According to a poll by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that deals with matters dealing with family and children in media and technology, 72 percent of US adults would back a law that bans minors from buying "ultraviolent or sexually violent" video games without parental consent. The poll, conducted by Zogby International Media, surveyed 2,100 adults from August 13 to August 16.
Common Sense Media Vice President Alan Simpson confirms that the nonprofit timed the poll to coincide with the upcoming oral arguments on California's ban on the sale of violent games to minors in the US Supreme Court. Simpson says the poll backs his group's concerns about violent media.
"We think they confirm a lot of things we've been worried about. Most adults are concerned about the impact of violent video games on kids," Simpson says in a telephone interview. "They want parents to be in control of this entertainment."
Common Sense Media recently filed an amicus brief in support of the law with the Supreme Court. The Entertainment Software Association filed a brief of its own with the court in Schwarzneggar v. EMA/Entertainment Software Association.
"We think it's important that these decisions are made by parents instead of a vendor or clerk in a game shop," says Simpson, who says he isn't a parent.
Entertainment Consumers Association President Hal Halpin called the poll's results into question.
"Methodology is always key with any research or poll, so it boils down to the intention of the organization that's conducting it," Halpin says. "If their motives are pure and their method, scientific, you may see data that's of interest. Given CSM's history, I would fully expect to see results that skew toward supporting their position. A more interesting question might be: if the research is valid, would CSM reverse their position if the results had come back the other way 'round?"
As Halpin points out, an interesting aspect of this debate is evidence from another recent poll of American adults on video games that counters the Common Sense Media poll. In a KRC Research poll of 1,003 adults between late February and early March, 78 percent of respondents believe video games should be afforded First Amendment protection.
In an e-mail statement, Senior Vice President of Communications and Industry Affairs Rich Taylor of the ESA says the First Amendment is the center of the debate.
"The Federal Trade Commission has lauded the work of the computer and video game industry in restricting sales of M-rated games to minors," Taylor says. "In an independent study conducted by the FTC, in an overwhelming number of instances, minors were prevented from purchasing M-rated games. So the real question here is whether video games can be constitutionally treated differently than other forms of First Amendment protected material, and that answer from every court has been 'No.'"
Simpson notes the KRC poll may not tell the full story.
"Obviously, every poll is different, and every poll is going to get different questions," Simpson says. "That poll probably focuses on all video games, and we're talking about violent video games. When you look at what people realize is a violent video game world -- we're talking about games industry itself rates as adults only or mature. I think a lot of parents are looking at video-game market and aren't interested in kids accessing a game that lets their kid become a Taliban fighter and fight U.S. forces overseas." That game is EA's Medal of Honor, which is drawing fire for allowing players to assume the role of the Taliban in its multiplayer.
Other findings from the Common Sense Media poll include:
* Sixty-five percent of parents say they're concerned about the impact of ultraviolent video games on their kids.
* Seventy-five percent of parents would rate the video game industry negatively when it comes to how they protect kids from violent video games. More than half of both parents and adults in general would go so far as to rate the industry "poorly."
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