Video retailers are anticipating the establishment of a video game rating system and some have already taken steps to prevent children from renting inappropriate games.
At Baker's Supermarkets, Omaha, Neb., a division of Fleming Cos., Oklahoma City, children need permission to use their parents' video cards to rent video games that may be objectionable, said John McCawley, buyer and merchandiser for Baker's in-store Video To Go departments.
"Kids can't rent on parents' accounts without permission. You must have an adult there, unless otherwise specified," McCawley said.
Using an independent rating system similar to the one the Motion Picture Association of America uses would be preferable, as opposed to a system under which manufacturers rate the games and software themselves, McCawley said. "That system would be the best one to go with. Where the manufacturers are doing it, if they're not following the same guidelines, the same rules, there are going to be a lot of gray areas," he said. "That [the confusion over game content] is only going to increase as technology gets a little more affordable. Retailers need to be in touch with what's going on in video games," he continued.
A video buyer at a major Northeast chain, who asked not to be identified, said, "We definitely have a problem with parents picking up games for their kids and finding out they're violent."
She said she is looking forward to the establishment of a games rating system, but, until one is in place, store clerks who should be familiar with the products are instructed to inform parents about any violent video games or computer software they may be renting.
If the marketplace is presented with two rating systems, however, she is not sure how her store would handle it, she said.
Three major retail chain stores -- Wal-Mart, Babbage's and Toys R Us -- have already stated they will not carry any videos that have not been rated once the voluntary system is available.
Mary Evans, vice president of stores for Babbage's, a computer software and video games retailer, said store clerks are usually familiar with their products and inform parents of the nature of the products.
She credited the furor over Acclaim Entertainment's violent video game "Mortal Kombat" with inciting interest in a rating system. "We're all for a video ratings system. Since the release of 'Mortal Kombat,' parents and grandparents would like to know more about the products."
Although she said she did not like the idea of having to contend with two separate systems, she did say, "Whatever it is, I'm sure we can work it out."
She said the most effective system would be one where the rating is actually carved into the game cartridge. "Kids are smart. They'll throw the box away so parents won't see it," she said.