Video Game Ratings Are Worthless

Note: This is not meant to be a post about how the ESRB ratings system itself is worthless, rather that there is a giant portion missing from the concept: parental involvement.

I recently purchased The Sims 3 for my wife, and we had a short discussion about the opinions some parents had over the “sexual content” in the previous Sims games.

Though I’ve been involved in all kinds of gaming communities for M-rated games, I failed to understand how a parent could be outraged by such a small thing in a video game that they themselves bought for their children.  It was only then that I realized that these parents were completely clueless about the games they were purchasing for their children, then had the gall (or stupidity) to be angry at the game companies for the content that the parents allowed their children to experience.

About Mature Games

First, let me say that I have absolutely nothing against M-rated games.  I myself have enjoyed many M-rated titles, from Ultimate Doom to Left 4 Dead.  I think there is a great market for such games, and as both entertainment and art, they are not by any means the downfall of society.

Whether you’re killing zombies, banishing daemons from hell, or simply handing a stripper some cash, there is one thing that needs to be realized: Mature games are not for everyone.

My wife and I are mass consumers of First Person Shooters, and enjoy every second we spend in the genre’s best titles.  That being said, we would never let our young child experience the violence, sex, and evil that can be contained in any of our favorite games.

Irresponsible Parenting

To buy your child the game that they desperately want, without doing a bit of research beforehand is simply irresponsible.  The adult situations contained in some games could potentially traumatize a child to the point of no return.

I’m not saying that your child will absolutely become the next Eric Harris, in fact, I don’t believe that video games alone should be attributed with the blame in that tragedy.  That’s like saying that the availability of pornography creates a society full of rapists.

One thing that you will find with any tragedy over the past 20 years where video games were blamed by the parents is that the parents are completely ignorant of their role in the upbringing that lead to said tragedy.

If the world were a logical place, parents sole reason for being a parent would be to raise their child and prepare them for everything that goes on in the world.  This means not sitting them down in front of Cinemax and letting the child learn about sex, violence, and vulgarity from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  On the contrary, it is the task of the parent to be well-educated in every matter of being an adult in the modern world, and appropriately educating their children to the dangers and realities of these practices.

But in fact, we do not live in a logical world.  Far from it.  Parents sit their kids in front of the television for hours a day, without interacting with them in a constructive manner.  They buy anything the child wants, without questioning for a second whether that product is beneficial to their child’s upbringing, or whether there could be negative consequences in the future life of the child.

Then, when their child doesn’t turn out the way they wanted (rather than what they actively strive for), they need someone to blame.  Because, obviously, it’s not their fault their child brought a gun to school.

Enter The ESRB

The ESRB was created in order to keep potentially hazardous video games out of the hands of children.  The intent of the organization is spot on, and I think that they are doing a great job with their half of the agreement.

The only problem with the whole thing is the average parent doesn’t give a damn about the rating of a game.  By extension, the average parent apparently doesn’t give a damn about their children’s psyche.  (How many young parents do you know who actually have that word in their vocabulary?)

Just as there are ratings for films, there are ratings on video games, both with the purpose of attempting to construe the content to the parent in order to make a more well-informed opinion about the appropriateness of the material.

If the only side that is keeping up with the agreement is the one who is compelled by law to do so, then we have a major flaw in the system.

Individuality

There is no meter stick to judge our children by.  Each child is completely different, and as so will be ready at different times in their lives for different types of entertainment.  There are approximately 62 million children in the U.S. Expecting one organization to keep these children away from potentially harmful material is completely ridiculous.

It is the parent’s responsibility to judge the materials their children encounter, and make a decision in combination with the child’s individual maturity level, whether or not the material is appropriate for their offspring.

The Future of the Human Race

It’s cliche, I know, but it’s the truth.  Our children are the future of the human race.  In fact, the very reason we have children is so that our genes will live on and hopefully someday our progeny will be able to pass on theirs.

BUT

(Notice that’s a big “BUT”)  We as parents are responsible for how our children treat the world around them, other people, and eventually their own children.  Failing to properly raise your child can lead to disastrous consequences for other people’s children.

I am absolutely frightened to the core about my child’s future.  I am attempting to teach him everything I possibly can about the world around him and how to properly act toward the planet and the other people living on it.  The only issue with raising a child like this is that he’s only 1/15 children who are being taught these things.

Looking at people I went to high school with, who now have a whole litter of children, I often wonder what my child is in for.  With the way public schools are headed, he will be at a 5th grade level when he turns 4.  (not saying he’s a wunderkind, just commenting on the degradation of the system)

What am I supposed to do when I actually care about my child, and he goes out and begins interacting with children who received no such care?  As far as I can tell, being a concerned parent isn’t enough.  Because my child is potentially intelligent and empathetic, this means he will soon be in a minority.

That’s the scariest thing about being a parent in the modern world.  Not the underage pregnancy, not illicit narcotics, not underage drinking: Other people’s complete lack of logic centers and forward planning.

Do you think I’m being too myopic on the subject, or do you agree that parents need to take a larger role in the upbringing of their children in order for the world to become a better place?

  • Isis

    It’s weird that someone I’ve seen naked can sound so intelligent and profound…

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  • Justin Liller

    Your view on the matter is certainly justified and I wholeheartedly agree with you. When I was growing up I would become angry with my parents for not buying me every single game I wanted (which were of the violent type) but I think back on it now and I am glad they did what they did. I see people around me at ACM and can’t believe they act they way they do and have such a perverted sense of reality and humor. Not all of their actions can be attributed to video games but it certainly cannot be ruled out.