There is a significant difference in how game retailers in the UK and in the U.S. conduct their business. This difference centers on the ratings of videogames, and the enforcement of said ratings. And as far as attorney and anti-game activist, Jack Thompson, is concerned, the UK has got it right.
After the Manhunt 2 debacle, which ultimately forced Take-Two to pull the game back for editing if there's to be any hope of release, Thompson praised the BBFC's stance on the situation. The controversial game was immediately banned in the UK after the ESRB assigned the AO (Adults Only) rating, which also means the game couldn't be released on its chosen platforms (PS2 and Wii). Sony and Nintendo will not release AO titles for their consoles.
“The UK does it much better than the US, which rates a game that’s inappropriate for minors and then sells it to them,” Thompson told MCV. “I think the UK has got it right. You rate a game and you can’t sell it to people if it falls in a certain category – the rating actually has a sanction, whereas in the US the rating means nothing.”
Thompson's outlook is relatively simple: retailers in the U.S. aren't punished for failing to uphold the rating system, but in Britain, the retailer can face some pretty steep consequences; even a possible prison sentence. This makes sense, considering it's entirely up to the retailer in the U.S. if they wish to enforce the rating system. At this time, some do – like Wal-Mart – and require ID for the purchase of an M-rated game. But as there is no law, retailers like GameStop/Electronics Boutique aren't required to card.
“We don’t have a single law in the books that prevents a mature rated game being sold to a minor as young as ten years of age,” he said. “I think you guys have the model. Certainly Australia and New Zealand, Canada have followed the UK’s lead on that and that’s what the US should do.”
We have to say we agree completely. There are similar laws in the U.S. in regards to movies, so we honestly don't see the problem with enforcing the ESRB's applied ratings, nor do we see a problem with punishing retailers who refuse to abide by the law…should there ever be one. Perhaps after something like Manhunt 2 , the change could be just around the corner.