An Open Letter To Parents of Young Gamers
Dear Parents of Young Gamers at the Midnight Releases of Obscenely Violent Video Games,
I’ve been going to midnight releases for as long as I can remember. At this point, it has a lot to do with living as a writer, but before I was ever working with words I just couldn’t help myself. In this day and age we have so much information at our fingertips that by the time a game’s release date arrives I am basically salivating. But I was not always this way.
If I, as a young gamer (and I’m talking younger than double-digits), had approached my mother and said, “Hey, mom, there’s a new video game coming out on Monday night at midnight. It contains some of the most shocking and graphically violent content that anyone has ever dreamed up, and I know it’s a school night, but I want you to take me there and buy it for me,” she would have laughed me off the face of the planet. So imagine how shocked I am when I attend a midnight release to discover how many young, young kids are in line.
As a recent example, I found myself at the midnight release of Dead Space 3 just the other night. I’ve been a big fan of the series since day 1, and I can’t wait to see what happens. And neither, apparently, could the young children standing in front of me with their extremely exhausted-looking mother. There is no way on Earth these children could have been any older than seven or eight, and yet I watched as the mother waited over an hour and purchased the game. These were not the only kids at this release, either. I counted 11 different sets of moms and kids, and it was, to say the least, shocking!
Now, I am not the kind of person who believes that a kid will play a video game and then murder all his friends. I think that a lot of things happen to people who go out and hurt or kill other people. I do, however, believe the following:
Young gamers (under 13, let’s say) do not need to be exposed to much of the violence in these games, regardless of parental involvement.
So you think that it’s cool for your kids to play these games because you’ve sat down and discussed real vs. fake violence with them? You think your kid is somehow smarter than every other kid and has the ability to not be affected by extreme violence? You think that he/she totally gets that games are a form of entertainment and must never be emulated? Cool. Now you do, of course, also realize that your child doesn’t have the capacity to fully digest these things, right? If your ten year-old isn’t totally disturbed by, oh say, Isaac Clarke from Dead Space having a space monster shove a razor-sharp tentacle down his throat, then your ten year-old is probably in need of serious help. Would you show your 10 year-old a pornographic film? Sex is a far more natural and less offensive act than ultra-violence, but I get the feeling you wouldn’t. And yet you are out there buying these games. There are plenty of options that contain cartoon-caliber violence or are good-natured and family appropriate. Bottom line, your second-grader shouldn’t be awesome at Black Ops, he should be awesome at Mario Party.
Parents who don’t look into the content of their children’s games make it hard for the rest of us!
I like to play violent games. Hell, I enjoy ultra-violent titles because, like lots of people, I like the shock value and find it engrossing. That said, I am an adult and well within my rights to enjoy these things in the privacy of my own home. And yet every couple years the topic of game violence pops up in the media and we start hearing about how the government wants to ban violent games and that people who like them are sick and so forth and so on. In the wake of shootings like Sandy Hook, numerous organizations and groups–not to mention our own government–are looking into the matter of how video game violence effects young gamers more seriously.
In fact, Vice President Joe Biden recently brought to light a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics that found young kids who play a lot of games acted more aggressively in everyday life. Granted, there was no connection made between games and violence, but it still sucks. Where does it stop? If the government can tell us what we can and can’t have in our games, when will they tell us what we can and can’t have in our films or books?
The issue is not that law-abiding adults are playing GTA and then taking to the streets to kill prostitutes, it is because parents are buying crazy violent games for kids and then realizing too late they contain violent content and then, instead of blaming themselves for being lazy, they try to pin it on the gaming industry. This is ridiculous! That’s like letting your ten year-old drive your car and then blaming Toyota because he ran over a bunch of people.
So what can you do? Well, for one thing you can get involved. Lord knows we all have access to the internet…research the games your kids want. It’s not hard. Why, you can do it right here at VGU.TV! Secondly, stop taking them to midnight releases. No young kid needs to be out buying a video game at midnight on a school night. Are you really telling me that you then go home and let them play all night? That means they’re either wrecked the next morning from lack of sleep or you give them a freaking day off to play video games? Yikes. Tell little Billy you will think about buying him an age appropriate game if and when he brings his grades up. Tell little Susie that a good night’s sleep during the school year is a little more important than first-person violence.
I realize that I cannot tell you how to raise your children, and that they have more ways than ever to defy you these days. I can, however, inform you that some of these games contain the kind of violence that gives even us desensitized adults nightmares. Furthermore, I’m going to be pretty pissed if I can no longer blast off zombie heads with a shotgun because you don’t care about your kids enough to pay attention to the types of entertainment they’re absorbing.
I am absolutely not saying that these games will turn your children into violent sociopaths. Rather, I am stating that children who are not even teens yet do not need to be exposed to these things. Look, they’re your kids and ultimately how they live is your concern and responsibility. Just promise me you’ll think about it.