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"If it Weren’t for Video Games, I Would Kill People" – Anonymous

November 6, 2007 2 comments

I remember reading this quote a long time ago shortly after the Columbine shootings in 1999. Two kids walked into a school and wasted a bunch of their fellow classmates. The media was quick to blame, well…the media for the violent outbreak. Anything from Marilyn Manson to video games such as Doom and Quake. Jack Thompson set his sights on the game industry to encourage greater regulation and the banning of violent games. Politicians such as Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton support video games legislation as it pertain to minors. Greater emphasis has been placed on retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy to not sell video games rated M for Mature to minors.

The ratings of video games in North America is conducted by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) which was created out of the backlash created by Mortal Kombat when it found its way on home consoles. Keep in mind the SNES version didn’t contain any blood and you needed a code to see it in the Sega Genesis version. The ESRB is voluntary so no one has to submit to it, except the game will never make it to shelves because stores rarely if ever sell an unrated game. There are 8 standard ratings:

EC – Early Childhood, E – Everyone, E10+ – Everyone 10 and over, T – Teen, M – Mature 17 and over, AO – Adults only 18 and over, RP – Rating Pending (which you will mainly see in ads), K-A – Kids to Adults (only found on older games and has since been discontinued) – wikipedia

These work a lot like movies ratings conducted by the MPAA and are pretty self-explanatory. Only two games have ever received and AO rating for violence: Manhunt 2 and The Punisher. Sony refused to license an AO version of Manhunt 2 on their Playstation 3 system, while contrary to historical reason, Nintendo has allowed its release on the Wii. It can be argued that receiving an M Rating will make a game sell more due to people wanting violence or sex in a game.

Wherever we look, however, there is a constant regulation or attempts at regulating video games. No one seems to want to point a finger at the real cause of violence in children, which is bad parenting. And maybe not even bad parenting but a lack of parental involvement in their lives and their interests/hobbies. I’ll flat out say it, video games do NOT cause children to act out violently. (I have an M.A. in media effects theory for video games). Engadget is reporting an update coming to the Xbox 360 will allow parents to control the time their children spends on video games. Apple has increased their parental security for their children in their new operating system so there is an increase for parental opportunity, but that doesn’t cut it either.

The ESRB should be abolished. Too often parents simply rely on the rating to make decisions for themselves or completely ignore them when purchasing games for their kids. Without the ESRB, parents would be forced to play a more active role in their children’s media selection. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Sound familiar? The same goes with games. Parents need to delve into the game with their kids and play along. James Paul Gee wrote a book entitled, “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy.” I highly recommend it. Parents might even learn a few things themselves. They could even use a lesson in humility from their kids during a gaming session.

Parents can sit with their children and reinforce the fact that it’s just a game. Aside from that, I think kids can figure out that they cannot tear off a man’s head with his spine still attached or simply walk around with a crowbar wrecking peoples’ faces. I’ve seen kids acting like Power Rangers, I even did it, but that’s an imagination. Walking into a school with guns and explosives is a mental disorder brought on by years of anguish and a lack of parental involvement, not the result of a visual stimulus from a glass tube.

If you’re a parent reading this, don’t ask your kids what game they are playing, just sit down next to them and pick up a controller and play along. If you’re a teenager or even a child reading this, ask your parents to play with you. God knows parents could have a little more fun and imagination in their lives. Video gaming isn’t the anti-social event it was once thought to be. It’s a lot more social than seeing a movie together or watching TV where everyone just sits and stares. Parents, set aside a night where you play games with your kids. You want them to do everything with you, right? Why not do something with them?

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