Video Games, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, nintendo, wii, ds, sony, microsoft, PSN, XBLA, Onlive, Playstation Vita, Wii U,
It is an age-old debate and as devout gamers we will defend our medium to the hilt. But as more and more studies link aggressive and violent video games with changes in child behaviour we ask is it time, as an industry, that gaming faces up to its social responsibility?
Of course it is wrong to blame violent games for the current state of our youth but with more and more adult rated games ending up in the hands of children it is clear that we need to educate people into ensuring that adult material remains just that.
From my experience in the industry whether that be as a journalist or manager of an independent games retailer, far to often games with unsuitable material are purchased by or for children way below the age ratings displayed on the packaging.
There were occasions when I would refuse to serve a child with a game only for them return with a parent in tow. I would inform the parent that the game was unsuitable and sometimes I would be met with thanks for informing them about the age rating and the inappropriate material contained within the game. Far too often however I was met with parent apathy and the constant repeating of the phrases “They see worse on the telly” or “They play it at their friend’s house anyway.” Both of which seem highly indicative of lazy and apathetic parenting trends.
Let’s set one thing straight here, games have an age rating for a reason and as adults it is us who are the barriers between a child and their loss innocence. But what can we do? Well I will tell you dear gamer, we can help by educating adults about the potential harm exposing a child to violent or sexual images contained within adult games. We can also help to educate children that games such as Super Mario Galaxy are simply brilliant video games that do not require the added thrill of machine guns, swearing or indeed crime to make them any more appealing.
We can also help by ensuring games are respected for their actual gaming content not just the demographic that they are aimed at.
But where the main changes are required are in the enforcing of the law. Games shops need to face tougher penalties for selling adult material to children, with repeat offenders closed down if necessary. Parents should also be educated to stick to the age guidelines set out by the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) or the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) ratings that are clearly marked on the packaging. There should be an awareness campaign in the mainstream media paid for by a collective of the large publishers. I may be living in cloud cuckoo land on that one but it would be nice for the games manufacturers to show the world that they care what demographic is playing its games. If nothing else it would promote a more positive view of games companies and gaming as a whole.
Perhaps the way games are marketed needs to change also. Too often children have access to adverts and trailers for violent games making their desire to play it much higher. I have seen many fan-posted trailers on YouTube that contain materials that would have been banned had they been video rather than game footage. Some how this content seems to slip through the net. There are adult rated games advertised on TV before the 9pm watershed and this is a practice that needs to be stopped.
With games such as Modern Warfare 2 exceeding films in terms of worldwide revenue it is now that these changes need to be made. We would not send our children to the cinema without knowing the age range of the film they were going to see. Likewise, we would not hire them a violent gangster movie or gruesome horror film from the video shop but all to often we allow kids to play games with content comparable to this.
Maybe it is time to reclassify the term video games to make parents aware that playing a game is not always sweetness and light.
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