Those of us who are gamers know that violent video games have been a “hot-button topic” for almost 2 decades. In December of 2005, in fact, then Senator (and current presidential hopeful) Hillary Clinton introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act – legislation which would have criminalized the sale of games rated “Mature” or “Adults Only” to minors. This, and several other bills like it, have repeatedly failed to become law. This is due to the US Supreme Court deciding that video games are forms of art, and as such are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Even still, on April 5th of this year, ign.com published a story which indicated that the upcoming Gears of War 4 would again have a “gore and explicit language filter”. This feature allows players or parents to turn off the scripted swearing if kids are playing the game. I have questions about this: Why the HELL are you letting your kids play M-rated games, necessitating that developers add this sort of feature to their games?? Sit down, kids. Let Uncle Doug tell you a story or two.
It seems these days, that almost every time I go into a game store, I overhear some child attempting to convince his/her parent/grandparent/guardian to buy them some M-rated game, because “everyone has it”, and/or “it’s really cool”. Most of those times, I do hear the store employee mention the ESRB rating of the game, and tell the parent/grandparent/guardian that the content of the game may not be appropriate for the child(ren). This, unsurprisingly, usually results in a very surprised adult, and a very unhappy child.
Then, there are the times that the store employee says nothing about the rating. The adult buys the game for the child, most likely completely oblivious of the game’s content (even though it’s clearly marked on the front of the case), and they walk out of the store to go about their day(s). I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to be a fly on the wall in those homes, when the child plays through the game for the first time, and the parents experience the content for themselves. Do the parents discipline the child for being untruthful? Do the parents feel foolish for not learning more about what they’re buying? Do the parents even mind at all? Who’s to say?
I know that when I was growing up in geekdom, I played a lot of different video games, and watched a lot of anime. My parents were fairly progressive, so I only had to debate a little bit to get my mother to let me buy things like Mortal Kombat (infamous for it’s gory content) for the Sega Genesis. However, she was very adamant that my brother and I learned the difference between what was on the screen and real life. Real life has consequences, and we had to learn that things like violence, crime, and mature language all had their own set of repercussions. We were also not allowed to play games like Mortal Kombat or watch violent movies without supervision, and the topics of violence & gore were never glamorized in our house.
Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for the rights of parents to raise their kids as they see fit (within the law, of course). That being said, I would venture a guess that some of these parents aren’t really taking an interest in what their kids are into, and by extension being ignorant of the content that the children may encounter. Have things changed so much in the last 20 – 25 years that some parents have gotten complacent?
Look at things this way: would you let your child watch 5 gory or violent R-rated movies in a row? No? Then why would you allow them to play an M-rated game for 10 hours straight? The ESRB & the MPAA have many of the same standards, so their rating systems cover a lot of the same content issues – language, violence, nudity, etc. I guess what I’m getting at here, is this: Parents, take the time to examine the games your children are playing, and what they want to play. You may be surprised what you find.