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Facing the threat of government regulation, video game manufacturers pledge to have a voluntary sex and violence rating system in place before Christmas buying season.

Senators who had proposed a government commission to rate the games said they would wait to review the industry's rating system before taking any further action.

"Products coming to market after November 1 will, if submitted by publishers in a timely fashion, be rated under the new system," said Jack Heistand, chairman of the industry's rating committee.

The game manufacturers' position was buttressed at Friday's hearing of the Senate Governmental Affairs subcommittee on regulation and information by three major retailers who vowed to sell only rated products once the system is in place: WalMart Stores, Toys R Us and Babbage's. Several arcade game vendors also have set up committees on ratings.

Under the proposed system, an anonymous panel that includes educators, parents, child psychologists and business people will review new games. The 2,500 new titles released each year would be labeled with a rating similar to those used for films. The system likely would use GA for general audiences, MA-13 for mature audiences 13 and older, and MA-17 for mature audiences age 17 and older.

The rating labels also would include short descriptions, such as "contains graphic descriptions of animated violence," explaining why certain games are inappropriate for children.

Friday's hearing follows months of growing concern over the amount of violence and sex in electronic games. Last year, consumer complaints forced Sega of America to remove NightTrap from stores. The game contained a scene in which hooded creatures attacked a scantily clad woman in her bathroom and killed her by drilling a hole in her neck.

Mrs. Clinton: News coverage of violence damaging to kids, too

PALO ALTO, Calif. _ Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that excessive news coverage of violence might be just as damaging to children as violence on television programs and in movies, and she urged journalists to strike a better balance.

"I think there must be balance. Good caution and prudence do not violate First Amendment rights," Mrs. Clinton said via satellite from the White House to a journalists conference on "Children and the News Media" at Stanford University.

While news coverage of violence may in some cases raise public awareness and prompt support for measures like gun control, she said, in many cases violence shows up more often on TV news and in newspapers than it does in daily life.

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