Comments on Kids Playing Violent Video Games and Rating Systems in General.

This is going to be a situation where I just repost something I wrote in a comment. It’s a waste to leave it there, where it probably will never get replied to. Anyways the article is from, Grumpy Daddy where he writes about people being lazy parents about buying violent content for their kids and ignoring the clear age labels on the case. But by what merit are these age criteria established and why should we agree with them? Is it lazier to let them play violent video games, or trust some nebulous rating organization to dictate what is or is not moral for a kid to see? The comment I left on his Blog follows…

(also remember, if you read his article(which you should), he’s the Grumpy Daddy, so part of his rage is his shtick, so try and ignore some of the hyperbole)

We actually don’t have real rules for movies — not in the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Movie ratings have no legal merit or weight, it’s all self enforcement. Just sayin’.

Now, while lazy parenting is certainly a problem, I don’t think you paint this issue fairly at all. Granted, you are the Grumpy Daddy, so I’m ready to accept some hyperbole, but I think you’re putting far too much stock into what other people determine.

The MPAA rating system and the ESRB are not made up of brilliant child psychologists trying to carefully determine, with strong moral conviction, what is appropriate for what age group. It’s a bunch of people with a guideline and some opinions trying to avoid government regulation. While them supplying a content guideline is useful, who is to say they know more about how to raise their children than me or my parents? Is it okay for a 14 year old to watch the Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, where a beating heart is ripped out of a human being, but not okay for him to hear the word “Fuck” and see some breasts? Now, maybe they shouldn’t be watching the Temple of Doom either, but ultimately these ratings do not come from infallible moral authorities.

Same goes with alcohol, which also is not as clear cut as you make it sound. Many European (Italy and France I think, possibly among others) cultures commonly give some amount of wine to kids at a young age and it is legal to do this in a number of US states. Now giving your 12 year old a 6 pack of natty-ice and a copy of Mortal Kombat 9 to play over XBLA would clearly be a pretty outrageous thing to do, there is still a lot of moral wiggle room.

I know personally I grew up with a lot of media outside of my age range. Terminator 2 was one of my favorite movies in my early teens and I was playing Mortal Kombat 2 and 3 over the SNES modem service, XBand. I’d go to a friend’s house who would have various nudie games on his computer like Leisure Suit Larry. His mom was from England and they apparently don’t care as much about breasts as we do (apparently at the time, nude ads were frequently in British newspapers). My parents were invested in me, though. I grew up, going through Special Education with an undefined (and possibly non-existing) learning disability which required constant interaction from my mother to make sure I was developing in a healthy manner. None of my issues were ever behavioral or violence related. I was also a late reader, but video games helped, rather than hindered. They were an important part of my development and are also now game design is my trade.

… If I have a child, why should I think he is less capable of separating reality and fantasy than I was? Why should I think the MPAA or ESRB know perfectly well whats fit for my theoretical child or any child? So while I partially agree that there is a ton of lazy parents, I think you’re putting too much stock in the guidance of some non-government organizations (not that a government organization would necessarily be much better).

Also, is it worse to expose a child to violent images or deprive them of modern forms of social interaction? It’s hard to say and I could see it going either way. I know violent images didn’t turn me into a fuck-up (I was in special ed way before Mortal Kombat was around), but I know what stunted social development can do to a person and I did not like it one bit.

In short, all I’m saying is that this isn’t nearly as simple as you’re making it out to be.

As always, if I get an interesting reply, I’ll repost the discussion here.

6 thoughts on “Comments on Kids Playing Violent Video Games and Rating Systems in General.

  1. I have a lot to say on this kind of subject, but I’m gonna try to shorten it to something reasonable, and because I want to put this out there.

