This post is gear towards parents and concern adults about video games and their effects on children and teenagers.
First off, I’m going to have a rant about my feelings on the ESRB, Entertainment Software Rating Board, then talk about the famous topic of whats going around… Video Games are making people violent.
As a gamer, I hate when I hear parents and political officials blame video games for violence. I understand your concerns, but as a parent do you ever step back and think:
“Hey, I let my kid play that Call of Duty, Battlefield, Grand Theft Auto, Hitman, etc games. I should read more about them before I buy them for my kid.”
At the place where I work, I draw huge concerns when I ask parents if they are are aware and okay with the mature rating of games. I always explain why a game is rated mature to everyone who buys mature rated games, because I honestly don’t want to hear or see them come back yelling on how bad this game was and how I allowed them to purchase the game. I can refuse a sale at anytime and I have done that on numerous occasions just because the parent just didn’t understand that you really shouldn’t get that Grand Theft Auto game for his or her 7 year old. They can go to any other store and buy the game if they so choose but I will not allow it.
We have the ESRB for that reason too. [First a quick refresher course for anyone who forgot what the ESRB is. The ESRB is a non-profit body that judges how age appropriate games are. With ratings from, E for Everyone to AO for Adults Only (18+), these are used to help parents be informed with their choices.] Remember that awesome fighting arcade game called Mortal Kombat? Well it was that game that concerned parents, mostly mothers, that weren’t too happy with all the blood and gore that the fighting game had. I honestly don’t mind the ESRB but the ratings for the games are way to broad in my opinion. For example there are a few games that have a mature rating, but the level of maturity is pushing it.
The Halo series for example is rated mature just mostly for blood and violence. Master Chief is killing a lot of aliens with his Spartans friends. I can see where they would slap that mature rating but I see it being more of a teen rated game. Why? You are killing aliens in a fantasy setting. There are no reporting of Halos out there or sexy AIs telling you how to save the world. Well not yet… Also, lets look at the synopsis of what the ESRB said about the fourth installment of the game.
“This is a first-person shooter in which players control futuristic super-soldiers who engage in military campaigns against alien forces. Players use pistols, scoped rifles, machine guns, grenade launchers, and futuristic weaponry to kill enemies in ranged combat; battles are highlighted by cries of pain, realistic gunfire, and large explosions. Stealth moves (i.e., “assassinations”) can also be used to attack enemies from behind (e.g., snapping their necks or stabbing/impaling them with bladed weapons). During one cutscene, a human character cries out as her body disintegrates, exposing layers of muscle tissue. Large blood-splatter effects occur when humans are shot; some sequences depict bloodstained environments.”
Now lets look at a game that is also rated mature, Grand Theft Auto. It’s rated mature (well the 4th at least) for intense violence, blood, strong language, strong sexual content, partial nudity, use of drugs and alcohol. Now lets take the synopsis of the extra content of Grand Theft Auto Episodes from Liberty City.
“This is an ‘open-world’ action game in which players choose from two distinct storylines: The Lost and Damned and The Ballad of Gay Tony. In The Lost and Damned, players assume the role of Johnny Klebitz, a member of the Lost motorcycle gang; in The Ballad of Gay Tony, players control Luis Lopez, the body guard and assistant to night club owner ‘Gay Tony’ Prince. Set in the world of Grand Theft Auto IV, the game depicts a vast urban landscape which includes a criminal underworld that the protagonist must navigate through in order to progress. Players complete various missions that either advance the main storyline or award the player with in-game currency and connections.
Many of the missions require players to engage in criminal activity: stealing cars, robbing banks, taking out drug addicts (beating them with a baseball bat or shooting them), running drugs and guns, and killing rival gang members. Players use pistols, machine guns, baseball bats, Molotov cocktails, and grenades to kill enemies and occasionally civilians. Blood often spurts out of injured characters, stains the walls/ground, and occasionally sprays onto the screen. In one sequence, a decapitated head—the camera lingers on the bloody image for a few seconds—is found inside a box. Within the free-roaming context (i.e., not missions), players have the ability to attack police officers and pedestrians on the streets, in subway stations, etc; however, a ‘Wanted Level’-penalty system discourages these acts by triggering a broad police search.
