Kmart, Wal-Mart Ban Sale of Violent Games to Youths

Young people itching to wreak virtual havoc

with an Uzi via their Playstation will have to bring along a parent

if they want to buy a violent video game from some major retailers.

Kmart announced Thursday it will refuse sale of mature-rated games to anyone under 17, using a barcode scanner that will prompt cashiers to ask for identification from youths.

After Kmart’s news conference in Washington, Wal-Mart announced it would enact the same policy. In a letter last month to Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, the president of Toys R Us said the practice is already in place at his company’s stores.

Targets Retailers

Sessions applauded the move, but said he would prefer that retailers stop selling mature-rated games, as Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck and Co. already have done.

Sessions said he believes “intense involvement” with violent video games can cause a young person to become violent.

“Common sense should tell us that positively reinforcing sadistic behavior, as these games do, cannot be good for our children,” said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.

“We cannot expect that the hours spent in school will mold and instruct a child’s mind but that hours spent playing violent games will not.”

Kmart executives said they believe their policy lets parents make decisions about video games.

“A step of responsibility that gets the parents involved is a smart step, rather than just walking away from the issue and letting someone else deal with it,” said Shawn Kahle, Kmart’s vice president of corporate affairs.

In May, Sessions, Brownback and seven other senators sent a letter to executives of Kmart and several other major retailers encouraging them to pull the games off their shelves or prevent their sale to anyone younger than 17.

Lieberman ‘Encouraged’

Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, was among those who signed the letter written by Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.

“It sounds ... great,” said Lieberman, who is known for speaking out about the amount of violence in popular culture. “I’m real encouraged. If people want to enforce a rating system, they should do it,” he said Thursday.

FTC is supposed to hold hearings on this issue next week, and Lieberman is scheduled to testify on Wednesday.

Most video games sold at major retailers include a rating from the Entertainment Software Review Board advising consumers about which games are suitable for certain age groups.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Jessica Moser said her company has invested more than $3 million on store signs and advertising to educate customers about the rating system.

Moser said she was not sure when Wal-Mart would implement the new policy. Kmart plans to enact the policy Oct. 15, in time for the holiday shopping season.

“I think it’ll work from their standpoint,” said Howard Dyckovsky, vice president of operations for PC Data, a company that tracks software and video game sales.

“But there will be to some degree a slowdown in sales of some of those products, until the kids find ways to get them through other mechanisms.”

Brownback said the Senate Commerce Committee next week will examine the results of a Federal Trade Commission report on whether violent, adult-rated games are target-marketed to kids.

“If this is true—and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that it is—this is a scandal and an outrage,” said Brownback, who authored an amendment that passed the Senate requesting the FTC to conduct the study.

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