    The only REAL reason this “age appropriate” crap EXISTS at all is because people keep making a big deal about it, now obviously, theres limitations to everything, but if a kid is so tough that he isn’t bothered by seeing something like whats apparently in a mortal combat game, (and I myself will probably never see it) whats letting him see it gonna hurt in the first place? Being disturbed if you are sensitive to it is the only negative effect it can have, I know this from experience. -_-;

    also, and this is maybe slightly off topic, but the esrb rating is not even really consistant, I mean what, halo reach gets an M rating for having…rather miniscule amounts of blood, and guns maybe? (nevermind other Halo games with the Flood, those deserve M ratings) Yet the game Kameo, where you can eventually get moves to dismember enemies (something that can’t happen in any form in halo reach) is only a t rating I think…(gah, I really should go check…)

    Also, apparently only America made a big deal about THIS:

    WARNING! COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF BIGOTRY WITHIN!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Coffee_mod

    Other countries didn’t make such a big deal about it because it DOESN’T matter if no one CARES! Making a BIG deal about something SOMEHOW makes it more important when it would OTHERWISE never matter! In all honesty, the amount of effort that it sounds like you need to put in to see that scene in the game is MUCH greater than typing a simple 4 letter word into google, (with safesearch off anyway)

    Rockstar apparently did a pretty piss poor job at defending themselves, (is that a surprise? The name of the FRIGGIN company is “ROCKSTAR” of all damn things) but they still can’t REALLY be faulted (for the reason right above) because they shouldn’t have had to answer to anyone in the first place.

    These same people who complain about such things would take their kids to an ART museum where they have NAKED STUFF and think NOTHING of it! WHY? WHATS DIFFERENT? Not that seeing boobs would ever scar someone (negatively) in the first place. ^_^

    This still ended up seeming too long…Meh.

  2. First off, giving ANYONE a 6-pack of natty ice is outrageous, age regardless. That shit is nasty.

    On a more serious note, some nitpicks about your response I disagree with:
    I would say that the ESRB does an okay job for what it is–that being an organization trying to defend a medium against government regulation. I cannot recall a particular game that blatantly had more ‘mature’ content than what was described on the rating label (exception being Rockstar’s hot coffee which wasn’t even part of the unmodded game….).

    But here’s a question: which is lazier: a parent reading a rating label and the reasons it’s rated that way (which incidentally is also written on the box of a game) to determine what to games to give a child, or a parent who gives a child whatever game that kid wants without looking at ESRB label at all? Yes, both are ultimately lazy compared to actual parenting, but as far as a lesser of two evils; having a more-or-less accurate-if-fallible rating system is the way to go.

    Those two nitpicks out of the way, I think the Grumpy Gamer is in the wrong in this situation. Children with parental guidance can absolutely handle M-rated videogames and R-rated movies. You pretty much hit the nail on the head in this regard.

    Now is it right to be shocked about people who *don’t care* about the games their kids play? I would hope so. Not caring about what you’re child is doing is pretty lazy parenting.

    Regards,
    Someone who who loved Terminator 2 as a pre-teen, watched fairly adult anime at only a slightly older age (e.g. Akira & Ninja Scroll), played violent videogames as a kid, and still turned out not to be a sociopathic and desensitized indivual.

    P.S.: This is a large tangent, but here’s a very easy test to see if a teenager is desensitized and unable to distinguish reality from fantasy: get them to watch Night and Fog, the documentary about the discovery of the death camps in WW2 by Ally forces. I ended up watching that in my history class in junior year of highschool. This documentary managed to make a classroom of media-saturated, under-arbitrary-legal-age highschoolers look on in absolute disgust, including myself. To this day I have yet to see a fictional work shock a group of people to that degree, and I doubt I ever will (or at least I hope I never will).

  3. I’m not going to say that either rating doesn’t do a ‘decent’ job. I’d also say the ESRB seems more consistent than the MPAA rating system (but that might be partially because language and sex aren’t as big in games as movies yet). But one has to know what it is. Grumpy treats it as excellent and very strong authority when at best it is a competent guide. I also did not mean to imply in any way that the ESRB is bad or that using it is lazy. Having faith and deep trust in it is lazy. Now very few parents are going to be able to vet every game their kids play and they might have to just trust it at some time, but treating it as a moral authority is just foolish.

    So I think we agree and I jsut might have articulated some points poorly.

  4. Man what a lamewad. D: Called out on his “Argument from authority” and just blows it off like it’s nothing.

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