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Research on underage gamers released

Research on underage gamers released

20 September 2005

The Office of Film and Literature Classification and the Department of Internal Affairs have released a research report showing that the majority of teenagers surveyed had played computer games that cannot legally be supplied to them.The report, Underage Gaming Research, was released today and is based on a survey of 331 secondary school students aged 15 to 17.

The survey was designed and analysed by UMR Research Limited. The two agencies commissioned the report after receiving anecdotal evidence of underage gaming. While the results of the survey cannot be used to show what proportion of young people in the whole country have played restricted games, they indicate that underage access to these games is common.

The survey asked the participants whether or not they had played any of the 26 games listed in the questionnaire. Twenty-four of the games listed were R18 and are therefore illegal to supply to the subjects of the study.

Two of the games, Manhunt and Postal 2, were objectionable and therefore illegal for anyone to possess or supply.The study found that 62% of participants had played at least one restricted or banned game. The Grand Theft Auto series were the most popular games amongst those surveyed. A small number of subjects reported having played the two banned games Manhunt and Postal 2. In almost half of cases, the young people had bought the games themselves while, in a further third of cases, parents had bought them.

The results suggest that some parents and retailers are illegally supplying restricted games to underage players.Chief Censor Bill Hastings said “the Classification Office doesn’t ban or restrict games lightly. We do it to protect the greater public good from injury caused by young people playing games developed for an adult audience”.

“Only about 10 per cent of all games on the market are restricted, meaning that there plenty of games available that are suitable for young people. I encourage parents to take an interest in their children’s game playing and to ensure that they only play games that are legally available to them.

“Parents who allow their underage children to play restricted games are breaking the law and doing their children a disservice,” Mr Hastings said. Department of Internal Affairs Deputy Secretary Andrew Secker said that the Department's focus is on the stores selling and hiring games. Censorship Inspectors carry out inspections at between 400 and 500 stores each year.

“The industry has suggested that it would be helpful to have point of sale material from the Department about the law. We are producing that and providing it to stores free of charge,” Mr Secker said.“We have found that stores responded well when we raised any concerns after inspections.

We have not yet prosecuted any stores but that is an option if problems continue.”The Department of Internal Affairs has prosecuted a New Zealander trying to distribute Manhunt in this country. The Manhunt prosecution seems to have greatly helped with compliance. Since that case, sellers contacted by the Department have cooperated very quickly.

ENDS

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