Content Ratings Examined

On Christmas day, about 20-30 family members flooded my parents’ house to celebrate the holiday. And while we had a good time eating and waging war upon the ping-pong table, I also came to think about a topic related to video games. While my cousin and I, 17 and 18 years old, where upstairs taking turns on Fallout 3, our younger cousins barged into the room and demanded to watch. Now I don’t know how much you know about Fallout, but the game is extremely graphic during combat. Limbs will come off, and if you have a certain perk (as we did) bodies will completely explode under the right circumstances. To make a short story even shorter, the young children who were all under 8 would not leave the room.

This got me thinking about what we should let our children see on the screen. I’m going to focus on video games, but obviously this is a topic that extends to movies as well. Does the current rating system really give a good standard to out children? I don’t think that it does the job it should in that area.

Probably most of you reading this have had fairly decent experience with gaming. You have most likely noticed that sex is kept under a tight wrap in the industry. Teen games may have suggestive themes, but you won’t see any nudity or anything close to explicit unless it is in a M for mature game, and even then it is a rare occurrence. I don’t want this to sound like an argument for sex, so I will quickly move to the point.

While the sexual themes are only found in higher rating levels, violence is a constant throughout the whole scope of games. Even below Teen ratings you can see cartoon violence, as long as it doesn’t seem realistic. Teen games can have military first-person shooting, as long as they have very little blood and don’t have body parts flying around. And a game can get a Mature rating with almost any level of violence. I understand that death and killing is entrenched into the industry because it makes a simple and easy goal in the game, but are we willing to expose our kids to this sort of entertainment just because the developer doesn’t want to think of a more in-depth objective than “eliminate all enemies”?

I think our priorities are out of focus. We expose kids to killing and fighting while we hide sex from them. Then people cry over school shootings and the violence present in our society, and try to find a reason. Those school shootings may not be directly caused by the games they played, but if our culture saturates itself in the media of bloodshed, how can they expect it not to come out in real life? Most people would see a problem with people sleeping around, but they would take a much larger offense at a murderer. So why are our values in real life twisted upside-down in the video game industry?

If you think this point is valid, then I would ask you to contribute your money to games based on that. Support games that provide non-violent entertainment, at least if they contain a rating below Mature. Buy the games made by developers who put the time into making entertaining puzzle games rather than a simple shooter. Pick up the RPG games that emphasize that all actions have a consequence, especially if the game is going to be played by younger kids, but don’t sit back and watch our kids being exposed to violent behaviors without a purpose.

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