Note: I chatted with KSRO 1350 on Wednesday morning about this issue. You can listen to the interview by CLICKING HERE.
If a 10 year old tried to get into the movie theater to watch any of the Saw movies (one of which opened with characters violently cutting off chunks of their skin for the demon who is demanding it for payment), he would thankfully be turned away indefinitely thanks to the R Rating that prohibits those underage from viewing that movie in a theater without a parent there with them. However, if that same 10 year old walked into a video game store today and purchased the game “Manhunt” – a game where gamers simulate motions with their hands on the Nunchuck and Wii remote to stab, maim, split someone open with a chainsaw, punch, impale, dismember….and it’s urged by a “director” that each killing be bloodier and more greusome – they could walk right up to the counter and do so.
According to the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), video games that are rated M (Mature) “have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.” Since 2005, those under age 17 were unable to buy video games that allowed “killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being.” Their parents could buy the games for them, but they would not be able to buy them on their own.
Today the US Supreme Court overturned the ban that prohibited those younger than 18 from purchasing games with a rating of M, deciding it was unconstitutional for the government to “restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed”.
I have seen games where animals have been skinned, a person is graphically blown up, and the imagery is so realistic it’s scary. I’m not going to claim “perfect parent” status here, as I have allowed my son to play video games that involve killing in them. But I’m aware of the games he is playing, and I’ve even told him “no” over some overly graphic games he wanted to buy. The overturning of this law means that my kid could walk into any video game store, pick out any of these games I’ve forbidden, and buy it without question. And I might never even know.
The funny thing is, the Court has decided that forbidding minors from buying violent games is against their First Amendment Rights. Since when did my 10 year old’s rights become more important than my own? Last time I checked, the kid couldn’t vote, isn’t allowed to hold a job, is prohibited from driving a car, is deemed too young to drink a beer, and isn’t even allowed to have a Facebook page. But suddenly, the government is ok with my kid choosing on his own to view possibly pornographic images or gruesome murder scenes as long as it’s a part of a video game?
Shouldn’t the parents have the most power when it comes to things their underage child is viewing?
I’m not going to claim that violent video games create murderers. There have been so many conflicting reports on whether violence viewed onscreen could actually cause a child to take up that action in real life. But I do believe that viewing images like that can cause a child stress and affects their ability to think.
Different levels of stress can cause a child’s attention span to lessen as their protective instincts naturally put up blockers. In extreme cases, their brains pruduce high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, known for it’s tendency to permanently kill brain cells. This can cause difficulties in dealing with anxiety and stress later in life. While it can be argued that a video game is not a real event but just an image on a screen, it should also be pointed out the realistic images that are being rapidly flashed on the screen, the loud sounds coming from headphones, and the actions a gamer must phyically manage to make their avatar move on the screen are intended to make the experience much more than 2D. It may just be on the screen, but video gaming is becoming more and more realistic with every upgrade. And a child’s growing brain has a harder time differentiating simulation from reality than an adult’s brain would.
What’s your take on this? Do you allow your son or daughter to play video games? Have you ever allowed them to play games that are rated beyond their years? Are you concerned that the ban has been overturned, or do you feel the Supreme Court was right in their assessment that this law was unconstitutional?
NOTE: You all really should read the blog article by our resident video game blogger, GameWit. He gives another side as to why this new rule might be a good thing.