minors could obtain an R-rated movie ticket (24%), an R-rated DVD (30%), an unrated DVD (30%), and Parental Advisory Language music CDs (47%). ESRB President Patricia Vance applauded the game industry's “ongoing commitment to parents.”

“Enforcement of video game sales policies continues to be substantially higher than that for any other entertainment industry. This success is due in part to retail partnership programs like the ESRB Retail Council, through which we regularly conduct our own mystery shops to help retailers maintain a high level of store policy enforcement,” Vance said in a statement. “We will continue these responsible efforts with unwavering dedication to serving parents.”

While games had their age limits enforced the most strictly, they had no movement from the previous study, while every other media increased its compliance with age restrictions; PAL music CDs and unrated DVD sales had an increase in compliance of 17% each.

Keep this data in mind when politicians talk about children's access to violent media; video games are actually the best-regulated form of media in the United States. Anecdotally, it seems that the most common way for children to get a hold of violent video games is to have parents purchase the content for them, something most retail employees report as being a common occurrence.

You can see the full results of the FTC's study here.