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Sexual content in video games: An analysis of the Entertainment Software Rating Board classification from 1994 to 2013

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Abstract

Background Video games are widely used by children and adolescents and have become a significant source of exposure to sexual content. Despite evidence of the important role of media in the development of sexual attitudes and behaviours, little attention has been paid to monitor sexual content in video games. Methods: Data was obtained about sexual content and rating for 23722 video games from 1994 to 2013 from the Entertainment Software Rating Board database; release dates and information on the top 100 selling video games was also obtained. A yearly prevalence of sexual content according to rating categories was calculated. Trends and comparisons were estimated using Joinpoint regression. Results: Sexual content was present in 13% of the video games. Games rated 'Mature' had the highest prevalence of sexual content (34.5%) followed by 'Teen' (30.7%) and 'E10+' (21.3%). Over time, sexual content decreased in the 'Everyone' category, 'E10+' maintained a low prevalence and 'Teen' and 'Mature' showed a marked increase. Both top and non-top video games showed constant increases, with top selling video games having 10.1% more sexual content across the period of study. Conclusion: Over the last 20 years, the prevalence of sexual content has increased in video games with a 'Teen' or 'Mature' rating. Further studies are needed to quantify the potential association between sexual content in video games and sexual behaviour in children and adolescents.

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