SEATTLE (AP) _ Parents will be able to restrict the kinds of games their children play by enabling a feature to be included in a new version of Microsoft Corp.’s Windows operating system due out next year.
The Redmond, Wash.-based software company is currently working with game manufacturers to embed code information on ratings in their new games, which the Windows Game Manager would check, said Kevin Bachus, product manager for Microsoft’s multimedia group. Game ratings are currently printed on game packaging.
The feature would allow parents to keep games containing excessive violence, sexual content or expletives from being played on the computer. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has a similar feature that can be used to block access to certain Web sites, he added.
Microsoft’s planned move comes at a time when the computer and video game industry is under siege because of concerns about the effect of such violence on children and its possible connection to the school shootings around the country.
Douglas Lowenstein, president of Interactive Digital Software Association, the Washington, D.C.-based game publishers’ lobbying group, said he thought the feature sounded like a useful tool and predicted support for it from the software industry.
``I think philosophically it’s the kind of thing as an industry we’ve always been supportive of _ parental empowerment tools,″ Lowenstein said. ``Anything that facilitates the control of what kids have access to is positive.″
Ann Stephens, president of the Reston, Va.-based research firm PC Data Inc., questioned whether the program would be effective.
``I think any technologically savvy kid is much more technologically savvy than their parents. Maybe this will give some parents some peace of mind, but I don’t think it will have any impact,″ Stephens said.
Stephens said a recent PC Data survey found that most people believe violent movies and television shows are more damaging to children than computer games.
``The question is this _ do we ban everything because there are crazy people out there and we do not know what sets them off?″ Stephens asked. ``I think that’s overkill.″
Bachus said Microsoft was confident the blocking feature could be made easy enough for a non-computer-savvy parent to use as well as secure via a password.
``There will always be ways to skirt around this but ... we think it gives parents another tool to try to be a better parent,″ Bachus said.
Parents also would have the option to specifically approve certain games or programs, such as a word-processing program, that might not be rated, Bachus said.