LONDON (Reuters) - A British magazine distributed by a joint venture of Conde Nast and Hearst Corporation and aimed at primary school children has been featuring images of adult-rated video games.
The most recent issue of Cool Kidz, which is published by privately-owned LCD
Publishing, contained images of five games that carried age ratings of
18 years, under the European gaming industry's PEGI rating scheme.
appeared as double-page spreads, for use as posters, and were reproduced
in spot-the-difference and other puzzles. Earlier issues also had
images from 18- and 16-rated games.
Children's campaigners said the images reflected a growing problem of young children being exposed to violent video games, thereby increasing the chance they start playing them earlier.
It also highlighted
what some critics describe as an apparent gap in regulation of
children's magazines since LCD does not appear to have broken any law or
which is based in Exeter, southwest England, said it took its
responsibilities to young readers seriously.
"We censor the
images we use to ensure that there is no blood or apparent body damage,"
owner Allen Trump said in an emailed statement.
He said the images
used were suitable for children 12 or older, although he added the
magazine was targeted at children up to 12 years.
printed depicted life-like computer generated images of men carrying
weapons including assault rifles, Bowie knives, an axe, an anti-tank
weapon and pistols.
The images showed
explosions but not the visceral, bloody combat or scenes of a sexual
nature for which the games are frequently criticized by parents' groups
and women's rights advocates.
Cool Kidz is
distributed by Comag, which is controlled by privately-owned U.S.
magazine publishers Conde Nast, owners of Vogue magazine, and the Hearst Corporation, owner of Cosmopolitan magazine.
All three groups declined repeated requests for comment.
is one of the largest magazine distributors in the UK with annual
turnover of around 230 million pounds ($360 million), according to its
most recent accounts.
Trump said LCD
downloaded the game images from the Internet although he was also
occasionally approached by public relations firms seeking coverage of
their clients' games.
regularly post images on their websites, for use by online and print
publishers, thus helping create awareness of their game.
contacted by Reuters said they were unaware Cool Kidz, which has been
published for seven years, had been using their images.
The adult games
Cool Kidz featured included Hitman: Absolution, Call of Duty Black Ops
II, Assassins Creed III, Farcry 3 and Dishonored.
Japan's Square Enix, publisher of the Hitman series, privately-owned
Bethesda Softworks, publisher of Dishonored, and Ubisoft Entertainment,
publisher of Assassins Creed III and Farcry 3, said they opposed the use
but declined to say whether they would take any legal action against
Call of Duty publisher Activision declined to comment.
senior vice-president of teachers union ATL, said publishers and
government needed to do more to limit children's' exposure to games.
"It puts peer
pressure on children .. If they see these images, it gives them the idea
it's ok, it's all right to play these games," she added.
A spokeswoman for
the Advertising Standards Authority said games companies could not
advertise 18 rated games in children's magazines and a spokesman for the
Video Standards Council (VSC), the UK affiliate of PEGI, said its rules
also prohibited this.
However, since the
images were not paid-for advertising, or supplied to Cool Kidz by the
games publishers, these rules do not apply.
Complaints Commission can adjudicate on complaints against magazines but
only in respect of its members. LCD is not one.
The Office of Fair Trade and the Professional Publishers Association, trade group for magazine publishers, said they were unaware of any bodies that had regulatory powers over the content of children's magazines.
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