Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Top 10 video games parents should be wary of

Ok first off, every one of the games on the list are rated "M" for MATURE. Children should never have access to these games to start with but apparently over-zelous groups feel it needs to be stressed further.

CNN Money, 'Doom 3' vs. 'Madden'
Interest group identifies video games it says are inappropriate and appropriate for kids.

While there are some good points in the article the bottom line is that it's parents responsiblity to know what their kids are playing. A friend of mine and his wife have strict rules as to which games can be played at their house. Most games rated T are still out of the question because their youngest is not yet of that age. Some of those games have been racing games such as Test Drive: Eve of Destruction, because of, "Mild Lyrics, Mild Violence, Simulated Gambling". The lyrics are in the music that is playing, which you can turn off. The violence is inherent in the game as it's demolition derby. The gambling is, you race other players for money. Most of these themes are not beyond a 9-13 year old and other games have 'gambling' but since it's not with 'money' they don't have a problem with it.

The point of this is that parents have to judge games for themselves. Ratings are there to guide, but are not fool proof. But it's pretty clear that most Mature rated games don't need to be in the hands of younger children. They suggest 17 and up. That's reasonable for most.

This is no different than movie ratings, which personally I feel have degraded badly in recent years, but for some reason it's a big deal because video games are supposedly precieved to be only for kids. That's a bunch of crap there. Most of us who grew up on Pong, Atari and even NES are now adults and we still like to play video games. As we've grown our tastes and themes have changed. Jumping for magic mushrooms and the like evolved. We want more story. Look at how amazingly successful Myst was/is. It has no major violence and killing or sex, but it had a great story and puzzles that were geared to a more developed mind. An eight year old even today would likely be frustrated or bored with Myst as it's a bit more than the average child intellect can deal with. Not to suggest there are none, I know of some myself.

As technology has improved so has game-play and story. Games coming out today have more im common with movies than they do computer programming. Developers utilize the same technology to develop creatures and special effects. Games today have better special effects than some movies just 5-10 years ago. We can play live action rendered on-the-fly 3D games that are nearly as beautiful as Toy Story when it came out and that took hours per frame of film!

For some reason parents seem to treat games like movies though. They don't restrict when they should. I saw a whole family come into the theater to see Hellboy when it came out. While it wasn't rated R it certainly was not acceptable for a 3-5 year old little girl, such as they had with them. The father had to take her out after the first 30 minutes and frankly that was probably too long.

Where did peoples brains and good judgment go? If you're a parent you should know what you are buying your children, not just getting something because its on their wish list. And explain to them why they cannot have it. You think my friends kids are happy about being restricted from more mature games? His son wants to play Grand Theft Auto and other such games because they look (and are) cool to play. But rules are there for a reason. Some of the things you can do in those games a pre/early teen doesn't need to be exposed to just yet.

Adults know the difference between entertainment and reality. Children build their perceptions of reality based on their experiences. Giving them these experiences before they are ready to realize it cannot be reality can be dangerous.

It's easy for me to preach not having any children yet and I recognize there are likly things I'm not considering from a parent perspective, but I'd still argue that parents have to regulate their children. That responsiblity is not that of game maker or retailers who sell them. A video game store like EB Games has the responsiblity, as a theatre does, to prevent minors from buying a mature rated game (or see a rated R movie), but if the parents buy it for their child, the parent is the guilty party, not the store.

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