Two “stings” recently conducted in the U.K. found that underage kids are still able to buy violent videogames from some retailers.
Three High Street retailers, including videogame specialty shop Game, sold either Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories, Hitman or Condemned 2 to a 15-year-old girl who was taking part in an “undercover operation” put on by Which? magazine. All three games are rated M18+, and their sale to anyone under the age of 18 is illegal in the U.K., carrying a maximum penalty of roughly $10,000 and/or six months in jail.
After being informed of the operation, the stores involved said sales to underage gamers were rare and pledged to investigate the findings. Six other retailers targeted by the sting refused to sell games to the teenager.
“It’s shocking and surprising that 18-rated games have been sold to a child as young as 15 by household names,” said Which? Editor Sarah Kidner. “The jury’s still out on whether violent videogames have a negative influence on behavior but, whatever your view, it’s still illegal to sell 18-rated games to minors.”
“Staff should realize that they have a moral and legal duty to stop these sales from taking place,” added Ash Shah of the Brent and Harrow Council trading standards. “There is a mixed but growing body of evidence that very violent games like this can sometimes influence underage players with reports of antisocial behavior linked to them, in extreme cases even fatalities.”
Another report, meanwhile, said that even higher numbers of minors are able to buy mature videogames online via auction websites. The majority of the children recruited by a Welsh Trading Standards initiative – 38 of 44 – were able to make online purchases of 18-rated games using postal money orders.
“This survey shows how easily children can gain access to age-restricted, violent videogames,” Bridgend County Borough Council Trading Standards boss Lee Jones told the BBC. “If traders cannot be sure the person they are selling to is over 18, then they should not be selling.”