In my essay on Gaming Responsibility, I mentioned a mother who bought her 8-year-old son a violent video game saying that he was mature for his age. Being a gamer means that we have to put up with this kind of argument all the time when it comes to age. Many parents are unaware of why a game is rated for a group.
Currently, the Australian Ratings System includes a G, PG, M and MA15+ rating. In the future, the Australian government will be implementing an R18+ rating. These ratings are meant to provide comprehensive information about what is included in a game, but unfortunately the rating system doesn’t reflect current generation advances in technology or themes in content, such as sex, violence and drug use.
The positive that comes from the R18+ discussion is the acknowledgement of a flaw in the classification system. The Attorney-Generals, aware of the changes occurring in video games, and have begun adjusting the system in which they are categorised. Games such as Left 4 Dead 2 and more recently Mortal Combat gained huge media attention when the games was refused classification (RC) which essentially banned the game from Australian shores. Valve (the developers of Left 4 Dead 2) reissued the game in compliance with the notes made by the review board. When the game was finally released in Australia, those who hadn’t had the game imported from overseas experienced a very different game with bodies vanishing almost instantly and blood being reduced dramatically. Compared to the original experienced by other countries, the game was a mess.
With children being more technologically capable than their parents there is only so much that parents can do to keep mature material out of their children’s hands. That doesn’t mean that parents can completely avoid their responsibilities. Ratings are there to provide accurate information about what is included in the game and are meant to be used as a guide, it is a generalisation of age groups. Knowing what a child is like is key to knowing how mature they are and if the child is truly ready to play a game that may contain violence (from Modern Warfare), sex themes (from GTA) and swearing (from most other games). I know I sound like one of the “won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children” crowd, but in all honesty do you believe that an eight-year-old could handle that and learn something from the experience? Even if it was as small and simple as the word fuck?
There have to be boundaries and there has to be understanding. When I witnessed the woman in the first paragraph hand the game to the staff member behind the counter, he informed her on the content inside the game and still she bought the game for her son, to which she replied that her son was mature for his age. I’m sure that her son is a lovely child who enjoys playing video games, but is he as mature as a 15 year old who is a little more schooled on the ways of the world?
The rating system is an arbitrary number, but there has to be some intelligent thought behind what the age of players should be. There’s no way a ten-year-old should be playing something like Catherine which is R-Rated because it’s in absolutely no way appropriate for that age group. The reason why the gaming community in Australia lobbied for an R18+ rating was so that children couldn’t get their hands on stuff that wasn’t appropriate for them because the “won’t-somebody-think-of-the-children” crowd kept saying that games are so violent it turned kids into crazed killers. It seems to me that the only people thinking of the children were the ones who were apparently doing harm. It took hundreds of thousands of people to rally for an appropriate adult rating for selected video games so that the parents’ job could be easier.
Parents need to set firm boundaries for their kids and need to stand by them if they want to ensure that their children aren’t exposed to high violence, sex, drugs and adult content and make sure that they take on the complete responsibility for raising their children. The entertainment industry won’t do it.
When it comes to making a decision for your kids on what’s appropriate. Obviously personal opinion and knowledge of your kids is vital, but there also needs to be consideration for the time and effort put into testing these games to ensure they comply with the law. While it isn’t the responsibility of the government to raise children, they have everyone’s best interests at heart. Parents need to make sure that they’re doing the parenting when it comes to making decisions about the content that their kids make instead of being manipulated by their children or lazy.