Two Democratic senators criticized the video arcade industry and the likes of "Mortal Kombat" and "Doom" game videos yesterday for creating the "1990s' equivalent of coal in a stocking - dark, dirty and dangerous in the hands of young children."
While presenting their yearly progress report on the $3.5 billion video and computer game industry, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Sen. Herbert Kohl of Wisconsin also called on parents to "make better media choices" for their children.
They released a "Dirty Dozen" list of objectionable videos: "Doom," "Fighting Vipers," "Killer Instinct," "Krazy Ivan," "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," "Mortal Kombat," "Primal Rage," "Resident Evil," "Revolution X ," "Street Fighter 11," "Virtual Cop" and "Virtual Fighter 2."
To traditional children's music from the "The Nutcracker," the senators offered the dramatic contrast of film clips from some of the more violent videos plus a scene from "Primal Rage," produced by Time Warner, of two dinosaurs in a bloody fight with the winner urinating on the prone loser.
"Too many games now on the market this holiday season are more violent, more anti-social and generally more disgusting than ever," Mr. Lieberman said.
He got interested in the topic after "watching my 8-year-old watch television," he said, and realizing how videos communicate "that killing is cool and viciousness is a virtue."
The worst offenders in marketing these games are video arcades, said David Walsh, the director of the Minneapolis-based National Institute of Media and the Family, who spoke at a news conference with the senators.
His organization just released a survey of places where videos are marketed and sold, and he notes there were almost no ratings advisories in arcades surveyed in six cities across the country.
Retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us scored much higher in providing ratings, he said, although the clerks in many such stores seem confused about what the ratings really mean.
Ratings categories, which range from "EC" for early childhood to "AO," or adults only, are produced by the Entertainment Software Rating Board, based in New York. Each product, which is labeled by three independent raters, carries the rating on the package front and more information on the game's content on the back.
Although these ratings have been in place since 1994, 71 percent of rental stores polled said they had no policy of keeping rentals of "mature" games from children, or if they did, it was not enforced, Mr. Walsh said.
"Store personnel repeatedly said they didn't know how the ratings worked and what they meant," he said. …