Saturday, March 03, 2012

Video Game Responcibility

I am a gamer. I love the Xbox 360. On those days when the story isn't going well I play a game, shoot some bad guys and usually relax enough to go back and finish the troublesome scene without too many problems. Because I am way over 21 I play "adult" games. As most of you know Gears of War is one of my favorite game series, and Halo, and, of course, my beloved Dragon Age.

One of my friends recently made the comment that video games were taking away the essence of character and the understanding of being a good person and that all video games were violent and destroying the youth. "How can video games instill the desire to protect your family like literature did?" she asked. So, I sat down and looked through my game collection and seriously did an assessment.

There are games inappropriate for children even though they demand to play them (just like there are movies children should not see). The Grand Theft Auto series of games is one of those games a five year old should not play. In this game when you are low on energy/health you have sex with hookers and to make sure you don't lose your money you beat them up to get your money back. This game is for adults - not children. However, a lot of parents refuse to be parents and as long as they, the parents, say it is all right for the child to do something then heaven help anyone who tries to explain how a mature game might not be appropriate for their child, or any child under the age of _____.

I have been in several game stores where children, twelve years of age and under, are picking up games like Grand Theft Auto, Gears of War, and several other titles that are written and made for adults and older teens. Even though there is a rating system on the game listing what age group it is for, the parents don't even look or seem to care. They just buy the game because the child wants it. I have also seen where the store personnel have told the parents or adult with the child that the game has a specific rating and has "mature themes unsuitable for those under age *insert age here*" and the store personnel have been given verbal smacks and insulted. I heard one parent tell a game store clerk, "Wait until you have children and you'll change your mind: You will do anything to shut them up." The store clerk replied, "I have three children, and I won't let them play this game or any game with this rating until they are older." The parent looked totally shocked, as if that was the strangest idea they had ever heard!

Children are, well, children and need to be guided until they have enough experiences to make good choices and decisions for themselves. Video gaming is here to stay, folks. It is not only a multi-billion dollar industry, but it is a part of the entertainment world we live in now. Just as children should be guided in what books they read, they should also be guided in what games they can and cananot play, and when they can play them (playing until Midnight is fine if you are an adult and know you are going to be wiped out the next day for work, but not for kids).

Games such as my own personal favorites listed above are not for children. There is foul language and lots of blood and adult problems to face in an adventure setting. The main character of Gears of War is the hero and must not only survive, but get his team through what happens. There is camaraderie and a deep sense of responsibility and respect for the other characters in the game for Marcus Fenix (the main character). In the second installation of the game, Marcus Fenix kneels beside a wounded young man and stays with him until he dies so he will not die alone. Fenix's best friend, Dom, has lost contact with his wife Maria, and when she is found some tough choices have to be made and Fenix tells Dom in a cut scene, "We can plan this thing through or we can storm the gates. It's your call and I'm with you." The decision is for the two of them to storm the gates of the enemies because Fenix isn't going to let his friend go in alone.

In playing Gears and Halo I can see why there is a desire for your people to want to join the military in real life: They want to live what they have played, especially if they have played Call of Duty. Usually they do not completely understand the consequences of their decision at first from a few young men and women I have spoken with in that the adversary they faced and will be facing is not an alien but a real human being and they will have to kill or be killed in many situations. The U.S. military has also clued into this and have set up simulators in malls and other areas where the prospective recruit is in the back of a "Jeep" or other vehicle and shooting other vehicles and faceless/helmeted people.

The bottom line in all of this is really quite simple: Video games are ultimately meant to entertain, not teach life lessons. The lessons of life are supposed to be taught by the parents and elders to the children as well as experience. Although there are "educational" games out there, they should not replace parenting, but only assist in the parenting and teaching arenA. There is heroism in the games being made and played, but there needs to be a boundary between children and adults in the playing and purchasing.

The video game industry writes games for all age groups and I am not going to stop playing video games. I even encourage some younger people I know to play some games I have played, but I am very careful as to what title I suggest to them. Some parents at my Church have even asked if certain titles were acceptable for their child and I have given my honest opinion on them.

Video games do not "destroy" the innocence of the child playing them. It is ultimately the parent(s) who does that by simply not taking the time to be parents.

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