In 2011, the Supreme Court smacked down a proposed California law that would have fined retailers that sold M-rated games to children. Before that ruling, other states had tried to pass similar laws. Even after the Supreme Court ruling, other states are still trying to pass video game-related legislation. A semi-annual study suggests such legislation isn't needed.
Since 2000, the FTC has conducted an undercover shopper survey. The goal is to have kids try to buy mature entertainment (like R-rated films or M-rated games), and see how many are turned away. Early on, the video game industry had a bad track record as few stores enforced games ratings, but video game retailers started to comply after the Entertainment Software Ratings Board established the ESRB Retail Council in 2005.
These efforts have paid off as the video game industry has the highest level of compliance among all retailers with only 13 percent of underage teenagers being able to buy M-rated games from stores. Other industries, like music and movies, sell explicit content CDs and R-rated movie tickets to 47 and 24 percent of underage teenagers respectively.
Going by retailer, the study found that Walmart had the worst compliance with game ratings by selling M-rated games to 25 percent of underage teenagers. Target had the best compliance with zero percent of teenagers being able to purchase M-rated games at the retailer.
It would be easy to say the study proves something, but it really only suggests that game ratings are effective. At the very least, the game industry is more effective at self-policing than other industries, but that could be due to the fact that other industries are never put under the same amount of public scrutiny that the game industry is subjected to.
Regardless, the games industry is doing a good job of keeping mature games out of the hands of minors. Now if only parents could stop buying mature-rated titles for their children. It gets a little tiresome hearing parents say the industry is rotting their child's morals when they were the ones who neglected to notice the M-rating and content descriptors on the back of the box.[h/t: The Hill]