- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2004

CHICAGO (AP) — Many teen-rated video games contain content that is not listed on the label, including sexual themes, alcohol and profanity, a study found.

Parents should be aware that popular T-rated video games might include a range of unexpected content that could have a negative influence on their children, said Harvard University researchers Kevin Haninger and Kimberly Thompson.

The voluntary rating system “is not providing complete information to parents,” Mr. Haninger said. “In many games there’s content we think parents would care about.”

The authors reviewed labels on all 396 mainstream T-rated video games available as of April 2001, and watched a random sample of 81 games. Violence was listed in content labels on 373 games, or 94 percent; 15 percent were labeled as having sexual themes; 14 percent were labeled for profanity; and 2 percent were labeled for depicting substances such as tobacco or alcohol.

The study’s authors said, however, that many of the labels among the sample were not accurate in detailing content. Several videos included sexual content, profanity or depictions of alcohol or tobacco, but the labels did not list the same.

The study appears in the Journal of the American Medical Association today.

The findings point to a need for a clear explanation of the rating process, the researchers said.

Under the rating system used by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, games labeled “T” for teen are deemed suitable for youngsters 13 and older and may contain violence, strong language and/or suggestive themes.

Other ratings include “E” for everyone, “M” for mature and “AO” for adults only.

The system includes brief content depictors labeled on the game box.

“Content depictors indicate elements in a game that may have triggered a particular rating and/or may be of interest or concern,” according to the ESRB Web site.

An ESRB spokesman said he could not comment until seeing the study.

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