As many of you are aware by now, there is a heated debate surrounding the topic of video games. This discussion is nothing new as violence in this medium has been discussed over decades. However, it has also expanded into topics like sex, nudity, profanity and other forms of explicit content. From the media stating that first-person shooters were to blame for the mass shootings in the Columbine and Virginia Tech Massacres to the notion that Mass Effect and other games like it are to blame for exposing minors to explicit, sexual content in their games, there are a lot of accusations being made about video games. Yet, I see that there is a disconnect between what video games cause and what can be prevented by parents who, in most cases, buy these games.
Back in 1982, a game titled Custer’s Revenge was commercialized as an adult game for the Atari 2600. The goal of the game was for a White male avatar to rape a Native-American woman tied to a post (as depicted by the cover art which I will not post here). It was criticized for being sexually explicit and accused of attempting to expose this content minors. But on the box of the game was a label stating that the game was both an adult game and could not be sold to minors. Similarly, games with an M rating (for mature) are only available for sale to people 17 years or older. The ESRB rating system wasn’t implemented until 1996, 14 years after Custer’s Revenge was released. This begs the question of why games like Call of Duty are still played by young teenagers. I believe it is because of a parent’s negligence to understand what they are buying for their children.
I can say I was young when I played Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I remember getting it for Christmas back when I was in 7th grade. What I understand now is that my mom and dad did not know what they were buying me. I cannot fault them for not knowing that the game had one of the most infamous levels in gaming history. That level featured shooting up an airport full of civilians. The level was completely passable and had a warning about the violence that it contained before the start of the campaign. Washington has tried to limit the exposure in video games in the past. In 2013, former vice president Joe Biden stated that games like these should be taxed more than their less violent counterparts. Trump has made statements earlier this year criticizing violent video games as well. Both instances were shortly after mass school shootings.
When I bought Grand Theft Auto 5, I had just turned 17. The game features an online mode where you and 15 other players can do basically anything they want in the game world. I remember being chased around by what sounded like six 10-year-old children in trucks cursing at me for shooting at their friend. Another player on the same server was shocked at the profanity being screamed at me; he was in his twenties. Is it the game’s fault for the language and aggressive nature of the children? Or have they learned these things from other sources and the game only added more fuel to the fire? Each instance of a child being exposed to an explicit or violent video game is different than the other. But how should parents learn when and what video games to buy for their children?
I think that before a game is purchased, the parent should ask more questions about what the game is about. Every time that I have been into a GameStop, the cashier made sure to read off what the game featured off of the rating label. The rating label is only going to give so much information about the game. An example of this is the Last of Us. In one section of the game, one of the game’s protagonists is captured by a cannibalistic group of people. Visuals of dismembered bodies, blood, gore and disturbing imagery are nothing new up to this point in the game. However, this section has Ellie, the protagonist that is captured, chased by a pedophilic cannibal. He threatens to not only kill her but to rape and eat her. Stores should have this information ready for everyone buying games with explicit content. Every game has different events that occur that could be sensitive to someone.
I extend this question to you; should video games with mature and explicit content be censored outright, or should more information be made available to parents and consumers to decide for themselves? Sound off in the comments below and share this on social media.