Parents, I get it. Looking at children and the cruel world they’re doomed to grow up in, I can understand your desire whether to protect them from that and maintain their innocence. I certainly know that as my wife and I begin to contemplate bringing our own spawn into the world there will be things we’ll be restricting them from in their formative years.
Ironically, I can’t recount a single piece of entertainment that I was hidden from growing up. By age six I had probably seen Terminator 2 at least two dozen times. Violent video games were never off limits to me. I had parents who weren’t freaked out by the idea of me watching a bit of violence and who trusted me not to grow up into a maladjusted freak gunning down random people because Mortal Kombat told me to.
In fact, for having devoured so much violent content from a young age to the present, I’d say I’m doing pretty well. I graduated college, have a steady job, am married to a lovely woman, and am probably the least violent fellow you’re going to find. The last fight I was in was in kindergarten and I lost. So I must say I marvel at people who genuinely try to proclaim that video games are the key force corrupting our children.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe video games really are the catalyst to the end of society. But then, I’ve played a lot of video games in my life and if video games really do twist people into evil husks then that would mean I’d have to be a creature of spectacular will to resist them. Anyone who has seen me with a box of Oreos can attest to that not being the case. In the least, I’d like to think that I am at fair evidence you can spend your tween years paying strippers to “shake it baby” in Duke Nukem and still grow into a decent human being.
The thing that often amazes me though when parents and politicians discuss the effects of violent games on their children, is the way they seem to think it an inevitability that their kids are going to get a hold of these games. The entire Schwarzenegger v. EMA hinges on whether or not the government needs to step in to help keep the latest Call of Duty out of the hands of America’s young-uns. I guess just telling them “no” never crossed anyone’s mind.
Because really, that is all that’s required. Yes, kids can be a pain in the ass and teenagers are arrogant morons with entitlement issues, but that doesn’t change the fact that parents still have the right and often the duty to lay down a firm “nay” every now and then. Asking the government to do it for you just reinforces the odd idea that parents are somehow impotent in the face of their children. You know, the children they feed, clothe, shelter and provide spending money for. Not a bit of leverage to be found there.
The truth of the matter is that the law California is trying so hard to push through would do nothing that game retailers aren’t already doing themselves. Point in case, GameStop, the largest devoted gaming retail chain in the world. I don’t know about you, but the GameStop folk in my area are downright diligent about carding people buying Mature rated games. I’m twenty-four, sport a full beard, and shop there so regularly that I’m on a first name basis with much of the staff, and yet they still ask for my ID every time I buy the latest God of War.
At most places little Johnny would absolutely need Mom or Dad with him to buy Grand Theft Auto. And I’ll tell you right now, that I have no sympathy for those parents that buy their children violent video games and are then “shocked” to find out the game with guns and blood on the cover wasn’t a children’s toy. These people lack common sense, and they are above all else lazy!
Because as every person who even glances fleetingly in the direction of a video game can tell you, the game’s age rating is usually firmly affixed on the front of the box. And if M for Mature doesn’t tell you enough, all you need to do is it over to read about all the awful things your sweet little boy or girl will be able to do if you buy them that game. You should not be complaining about your child shanking a skinhead with a shard of glass when the box for Manhunt clearly states extreme violence is a central part of the experience.
Claiming prior ignorance is simply not an option when chances are your child needed your involvement at every step of the purchasing process. They needed you to drive them to GameStop, they needed you to fork over sixty bucks for a new game, and they needed your consent for the sales associate to even ring the thing up. Hell, depending on their stature they might have even needed you to reach the game for them on the shelf. Are you really willing to tell me that you can do all that, but can’t take another minute to look at the game they’re spending your hard earned money on?
Now, granted there are some complexities involved. A teenager might have a job to earn their own money and older friends willing to do the purchasing for them. And even now, with the medium decades old and the average gamer in their thirties, many still view video games as something for kids. Even so, the onus of responsibility is still on you. No matter their age, if your child gets hold of something you don’t find appropriate, it’s your job to remove it from their possession. If you child becomes interested in video games and you know nothing about them, it’s your job to learn.
The decline of our youth is not emblematic of a decadent media, it’s indicative of a decline in parenting. Parents have become friends and enablers when they should be figures of authority. They’re too often choosing to blame a convenient boogey man instead of taking responsibility for their own mistakes. Video games are probably the best boogey man they have. A new, flashy, and scary medium to pick on just like film, comics, music, books and cave drawings before them.