Computer and video games are now enjoyed by millions of players throughout the world. In the UK, 37 % of the population aged between 16 and 49 describe themselves as ‘active gamers’. With gaming more mainstream and such a massive variety of games on the market how do we know what is appropriate for who?
Age ratings are systems used to ensure that entertainment content, such as films, videos, DVDs, and computer games, are clearly labelled by age according to the content they contain. Age ratings provide guidance to consumers (particularly parents) to help them decide whether or not to buy a particular product.
While this information is there for a good reason, many parents simply ignore age ratings. The age rating will stop children being able to buy games they aren't old enough for, but parents will buy them instead. With improving graphics and realism violence in games can become ever more realistic, so should we be concerned?
Some people seem to think so. One of the most common criticisms of video games is that they increase the violent tendencies among youth. Video games have been studied for links to addiction and aggression and its been found they do not contribute to these problems. Sadly I just think the video game industry has become an easy target for the media to blame for many modern day problems. I think many people have become largely desensitised to ideas of violence or gore due to modern media, including video games and films, they have undoubtedly become more graphic over recent years. Being desensitised to these themes and actions however does not make one capable of performing them. People have stated in the past kids are becoming incapable of telling the difference between the virtual gaming world and real life, leading to violence outside of video games. Surely you can't blame this solely on the media, out of the millions of people that currently play video games the overwhelming portion is capable of discerning reality from games. Some people are inherently different that makes them capable of violent activities, playing games or watching films doesn't change that and its wrong to blame games in general for an incredibly small minority of problems.
Lt. Col. David Grossman is a psychology professor who has written several books about the subject of violence in the media, including "On Killing" and "Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill". During heights of video game controversy he has been interviewed on the content of his books, and has repeatedly used the term "murder simulator" to describe first-person shooter games. He argues that video game publishers unethically train children in the use of weapons and, more importantly, harden them emotionally to the act of murder by simulating the killing of hundreds or thousands of opponents in a single typical video game. Many find Grossman's conclusions to be highly selective and misleading.
With games receiving this kind of accusations you'd think people might start following those age restrictions a little bit more. If people are really concerned about the negative effects it could have on their children then they should stick to the age restrictions, stopping their kids playing games deemed unsuitable until they are old enough. Most people, kids included, should be capable of disconnecting what they do in a game to how they should act in reality. Many parents see the age ratings as mere guidelines and that their kids are mature enough to play them but maybe they should think a little bit more before allowing their 12 year old to play a game designed and aimed at 18+. Or at least be aware of what they are allowing their kids to do and see within the game.
Video games have the capability to allow you to do anything, like explore other planets, become treasure hunters or even help you learn new things, its not all about shooting people. Its an incredible platform of expression and freedom of speech and yet people want to censor it. If your concerned about what you may or your kids may experience, avoid the game, but don't stop other people having fun. I find 'Barbie Horse Advenventures' highly disturbing, but I'm not trying to get them banned. Yet.