WASHINGTON – A chainsaw-wielding killer and blood-splattered shooting rampages are featured in some of the 10 video games that a media watchdog group says should be avoided by kids and teens.
"These games are brutal, primitive," Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said Wednesday.
With the holiday shopping season under way, the National Institute on Media and the Family released its 11th annual video game report card. The group urged parents to take a stronger role in safeguarding their children from games that glamorize sex and violence.
"Pay attention to the games your kids, our kids, are playing," said Lieberman, who joined institute officials at a news conference. "It's really time to focus on the parents and urge parents to pay attention."
In past years, the institute has challenged the video game industry and retailers to do more. This year the group said it is focusing more on what parents and others can do.
The group showed video clips of graphic scenes of sex and violence from several newly released video games. Advocates said they wanted to make parents and kids aware of some of the games they should avoid on store shelves this holiday season.
A scene from "Scarface: The World is Yours" showed a man attacking victims with a chainsaw as blood splatters across the screen. A man clubbed several victims in a bloody scene from "Dead Rising." Characters spew obscenities in "Saints Row."
The institute also cited "Gangs of London," "The Sopranos," "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories," "Reservoir Dogs," "Mortal Kombat: Unchained," "The Godfather: Mob Wars" and "Just Cause."
All of the games were M-rated, intended for those aged 17 and over, advocates noted.
Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, said his video game trade group was pleased this year's report card was more "balanced and measured" than previous years. But he said his group wants to empower parents, not blame them.
"Like rock 'n' roll, video games will never die," Lowenstein said in a written statement. "Finger-pointing and demonizing a form of entertainment that is embraced by the millennial generation is fruitless. Partnering with parents to help them help their kids pays off."
Institute president David Walsh praised major retailers Target (TGT), Wal-Mart (WMT) and Best Buy (BBY) for helping to make sure kids could not buy games intended for older players.
No children were able to buy M-rated games in the institute's secret shopper survey this year, Walsh said. The group had criticized some retailers in the past for not doing enough to safeguard kids.
"This is very, very significant progress," he said.
However, problems persist with kids being able to buy mature-themed games at specialty game stores, Walsh said.
The institute hailed game console manufacturers Microsoft (MSFT), Sony (NSE) and Nintendo for developing effective parental controls on their products.
"The good news is, they really work," said Walsh.
Educating parents on how to use the controls and to spend time with their children to learn about the games they are playing is vital, Walsh said. A good start is to limit game time for kids and to keep them away from M-rated games, he added.
"We have to put our kids on a media diet," Walsh said.
The group's list of "games to avoid" is on its Web site, http://www.mediafamily.org.