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Brazil looks to ban video games while U.S. makes ratings work

Ratings on video games are working surprisingly well in the U.S. Brazil should avoid costly legislation and adopt a similar system.

Late last week it was reported that following Venezuela's lead in attempting to reduce "violent tendencies" in South American children, Brazilian Sen. Valdir Raupp has authored a bill that would make it a crime to make, import, or distribute "offensive" video games.

The goal of the bill is to "curb the manufacture, distribution, importation, distribution, trading, and custody, [and] storage of, the video games that affect the customs, traditions of the people, their worship, creeds, religions and symbols."

Where this ban, like many others, falls short is in assigning blame for societal ills to video games instead of dealing with larger social issues, including a lack of parental oversight. There are, no doubt, influences in Brazil that are different from the U.S., but video game ratings have proven to be an excellent example of an industry-wide standard that could easily be adopted internationally.

In a recent report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) praised the video game industry for continuing "to have the strongest self-regulatory code" of all the entertainment sectors.

And while there is evidence to support both sides of the argument--that video games do and do not incite negative behavior in children--the ESRB recently released a statement (PDF) providing evidence that the ratings program is a success in the eyes of the FTC.

ESRB ratings
ESRB ratings ESRB

The FTC said the U.S. video game industry "outpaces" other entertainment sectors in restricting target-marketing of mature-rated products to children, clearly and prominently displaying rating information and restricting children's access to mature-rated products at retail.

The report further states that these measures helped to stop 80 percent of mature-rated game sales to minors. In contrast, the report showed that more than 50 percent of teen shoppers were able to purchase R-rated and unrated DVDs.

It's not every day that there are statistically relevant proof points to share about entertainment and games and it would make a lot of sense other countries from the successes of the ESRB program and use it as a model with a certain level of comfort.

Without suggesting that any one system for dealing with these issues is better than the others, game ratings are effectively standards as we see with many other types of software. The more organizations that take advantage of them, the more efficient the whole system becomes.