I was thinking about what I should do for my first article for Platform Nation, should I do some little piece just introducing myself? Maybe a review of a game I have played recently? Perhaps I should chime in with my thoughts on E3? Then I remembered one of my all time irritations in the game industry and I realized that I finally have a platform to express my views. This may seem a little controversial but it will at least start a discussion on the matter.
So what controversial issue am I going to talk about? Activisions apparent domination of the industry? How about the Infininty Ward staff exodus? Or the rumours of a major developer squashing the UK tax break? Nope none of these issues are controversial enough. Today I am going to write about violent video games and age restrictions
Before I start a little disclaimer this is mainly aimed at the UK audience, as the rules are different in America.
As games consoles and PCs become more powerful, developers and fans of games are striving for more realism to provide a more immersive game. This wouldn’t be a problem if we were still in the worlds of Mario and Sonic. Unfortunately the current market is dominated by the First Person Shooter. I have no intention of saying these games should be banned, or that they encourage violent behavior (there is no proven evidence behind this) what I am against is are young and sometimes even preteen children play games that are clearly not designed for them.
In the UK, all mature games are rated by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) which is the same body that applies ratings to movies and they use the same logos on the box-art. Despite this there seems to be a general ignorance of the public, who will happily give little Timmy a copy of Grand Theft Auto and then complain that the content is inappropriate.
In America a game is given a rating as a recommendation, and its up to the parent or guardian if they want to follow it. I’m happy for a parent to make that decision, IF they take the responsibility. I’m also happy for parents in the UK to use a little discretion, when I was younger after I lobbied my parents for months; they eventually agreed to buy me the Grand Theft Auto and Grand Theft Auto London double pack. I was 15.
Have I ever attempted to steal a car? No
Have I ever attempted to murder someone? No
Have I ever done drugs? No
Have I been affected by it in some way? Probably but any medium will provoke some response if it is done well, whether it be a book, music or even a painting.
You may argue that a parent who lets their preteen child play a violent video game is using the same discretion that my parents afforded me, and yes you may be right. Or you could use the cigarette argument, that not all people who smoke will get Lung Cancer but smoking 10 a day for 10 years will increase your risk and the risk of those around you. The difference is at 15, I could easily distinguish between reality and fiction and realised there would be consequences to these actions if performed in real life and my parents felt I was mature enough to deal with the adult content. As for the cigarette argument, cigarettes are age restricted and so are violent video games.
If you speak to people like Jack Thompson(the now disbarred lawyer) all violent video games should be banned, if you watch Fox News you get the impression that games are teaching our children to be unfeeling killing machines. The main, and I use this term lightly “evidence” to this claim is that the killers at Columbine as well as the recent college shooting all had and played video games. On its own this does seem like damning evidence, however what no-one ever mentions is that games consoles are as common as TVs and toothbrushes now, and no-one ever blames the toothbrush.
All entertainment has a target audience, if you apply the logic that violent video games should be banned as they are not suitable for everyone, then we can ban: The Godfather, Alien, No Country for Old Men, The Hurt Locker and many more. No-one could ever suggest banning these movies and be taken seriously, so why it is even discussed as an option when it comes to games.
As gamers, we need to educate the general public. Games are entertainment, they are not all designed for children just like movies and TV shows. We need to stand up and defend the accusations made against our hobby. As with most things, a little common sense and responsibility will go along way. Parents and guardians need to stop treating games consoles as toys. I would not give my preteen son/daughter (if I am ever blessed with children) access to alcohol, I would not give them cigarettes nor would I let them watch an 18 or R rated movie, and despite it being my passion I would not allow them to play or let them watch while I play a mature game. I sugget we all do the same