TORONTO – A new generation of technologically savvy parents are turning gaming into a family event, according to a new survey, but critics pushing for greater monitoring of video game content remain concerned.
An online survey of 1,014 U.S. children and their parents, conducted by market researcher Harrison Group — and commissioned by U.S. game publisher Activision (ATVI) — found 58 percent of parents surveyed said they play video games, and more than half this time is spent with their children.
The survey comes as a bitter political battle over violent content in video games shows some signs of cooling with two of the industry's fiercest critics, U.S. senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joe Lieberman, due later Thursday to join forces with the industry's own rating board in a nationwide educational television campaign.
"We're really seeing an emerging generation of parents who are also gamers," said Paul Lundquist, research expert with the Harrison Group. "For the most part these parents have been playing since they were teenagers themselves."
Game makers give special attention to "Nintendads" — a reference to popular game maker Nintendo — who are now making buying decisions and introducing their own kids to the games they grew up with.
The survey found 74 percent of parents are comfortable with video games becoming a part of their family life and most are familiar with an industry ratings system used to assess what age group should play certain games and used as a guide to the kind of content in the games, such as the levels of violence.
But David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, said the numbers did not represent parents in general, as online surveys are more likely to be completed by people who are technologically inclined.
"There are clearly parents that do play games, but not at the numbers they were reporting," said Walsh, who advocates that a group from outside the industry be given the responsibility of rating games.
Virtually all video games sold through retail in the United States and Canada carry a rating assigned by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, a self-regulated group which reviews the games and assigns them an age group, such as "T" for teen and "M" for mature, or age 17 and up.
More than half of the parents involved in the survey said the ESRB rating was the biggest factor when deciding whether to buy a game for their child.
Last year's controversy over undisclosed sexual content in the game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" fueled the debate over regulation, but the industry has stuck by its self-regulated stance.
Critics of violent game content cite numerous headline-grabbing behavioral and cognitive studies, which suggest a link between exposure to violent media and aggressive behavior.
However, such studies often lack a control group or other research criteria required by the scientific community.
Courts have blocked efforts by several states to curb violent video game content and sales of violent games to minors, deeming them unconstitutional.