I truly want to believe that the day will come when people stop being paranoid about games. There is a belief out there that all games are designed and intended for children. This belief leads to the conclusion that there is a worldwide conspiracy among game creators to destroy the minds of children by exposing them to mature content. It’s simply not true.
I’m going on this rant because of a recent story I read on CNN. I think that its very interesting. The group is absolutely right. There are games that will never be suitable for children. But should they be? If I had children, I probably wouldn’t let me six year old watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But it’s rated PG-13. My job as a parent is to discern if my child is ready for that. Video games should be viewed in the same way. There is no way I would allow my 12 year old to play Manhunt 2 — I won’t even play it! But I’m not going to allow my 12 year old to see Saw IV (or whatever number we’re on now) either. Video games of ratings the same as movies. No one is suggesting that all movies must be acceptable for children, in fact some of the most critically acclaimed movies aren’t really for kids (cf, Brokeback Mountain, Saving Private Ryan, Munich, among others). I see no reason the same should not hold true for games.
In my opinion the issue here is that the media/parents see games as things for children, not for adults. As a result they have this idea that they may pick up any game at a store, and it should be fine for their child. The fact of the matter is that this isn’t reality. There are games designed for a variety of age groups. All games have a rating icon that is more clearly displayed than most movie ratings. They don’t take a rocket scientist to decode (E – Everyone, T – Teen, M – Mature). These rating icons also include, much like DVD movie rating icons, the reasons the game was rated at the level it was. I can only think of one game that I’ve played and enjoyed rated M, and that’s the Halo series. But I’m fine with there being M rated games, in much the same way I’m fine with there being R rated movies.
So, my plea is to parents. But, as a youth pastor, I also try to do my part. In particular, we don’t play Halo at a youth ministry gathering because of its M rating. I personally don’t have a problem with the game, and I have yet to figure out why its rated M and other FPS games are rated T. But, my opinion doesn’t matter. It has been rated M by the ESRB, and so since we have students under 17 at our youth ministry, no one plays it. I get complaints, and will get them in the future. But that’s life, I suppose.