Friday, August 01, 2008

Game Purchasing and Parenting: My Humble Opinion

A few days ago while I was perusing the forums at Goozex, a fellow gamer told a story about his recent visit to a specialty gaming store where a mother with a son about 7-8 was ahead of him in line. Said child brought his mother a copy of God of War II which is rated M for: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Nudity, Sexual Themes and Strong Language. The clerk showed due diligence and explained the content of the game to the mother, and everything was kosher to her until he got to the nudity and that was the deal breaker, and she made him put it back... so he comes back with Scarface, which if you've seen the movie, you know that perhaps a game based upon it is not the best choice for a child. But once again, she was okay with everything in the game until once again, the inclusion of nudity came up. The original poster didn't stick around to see how the rest of that mother's visit to the store turned out, but I am just imagining that she left that store with an M rated game.

Now, you all know that I am not a prude about the content of games or the mass media in general as my numerous entries about Grand Theft Auto and The FCC can attest to. However, the above story really bothers me. Yes, I am not a parent so maybe I don't have the right to criticize someone else's choices when it comes to raising their child. I mean, I've been witness to scenes similar to the one above in real life and I didn't say anything to the people involved.

But I just think if you wouldn't let your 7-8 year old child watch, say Kill Bill, then you shouldn't buy them an M-rated game like God of War. For the most part, this whole thing doesn't really affect me. Oh wait, in some ways it most certainly does.

How does it affect me you might ask. Well, think about the last time you saw a rated R movie at the theatre and some dear soul decided to bring their young kids to the movie. Remember how much fun that was. I am sure that everyone who is reading this and has played a Mature-rated console game online with a headset knows the agony of being sworn at by someone whose age hasn't hit double digits on more than one occasion.

And of course, the idea that kids are getting their hands on games that are clearly not appropriate for their age gets a lot of people's panties in a bunch... you know, like a certain Florida Attorney who is on the razor's edge of disbarment, a couple of prominent senators like Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton, and groups like Focus on the Family who want all games to be kid-friendly(or more likely, not to exist at all).

It seems to me that the old stereotype that games are for kids still permeates the culture, despite ample evidence to the contrary (like that fact that the average game player is 35 and 75% of gamers are over 18). So why should my enjoyment of this medium be spoiled because some parents choose not to follow the clearly printed warnings on a label?

Now I am not advocating a law that makes it illegal to sell games to children by proxy (through their parents), but I do think that if these same people bought the games without reading the ratings card, they have no right to complain about the content of the game. They had the opportunity to be an informed consumer at the point of purchase, and by buying or renting said item, they are consenting to whatever is accessible on that disc, and thus, they shouldn't be entitled to wreck it for everyone else who is gaming responsibly.

I discussed the matter with my sister, and asked if she would allow my niece when she was 7-8 to get an M rated game, and she said categorically that she would not, and I think a lot of people who play games would answer the same way because we understand that like movies, there are definitely limits that every parent has to set for their child, and as long as those limits don't affect me or the general population at large, well, everyone should be happy.


Megan said...

Well put, brother.

MC said...

Part of me was worried to see what your comment was to this rant because I'm not a parent, so perhaps there was a perspective I wasn't taking into account.

Ravenblack said...

This is not really about commenting on parenting as much commenting on ignorance, and the ignorant group just happens to be parents.

In my observation, parents just can't be bothered to read the labels. I bet some of them don't even know that there is a rating system. They simply assume that video games are for children like that old stereotype you've mentioned. I've seen a clueless looking woman queuing for Ninja Gaiden 2 for her smart looking 10 year old who is waiting by the side, eyeing the demo stations. She definitely have no idea nor is she buying it for herself because she's standing in line like she's gonna buy bread.

I don't know how it is in America, but in Singapore at least, they probably expect the government to do the banning for them (which is what our government is well known to do to fix a problem. Hint: chewing gum on cinema seats).

As it seems, in my part of the world, this is not to be if our country is to become a gaming hub of asia. There were some struggles seen when the GTA games, Mass Effect and Conan was banned and then unbanned. In the end it was decided that we have our own ratings authority on top of the one on the box. At least the sticker is the same as the one used for DVD movies so hopefully adults (and half-conscious parents) will recognize it for what it means.

Arjan said...

Everything's said already haha..
Although I think I was playing MK 1 when I was 10 or so..but I didn't buy it at the time so you (I? hehe) can only blame my parents for letting me play gorey games

The responsability is with the stores not selling to children and with parents not letting their kids play these games.

MC said...

Ravenblack: See, the last thing I want is for the government to regulate gaming... especially since I could be screwed over by proxy if the United States government decided to do so, as it is rather unlikely the games made to conform to those new standards would be altered to be in keeping with the rather recent openness Canadian society has been fostering in terms of content.

Arjan: Ah... arcade violence... the reason we have ESRB ratings in North America.

SamuraiFrog said...

This is symptomatic of peoples' attitude that everyone knows better than everyone else how to raise children. So they make it harder to get into movies for adults and harder to buy video games and, in the process, make it harder for guys like you and me, without children, to get what WE want because a child might get their hands on it. Why do childless people always have to suffer for someone else's bad parenting?

MC said...

I just want people to be responsible for their own children.