Foul Ball Seen in Pro-Backed Video Games

Nine-year-old Stephane Safar likes to play MLB Slugfest, a video game rated "E", that is, for everyone 6 years old and older.

But then he played it in front of his mother Amy, and what she saw went well beyond real-life baseball, as players punched and kicked each other during the course of the game.

"Now that I've seen what's in MLB Slugfest, I'm shocked," she says. "I haven't watched the game before and it really is a slugfest."

Wrong Message for Kids?

Many sports video games, including MLB Slugfest, use the likenesses of real athletes. And that can be a problem, argues Kimberly Thompson, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of a recent study on violence in E-rated video games.

"The important message that a lot of kids take away from viewing their heroes, these sports heroes, committing acts of violence … is that maybe it's OK," Thompson says. "You know: 'Maybe it's OK if I don't follow the rules because my heroes aren't following the rules.'"

In fact, Amy Safar is "concerned that he might mimic the behavior that he sees. … Does he know that that's not really how Barry Bonds acts out on the field? Does he know that Nomar [Garciaparra] can't punch somebody?"

MLB Slugfest is licensed by Major League Baseball, which declined to be interviewed for this story.

"My own personal opinion," says New York Mets pitcher Mike Stanton, "is that's something you're really not going to see here at the baseball field or any Little League field, and it's not really promoting the sport the way we would like it to be promoted. But, you know, sometimes money speaks louder than words."

Amy Safar says parents can be misled when they see products endorsed by professional sports leagues. "I think it's irresponsible for Major League Baseball to give their stamp of approval to a game that doesn't truly reflect Major League Baseball," she says. "That stamp by Major League Baseball on the cover, with their logo, made me feel that I was going to buy something that was more appropriate for my son than I actually did."

And a new version of MLB Slugfest has just been released. It is rated "T" for teens because of some sexual innuendo by the announcers and even more-intense fighting.

‘Women Are Objects in This Game’

An NBA-licensed basketball game also has raised the ire of some critics. NBA Ballers allows gamers to acquire possessions such as mansions and cars.

"I think the message that kids take away from NBA Ballers is, it's all about money," Thompson argues. "Women are objects in this game. They are like the other things that you can acquire — a house, a car, a woman. You acquire them by scoring points on the court and then you go and get the woman that you want."

While the NBA declined to be interviewed, it did issue a statement saying, in part, "NBA Ballers is a fantasy game [which] contains no salacious, violent or inappropriate material."

But Jerry West — who has been a part of the NBA for 41 years and whose silhouette is used in the league's official logo — was supposed to be one of the "NBA legends" featured in NBA Ballers. When he learned what was in it, he insisted upon being removed.

"The only thing that a player has is, to some degree, his reputation and his integrity," West says. "I think all of us would like to feel like that's important to us."

ESPN's Steve Delsohn contributed to this report.

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