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Posted by drew10 on Feb 10, 2010
Feature: Gaming and Children

Feature: Gaming and Children

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.

Leave your views and opinions below!

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9 Responses to “Feature: Gaming and Children”

  1. Pamela says:

    Very Nice post…Thanks for sharing I totally agree with u.

    I would suggest parents to ask their kids to visit sites like 3SmartCubes which loads of IQ Tests, Personality Tests, Aptitude Tests, Puzzles, Brain Teasers etc. Taking these kind of tests will also help the youths to improve their skills, knowledge, personality etc.

  2. moonhead says:

    I agree with everything you say Drew but there are other problems helping this situation. Games like Super Mario Galaxy and say the Lego Star War series are in a minority in that they do not dumb down the gameplay. Most developers and publishers seem to think that making games for children is simpy a matter of making games that are for simpletons with no decent gameplay mechanics and stories that would not be out of place in books for 2 year olds. It would seem they think to be young is to lack intelligence and the only dev to know this and get it right regularly is Nintendo. So until devs sort this attitude out and follow Ninty’s example kids will look elsewhere for their gaming kicks. Another thing to consider is that as a artform and means of entertainment video games are very much still in their infancy and as the years go by attitudes will change and things will improve. I can still remember as a young boy all the negative media attention video players got when they started to hit homes in the early eighties and how they were going to blight a generation of youngsters with evil movie imagery and pornography. I’m still here though and some might even call me a well adjusted member of society (I know you won’t) despite seeing the evils of the stuff like the Exorcist, The Evil Dead and Friday 13th at the tender age of 12. I do think we need to be careful and not overblow stuff like this as there are far worse evils and temptations out there for youngsters today other than video games.

    • drew10 says:

      It is not just a case of kids seeing these images it is now a case that they are involved in what is taking place. Whilst there will always be children who can see images and not be affected by them we have to be aware that even if there is one they need to be protected.
      I do agree however at a lack of games that children have access to that offer the same appeal as the more adult material. I am glad you mentioned the Lego games as Travellers Tales have proved that you can make a game that is both appealing to adults and children alike. This is more of the kind of title we need to be seeing.
      I won’t mention you being well adjusted!

  3. Alex hetherington says:

    I have to say bids and gaming, are both sorry scapegoats for parents to use as labeling excuses for 1) Bad Parenting 2) A pure disregard to an interactive art and creative culture. Our peers use the two, frequently to bombard with insults and critisism it’s not fair, it’s not right. We need a spokesperson of some kind to back the gaming industry for the right reasons. Instead of accusing games for the way our children behave as a result of playing violent games. It’s fickle and nieve to accuse the games and the industry of such tripe. Our children today are very cheeky with a total disraspect towards their parents, neighbours and peers. People need to quite literally go back to basics in parenting and some of the laws need to be relaxed regards to chastising ones child. Two decades ago there were game and movies, violent ones at that. But that did not influence children then to go out and commit violent acts against poeple or property. People need to open their eyes to the real culperates, RELIGION, POLITICS and STILL the colour of anothers SKIN. It’s wrong and it’s not right!!!

    • drew10 says:

      Alex, More games and Movies does not necessarily equate in this instance. The more games advance the more realistic the experience becomes.

      Whilst gaming is an easy target more and more studies are showing a link between violent games and aggressive childhood behaviour.

      All I am saying is that parents need to be educated as to the dangers as do children and the entire games industry.

      Let me put it this way, is it worth taking the risk?

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  5. Neswell Lyons says:

    Hello mate, great piece & I could not agree more.

    As a father to a 7 year old boy this issue has reared its head on a regular basis recently. I do not allow my son to play games above the PEGI rating nor do I allow him to watch me as I play games that contain scenes of a graphic or disturbing nature. The problem that I face is what the parents of his friends allow their children to play. It baffles me as to why they allow their children to play or at least watch while they play games that are rated 16 or 18 when these exact same people wouldnt allow their children to watch films of the same nature.

    Advertising definately needs to be tightened up. As you rightly said, a lot of these games are advertised well before the watershed but measures like this are only a small part of the problem. The main problem, in my opinion, is the failure of parents to regulate what children are playing. I see on a regular basis parents that just dont seem to know or particularly want to tell their child that horrible word NO. Whether its laziness or they just want an easy peaceful life I couldnt really say but it IS a problem & it does need to be addressed fully.

    • drew10 says:

      I fully agree, it is very difficult to protect children from these images and the only way to do it is for the gaming industry to start taking a more pro-active roll in ensuring the way games are marketed and targeted means they are not enticing to children. And also the education of adults is essential in this.

      I have a 15yr old son and I would not allow him to play Heavy Rain.

  6. Adrian32 says:

    I do heartily agree with what you say 100%…….but its an age old but no less important argument other industrys such as Music and Cinema have been blamed for……kids will find a way to get a hold of things they arent supposed to see or in this case…play.

    Who here cannot tell me they crept downstairs to find the latest Rambo movie or Shwarzennegger movie to watch when they were kids despite parental guidance and strict instructions to not do so? Or listen to Nasty Rock albums and gangsta rap? I remember my mum confiscating my Warren G album “Regulate”

    As with much in the modern world or “digital age” The goal posts or media of delivery/product may have changed but the points and arguments are the same….kids will be kids and they will do what needs to be done to get their kicks……..same as you and I did…..but now we are adults and have different viewpoints.

    Just throwing it out there.


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