LONDON Jan 29 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.
Screenshots 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
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 industry rule.
LCD Publishing, 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
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.
The pictures 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
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
All three groups declined repeated requests for comment.
London-based Comag 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
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.
Games publishers regularly post images on their websites,
for use by online and print publishers, thus helping create
awareness of their game.
Games firms contacted by Reuters said they were unaware Cool
Kidz, which has been published for seven years, had been using
The adult games Cool Kidz featured included Hitman:
Absolution, Call of Duty Black Ops II, Assassins Creed III,
Farcry 3 and Dishonored.
Representatives for 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.
Alison Sherratt, 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
The Press Complaints Commission can adjudicate on complaints
against magazines but only in respect of its members. LCD is not
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.