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.