During the course of the game, players can encounter some sexually suggestive material: strip clubs with lap dancers wearing ‘pasties’; sex shops that contain phallic toys; and suggestive TV ads that parody video games, anime, and reality TV shows. During a cutscene in The Lost and Damned, the central character encounters a man just after he has received a full-body massage; as their conversation ends, there is a brief depiction of full-frontal nudity. Players are able to pick up prostitutes for certain ‘services’ (e.g., masturbation, fellatio, intercourse) during the game: the sexual acts are not graphically depicted—they occur off-camera with characters fully clothed. The most pertinent instances of sexual content occur in the episode The Ballad of Gay Tony. While there is no nudity depicted during these brief sequences, the sexual acts are strongly implied: the central character grinds against a woman’s posterior (four-to-five seconds) while the two are fully clothed; a female character performs fellatio on the central character as he sits on a chair—the camera fixes on the woman’s bobbing head from behind.
Alcohol and drug use are also depicted in the game. In a ‘Champagne drink-off’ mini-game, players compete with another character to see who can drink a full bottle of champagne faster; when players visit a bar, they can take shots of liquor until they are drunk—if the central character drinks the champagne too fast or drinks too many shots, he will vomit and pass out. Although the protagonist is never depicted using drugs, a few ancillary characters sometimes can be seen smoking marijuana or snorting cocaine. Strong profanity (e.g., ‘f**k,’ ‘sh*t,’ and ‘c*nt’) and racial epithets (e.g., ‘n**ger,’ ‘sp*c,’ and ‘sl*pes’) can be heard during gameplay and particularly during cutscenes.
See these games are both rated mature, but like I stated before… How mature a game is something I wish parents would read and understand more. Or at least redo the whole rating system because it has that mature rating on the game doesn’t mean it’s the same for all mature rated games down the line. The ESRB has a website even an app for both the driod and apple devices that depicts all the ratings for all the games that have rated. When I was younger, I always hated the ESRB. I’ll admit it, I hated having to explain to my dad why a game is rated this way. I was honest with him at least. Showing him videos of game play etc, but my dad was the one who made the judgement call. If he didn’t like what he was seeing, he would tell me know. I would get mad for at him for a while, but I just sucked it up. Now that I’m older, I really don’t care about the ESRB for my gaming benefits because I honestly think I see stuff much worse. You know that line: ‘Welcome to the internet,’ paste that here.
That is my few cents on that part, now lets look why parents and political officials are pointing their fingers at video games leading to violent acts. Just with both of the synopses, you can probably make a judgement call on why they would do that. It was like with movies and music back then. Now it’s what ever kids are hooked on right now. Their virtual babysitters, video games. Parents now, in my opinion, are now way to busy to take the time to be social with their kids. I can understand this to a certain point. Yes, you might have work, church, chores, and/or errands to run. So you use video games to occupy your child at home or out of the home. But I wish (there are some on the rare event) that parents should play the games with their kids or understand what is going on in the game.
But NOT ALL VIDEO GAMES lead to violence. If you think someone is going to hurt a lot of people because he played Mario games all his life… You are making a really big and bad assumption. I always wondered if someone ever thought it could be that the person could be bullied so much that he couldn’t take it anymore… Or that he grew up a troubled life? There might be something that is not mentally or emotionally stable in the person’s mind. Also, you can watch violent acts on the news, YouTube, movies, television shows, etc. You as a person is suppose to say, that you shouldn’t really be repeating acts that you see or remind yourself that it isn’t even real. If a child ever comes up to me and say he’s going to buy a load of guns because there might be a reaper invasion… I’m seriously going to face palm and then ask how did you get a hold of Mass Effect.
Then I’m going to hear the rebuttal that violent games lead to aggressiveness in gamers. I’m sorry but that is true to a point. I’m not going to start causing physical harm to anyone because I couldn’t beat a gym leader in Pokemon. Or I’m going to hunt someone down because I kept dying by a certain player in a multiplayer match in say Call of Duty. I might get mad or upset that I’m getting my butt handed to me, but I have to remind myself that I can probably get them next time with practice or lots of level grinding. It’s like playing a board game or taking a test. I could be mad that my friend got a higher score than me in a test which will lead to slight aggression but as I stated.. It’s not going to be so bad that I’m going to hurt my friend.
Lastly, I have heard remarks as well that games can teach you have to fire a weapon. As one who learned to properly fire a weapon, it is nothing like it is in video games. It takes lots of effort and understanding to properly use a weapon to kill and/or harm anyone. In video games, you learn that guns need ammo to fire and the weapons can be used to kill and/or harm people and animals. But you don’t learn how to break down a weapon, put it back together, use the sights, understand that weapons have recoil, etc. People know that if you pull the trigger to a weapon it will fire unless it has a safety on or is property grounded.
I actually read many interesting articles about the actual research behind this. I will list them at the end of this blog post.
My closing remark is that most of this violence is caused by video games has been blown way out of proportion by the media. I wish you could take the time and do research first before you believe everything you hear on the news, radio, etc.
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