Dear Conscientious Parents, Videogames Are Not Toys
Do you have limits on the videogames your child may play? For the sake of your child you might want to consider having some. I know that parents want what is best for their children, and I’m increasingly aware of the number of children whose parents seem completely oblivious to the content they are exposing their young ones to through the videogames they allow them to play. I believe this is partially because of a misunderstanding of videogames as a form of media.
People appear to believe that videogames are children’s toys. I can see how this idea would come about; for the most part video games got their start with younger audiences. As the gamers of the last three or four decades grew and matured, their love of gaming was not discarded the way action figures and toy cars were. Even in the 90s there were quite a few games aimed at more mature audiences. Today there are even more.
Videogames are not merely a child’s toy. They are quickly taking their place alongside books, television, and movies. No parent in their right mind would just let their child read or watch any book or movie that they wanted to; so why aren’t more parents conscientious about videogames?
I hope to be a dad one day, and I intend to allow my children to play videogames; I believe parents and aspiring parents desire to be wise consumers. Videogames, just like movies, have ratings. In the United States these ratings are put out by the ESRB and range from “EC” (Early Childhood) to “A” (Adults Only). I’ve only seen one game with the “EC” rating, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game with the “A” rating. (read more here on their official website). It would be advisable to any concerned parent to be familiar with these ratings and what they mean.
Many parents would consider it inappropriate for a nine or ten year-old to view an “R” rated film, but some parents seem fine with allowing their child to play videogames with an equivalent rating of “M” for mature audiences. These titles include games such as the Call of Duty series, the Halo series, and the Grand Theft Auto series, to name three popular and well known franchises. Games with a rating of “M” may contain, according to the ESRB website, “Content [that] is generally suitable for ages 17 and up.” Some such content includes “…intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.”
The internet is also very intertwined in the world of gaming. Many games include multiplayer content, which, until the rise of “affordable” fast internet access, was contained to the living room. Now all I have to do in order to play multiplayer is to hop onto a server and join a game. As far as gaming goes this is great, and incredibly fun, but it has its own dangers. Most online multiplayer games include voice chat capabilities, and this is where the trouble begins.
Imagine this scenario. Connor comes home from school and jumps on his Xbox to play online with some friends. He and his friends join a game and start playing with several other people from around the world. The only issue is that in this game there are players ranging in age from 9 or 10 all the way up to players in the their 30s or 40s.The game in question is rated “M”, and to assume the adults will alter their behavior due to the presence of children is a mistake. Children should not have access to said game to begin with, and adults should not have to question the ages of fellow players.
It is impossible to play virtually, no pun intended, any game online without being assaulted with a stream of profanity and sexual innuendo; this content comes from the players and not the game maker.*
Parents, it’s time to wake up to the reality that videogames need to be viewed as they are-another form of entertainment that may not always be suitable for younger audiences. There are websites out there to assist you and your family in making wise informed decisions about the videogames you bring into your house. The ESRB lists several such sites with differing perspectives , and Plugged In offers a Christian review of many popular games**.
*As a side note, I don’t want you to get the idea that I think gamers are terrible people. There are many mature responsible individuals of many ages who play videogames. I love videogames just as I love reading books and watching movies.
**Disclaimer: I have not personally checked out each of these sites, and I may not agree with everything they might contain.