So I recently took a stroll to my local game shop last weekend to see if there were any bargain deals. For a gamer dad who has an almost 1 year old, and has a budget for which the majority goes to diapers and baby food, bargain hunting for games was essential.
I did my usual thing, scanning PS3 and 360 games that were below $20. For this specific occasion I was looking for games that were $9.99 or under. I had luck with my previous handful of perusals, finding great deals like Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Splinter Cell: Conviction, Gears Of War 1-3 (all for 360) for $9.99 each, Borderlands, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Mass Effect 2 (all for PS3) for $9.99.
While on my typical weekly excursion though, I overheard a mother, who had just strolled in with her two year old toddler and 12 year old son, inquiring to the store clerk about a game in her hand and asking if it was violent or not. I was listening in the distance, looking back and forth between inquisitive mother and store agent, wondering what answer the mother was being given. I sidled up a little closer and the store guy was saying that his specific game was being targeted at players 17 years of age and older. I thought, “is the mom holding a copy of…” And just as I was about to coalesce my thoughts, I saw her holding a copy of Grand Theft Auto V. I looked at the mom, then at her 12 year old son (or what passed for my judgement of 12 years old was), and chuckled to myself and under my breath I whispered to myself, “lady if you only knew.”
GTAV was released only last Tuesday and already garnered over a billion dollars in its first 3 days alone. I’m sure the extra dollars that helped push this game into that sales figure weren’t just from 17 year old teenagers and adults, but from consenting adults as well. The kind of consent that either turns a blind eye (because video games), or just isn’t fully briefed on the content or subject matter of a given video game. I’d say most parents today, I feel, just kind of say yes to their kid(s) as a means to give them instant gratification, or to shut them up. Both undermine parents as well as the kids who bug mom or dad to get what they want. It shows their kid(s) that mom and dad easily give in and/or spoil their children, which can be also a negative oversight.
It can also be argued that parents who buy their underage kids games like GTAV are smart enough who know the difference between real world violence and video game violence. If that is true then the MEDIA would actually STOP blaming video games OR putting VIDEO GAMES in the same sentence as “SCHOOL SHOOTING” and “THE SHOOTER WAS ALSO A GAMER.” These two go hand in hand. The video game industry actually wants games to stop being SCAPEGOATED and lumped into such categories, which is why, ever since 1993 with the whole Mortal Kombat debacle, content ratings have been included with each and every video game. Just like movie rating systems and “explicit lyrics” stickers on albums and CDs today, games have these disclaimers to show parents (BUYERS of games) whether or not they should buy a specific game based on the rating. The gaming industry has been PROACTIVE about this issue for 20 years now. Parents ought to do the same for their still-young kids.
Yet another argument could be made that, as long as the parent is IN THE SAME ROOM while their son or daughter is playing this violent/sexually explicit game, that it’s ok. Why? Because they’d rather have them at home doing this than secretly at their friend’s house? OK, I’m no stick in the mud. And don’t want to be hypocritical because I’ve SEEN SOME SHIT while in my young years. And while I turned out fairly well, with both strict but lenient parenting to aide me, I’m just not comfortable with my almost 1 year old playing a video game when he’s all of 12 years old, in my own living room, beating helpless bystanders on a busy street with a baseball bat, or humping a hooker on a picnic table he sequestered out of a shady nightclub.
I’m all for that kind of gaming, but at an appropriate age. Otherwise why have these rating systems at all? Do some people think that tits and guns in video games don’t register on SOME LEVEL with a ‘tween’s intellect? I suppose some parents will give their son or daughter that “benefit of the doubt” and say “ya, my kid will know the difference between real life and video game violence.” I’d like to think that my brand of “benefit of the doubt” resides in my kid knowing that he will get the chance to play adult oriented games when he’s old enough to actually be an adult. I’m not saying 21. I’m saying what the game box says, “17.” OK I’ll probably bend my rules at 15-16 but that’s way better that 12 YEARS OLD, no?
Now I’m by no means trying to tell parents how to parent at all. Nor am I a perfect parent, or a perfect anything. Please hahaha! And I am SO tired of video games being portrayed on TV as a real life catalyst to real world violence it fucking sickens me. Actually I’m glad I’m not bound by the strictures of “perfection.” This is just a message to parents of ‘Tweens who happen to be gamers to get well informed of the content of games before buying them for their kid(s). Honestly, if you’re COMPLETELY 100% OK with your son or daughter running pedestrians over with a car, participating in drug deals, engaging in playable torture scenes, or literally sexing it up on the front lawn IN A VIDEO GAME then by all means have at it. Just don’t be surprised when the media blames gaming AGAIN for more violence in schools or the fact that the shooter was a gamer. It’s a huge merry go round of horse shit. TV blaming games for violence, yet some people are OK with buying their kid violent games? C’mon son. Stop the bullshit and be REAL.
Going back to the mother and her 12 year old son in the game shop, the ge in her hand being GTAV, I chimed in and said “hey lady, since you’re asking if THAT game has violence.. I’ll just say that there is way too much stuff going on in that game for young gamers.” She all of the sudden turns to her son and says, “You heard him. Pick another game with cartoons or something.” I have to give the mother credit. At least she asked and was being proactive about the content her son has access to. Her son then turned to me saying, “but I could skip those parts in the game!” All I could say was, “Sorry kid, you’re too short for this ride.”