(The following article is an editorial by the author and is a statement made only by the author. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organizations or websites the author writes or contributes to, nor should be confused as a statement by said organizations or websites)
It’s been hard pressed to not turn on the news this week and see or hear something about the Supreme Court hearing regarding the State of California’s desire to treat violent video games like pornography and put strict restrictions on the sale and stock of them.
There are opinions on both sides of the fence here, and those who feel California’s wishes have merit blame the video game industry for these games ending up in the hands of children.
I’ll flat out say it now. Parents, and only parents, are responsible for keeping violent video games out of the hands of children.
I’ve played video games for over 29 nears now. Being that I’m 35 years old, one can easily say that I grew up a video gamer. I’ve seen every genre and era of gaming, every high point, every low point, and every controversy.
I was a teenager during the peak of the Nintendo Entertainment System. My Christmas wish list was full of NES games. My parents never purchased games such as Double Dragon or Contra for me, however, as they did not feel the game was appropriate. I didn’t like it at the time, but in hindsight, they at least took responsibility for not allowing me to play video games they felt were not right for a youngster to play.
Fast forward to several years ago when I was doing a retail job. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had just come out and sales were brisk. Given the extreme content of the title, and the Rated M rating on the box, we were not selling the games to minors. Dozens upon dozens of children came up wanting to buy the game and we refused.
What happened? Each and every one of them came back with a parent. This parent was informed of the rating of the game and the type of content within. Out of those dozens upon dozens, all the parents except for one went ahead and bought the game for the children.
Here’s the thing. Video games are not a kids toy. Any politician or supposed journalist who thinks that way is ill-informed and not doing their job.
Industry stats that can be found in a matter of seconds using any common search engine show that minors actually make up the smallest demographic in video gaming. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a video gamer in the US in 34 years old. Only 24 percent of video gamers are under the age of 18.
These Rated M games were not made for kids, but rather the adults who play them the most. This is no different than movies or television, which also have content made for adults that are not appropriate for children.
But wait… there’s more. Read the bottom stat on the ESA page I linked to above. Parents are present 93% of the time when a video game is purchased or rented by their children.
Modern Warfare 2 is one of the biggest selling video games of all time. Ask any adult that goes online to play it how many times a child comes in and annoys them. Not only are these kids playing a Rated M game, but most of them are incredibly rude, shouting vile and racist comments across the headset that no child in my generation would dare have even thought. Many of them are playing, and shouting such things, at hours where parents should be around or at least aware of what is going on.
Tell me who’s to blame when a 12 year old child is playing a Rated M game and shouting the most vile racist terms at 11pm on a Thursday night? Not only why does this child have the game, but where are the parents at that time of night? They either left the kid unattended or don’t care for what they are playing or saying.
That is not the fault of the video game industry. That is the fault of parents doing a lousy job. I have two children of my own. My oldest is just shy of turning five years old, and he is really starting to love video games. I don’t play Rated M games when he is home or awake, nor will I be buying him Rated M games as he grows up.
The mere fact that a state wants to make a law to keep these kinds of games out of a child’s hands, and that it went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States shows me nothing more than how far down parenting has gone. It’s now more of a status quo to point the finger of blame at things that are fully within a parent’s control, and even part of their jobs.
Rated M games are not made for your kids. They are made for the hard working adults that make up the majority of video game players. Leave the games and the game industry out of it, leave the idea of government regulation out of it, and make the parents up in arms over these kinds of video games do their damn jobs for a change.
While I’m at it, I’d also like to know why my five-year-old can pick up DVD copies of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall and Predator off the shelf at any store. They have violent, profanity-filled content all over the place, yet have no ratings notice on the cover and are placed just feet off the ground in many stores. He knows how to operate a DVD player by his age, Governor.
Good thing I’m doing my job in regards to keeping him from watching your movies. The same should be expected of parents in regards to video games.
I trust the Supreme Court will agree.