For as long as I can remember, video gaming has been a fond hobby of mine. Even today when I am not reading or cursing my baking for crumbling, I will often play video games whether it is a nostalgic classic or a modern shooter. To me video gaming is as much as valid pastime as it is a medium in which creativity can run wild. Like other forms of media, there are different levels of accessibility and appropriate content which are marketed to various demographics. However, as I have gotten older I cannot help but notice a rather worrying pattern when it comes to video game culture. You have all seen it before: a national tragedy occurs and at the forefront of the argument is whether or not video games are to blame. While this will not be the sole focus of this article, it does relate to a rather worrying issue that I think many parents and young adults can relate to which is the misconception of video games.
While I am not a parent, my work with children has given me a range of shocking and rather alarming examples of how easily accessible these games are. The first example actually occurred by chance as I was checking out some games a couple of years ago while a young boy picked up what I think was “Battlefield 2: Bad Company”. For those of you unaware, the cover featured a grenade with a smiley face attached to it and, as you would expect, the child gravitated towards it and begged his mother to buy it for him. What annoyed me was not the fact that the child was so intrigued by this game but the parent’s immediate willingness to actually buy the game. The second example derives from the local youth group that I volunteer at. It is a sobering moment when a six year old child can tell you in explicit detail what weapons that they use and how many zombies they had killed in Call of Duty. I didn’t know what was worse: the fact that they were playing such an inappropriate game or that they had beaten my high score.
I’m not going to pretend I’m innocent here and say that I was not intrigued by video games that were far too inappropriate for me when I was younger. The only thing stopping me was my parents who were extremely vigilant in what games I played. I even remember asking my dad if I could buy Grand Theft Auto when all the hype around it was at its prime. His response was along the lines of: “well son, if you can get it for a pound and you are over eighteen then you are allowed to buy it”. The look on his face when I bought it years later at a car boot sale for 50 pence was priceless. But I digress. While I was annoyed at being left out of the craze at the time, I cannot help but thank them for being so responsible when it came to paying attention. This is something that I feel in an age where technology is rapidly advancing before we have time to blink, many people are content with pleading ignorance when there is no basis for this whatsoever. “I did not know that a game called Grand Theft Auto would involve adult content,” one parent may scream as their darling 5 year old angel has just finish slagging off a stranger’s mother online “video games should be abolished!”
This is the thing that really irritates me when it comes to video games: the shocking amount of ignorance that accompanies it without any desire to actually research the issue. It is one thing to criticize Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto for being a “bad game” but I simply refuse to acknowledge the fact that people still consider video gaming as a children’s form of media. This is absolutely not the case and should be discouraged immediately. You would not (I hope) take a young child to see someone be ripped to pieces in the latest horror film or expose them to the adult themes in a film like the Wolf of Wall Street. So why would you allow them to simulate this through a video game? Even Rockstar, the publishers of the Grand Theft Auto series, have explicitly stated that they make video games aimed towards adults much like a lot of film makers do today. While I will admit that some games do take liberties in the explicit content they produce, they are often criticised for doing so and as a result are in the minority. This is further punctuated by the fact that there is now a rating system that clearly tells you what is involved in the game. I can understand how hard it is to deal with a constant barrage of begging and crying for that game but it is really not worth it.
So what can you do to make sure that you know that your children are playing appropriate games? Below I have outlined a number of issues which I hope will help:
Use of ESRB/PEGI rating system
Depending on which country you come from, there will always be a rating system present on the front of each game cover. This will let you know what ages the game itself is appropriate for and NOT its difficulty. You would be surprised the amount of people who mistake this as some kind of difficulty level.
Research the game in question
Ask yourself important questions:
- Does it have online gameplay?
Since the advent of the internet, most video games nowadays are stressing the importance of online gameplay. You may have bought your son/daughter a subscription to Xbox Live or seen them on the Playstation Network which allows them to play online with their friends. While this is an amazing feature, it also opens them up to a wide range of other dangers. I’m not trying to scare you into boarding up your windows but it may be an idea to try and monitor who your child is interacting with much like you would if they were using a computer.
- What is the content?
Now this is an interesting issue. I have to admit that while some games do take the concept of ratings to ridiculous extremes such as the use of minor curse words, they are there for a reason. Please use them to find out what the game involves.
While it differs between each console, there will always be an option to impose parental settings. As much as you may hate to admit, you cannot watch your child 24/7. Children are becoming increasingly tech savvy and it would amaze you how teddy bears have taken a back seat to Angry Birds on a tablet. On that note, these tips can be applicable to mobile gaming also. If you have a shared iPad and are insistent on allowing them to play then please revise the parental settings before they even look at it, but that is another issue.
Letting children be children
As I said before, I was not allowed to access such games when I was younger. While I knew vaguely of such issues surrounding these games I was very naïve and sheltered. Now you may argue that this was a bad thing, that children should be exposed to the horrors that lurks in the world. I cannot help but vehemently disagree once again. There are only a few years of innocence a child has so why squander them for a digital representation of violence and adult issues?
Try playing together
Okay now this is a tougher one. If your child is going to be playing a video game then there are plenty of appropriate titles which you can play with them. Personally I would recommend the Lego series as it is enjoyable for all ages and provides you with a very well-polished co-op system, something that a lot of games today lack. Who knows, perhaps you may be converted into a video gamer by the end of this article!
“So Alba Blogger,” I hear you say enthusiastically “why did you decide to write this article instead of writing up a delicious recipe?” Well for one I have run out of flour! But on a serious note, this issue has always been important to me as I constantly see video games not only be misrepresented but also how shockingly apparent it has become that many adults still think of video gaming as a children’s medium of entertainment. I did not write this article with the intent to criticise or advocate the banning of video games but instead to draw attention to this issue and hopefully help anyone still unsure about this issue. While I do agree that, at least to an extent, controversial moments in a lot of games have their place in progressing a narrative they have no place when it comes to exposing them to children.
I hope this has been informative and if you have any thoughts on this issue I would love to hear them! Let me know below if you have anything to contribute. If you like this article and think I should do more then please let me know and I will be more than happy to do so. I do have another idea but that is a story for another day…
Thanks for stopping by!
~The Alba Blogger 🙂