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Label these video games violent Concern over too-graphic graphics prompts Sega to launch rating system


REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -- An inner-city gang, rampaging through the streets, comes upon some unsuspecting bystanders and proceeds to crush some heads.

The scene isn't from urban America. It's from "Streets of Rage," a video game made by Sega of America, the Japanese company's U.S. unit.

Amid concern about this type of video-game violence, Sega said yesterday it would initiate a rating system for its video games similar to the one used by Hollywood.

"We are particularly concerned that parents buy games appropriate for their children's age," said Tom Kalinske, Sega of America's chief executive.

Sega, which has allowed far more graphic violence in its games than has rival Nintendo of America, said it was trying to help consumers make informed decisions.

Video game boxes from Sega will now carry a label to warn parents of its contents: "GA" for general audiences, "MA-13" for mature audiences (parental guidance suggested) and "MA-17" for adults. More than one-third of Sega's video game buyers are over 18.

Consumer groups said they were pleased by Sega's move.

"Our members have been expressing a great deal of concern over the violence in video games," said Terry Rakolta, head of Americans for Responsible Television.

For now, only games manufactured by Sega will have labels, but the system will eventually be extended to other makers of games for Sega's Genesis system, the company said.

Bernie Cherry, assistant manager at the Babbage's store at the Marley Station mall in Glen Burnie, said the move toward ratings might have been prompted by the expected release in September of a Sega-compatible game called "Mortal Combat."

According to Mr. Cherry, "Mortal Combat" will include certain "fatality moves" that involve graphic violence. "They rip people's heads off and hearts out," he said.

Still, Mr. Cherry said, video game violence isn't a big issue among his customers.

"Mostly adults talk about it," he said.

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