The Harvard team acknowledged that only playing the first hour of these video games in all likelihood did not reveal all of the manifestations in which the game labelers missed the boat. But parents rely on the game labeling system, largely because most parents won't stay and watch a video game unfold for an hour, let alone the other multiple levels of adventures that may take their children weeks to decipher. They're more likely to check out the acceptability of a half-hour sitcom than find out what happens on the Planet Gorgon in Level Five, especially when they couldn't figure out how to move beyond Level One.
It's sad that researchers would have to conclude that they believe the ESRB should actually have to "play the video games as part of its rating process to help ensure the absence of content other than that indicated by the materials submitted to the ESRB by the game manufacturers." What we have in the video game is not self-regulation. It is the slipshod appearance of self-regulation, in which the ESRB just grades based on what it's told by the game makers.
A graver problem for parents is that the games that many youngsters desire and chatter about are not rated "T," but rated "M," for supposedly "mature" audiences. This is the TV-land of ultraviolence, casual sex and casual profanity best known through the best seller "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City."
Rockstar Games, the sleaze merchants behind the "Vice City" cop-killing, woman-abusing fantasy, has a newer game out called "Manhunt." The goal of "Manhunt" is delivering the nastiest killings for filming -- the goriness of the killing is rated on a five-star scale. USA Today's reviewer explained: "I got plenty of one and two-star ratings by sneaking up behind thugs and stabbing them in the neck. Higher ratings are awarded depending on how much additional carnage you can add to the execution." The game's director praises the player: "The bodies are starting to stack up nicely ... We're getting some great footage here!"
We're trying to keep children away from R-rated violent movies that last 90 minutes, but in too many basements and kids' bedrooms in America, children are role-playing murderers for hours on end, ad infinitum.