A few short months ago, the FTC released a detailed report discussing the success (or lack thereof) of various retailers in enforcing age restrictions on different forms of media, including video games, movies, DVDs, and music. Surprisingly (that is to say, surprising only if you attach any weight to the frequent, tired media refrain of blaming games for all that is wrong with the world), the FTC reported that not only are video game retailers the best at enforcing age ratings, but they have been the best for a fairly sustained period of time.
So where does it all break down?
Well, according to one Gamestop employee, things fall apart precisely when informed guardians opt to disregard explicitly stated content warnings administered by store employees. While this isn’t exactly uncommon, the issue has been pushed to the forefront again recently due to the launch of GTA V, a game that, while excellent in its own right, reminds us that some games are a harder M than others.
As our anonymous employee notes, games like Halo and Skyrim may be rated M, but any versed gamer understands the difference between those specific franchises and, say, Duke Nukem, Saints Row, Manhunt, or GTA. The former, you might deem acceptable for a young ward to play. The latter? Yeah, notsomuch.
But then, this is a differentiation that knowledgeable gamer-guardians are in a position to make. The average guardian who doesn’t play but only buys games for their kids might not know the difference. And if this is the case, why ignore the advice of someone who knows what they’re talking about? If a sales clerk warns customers that a game they’re purchasing for a kid features graphic first-person lapdances and a brutal torture scene (regardless of whether or not it may be rooted in the context of satire or social commentary), you might expect at least half the would-be purchasers to set the game down, saying “Maybe when they’re older,” but instead, this employee reports justifications—“They’ll play it at a friend’s house anyways / I’m sure it’s not that bad / I’ll be around to watch them”—significantly outnumber the decisions to put the game back on the shelf. Is this apathy? A lack of common sense? Trying to keep kids pacified? Confidence that your 6-year-old is the exception to the norm? Or is it something else?
Full disclosure: of course, many of us can speak to personal experience of playing games we probably shouldn’t have been playing at early ages. Many of us have likely thrown ourselves into games like Duke Nukem, Carmageddon, Wolfenstein, Mortal Kombat, Redneck Rampage, GTA, and Phantasmagoria during our formative years. But personally, at least, I made sure as hell my parents didn’t know about them, because I knew where they stood on the subject.
Over to you, Dear Reader. How old were you when you played your first game that you probably shouldn’t have been playing? And would you let a child play a hard M game?
In other gaming news this week, The Last of Us gets a new DLC, GTA Online nears launch, and Myst turns 20. Read on!
- If you loved The Last of Us, you’ll be happy to know that Naughty Dog plans on announcing a new DLC for the game later this week. We’re crossing our fingers for an extended single-player campaign…
- The GTA Online launch is just around the corner, and Rockstar is ramping up their release of tidbits concerning its gameplay. This week, the developer announced that GTA Online will feature multiplayer races, sports, heists, missions, a custom content creator, and a customizable avatar. However, be warned: Rockstar expects quite a few initial growing pains on launch as they adjust to the server load and glitches of an MMO world.
- So, Metal Gear Solid V is looking pretty good, guys. Check out the demo for yourself.
- Anyone remember Rockstar’s fantastic Bully? Well, writer Dan House is itching to revisit the universe and claims to have several new directions in mind that a sequel could take.
- Valve is looking to transform your gaming experience via their recently-announced Steam Machine, which will additionally clean your carpets while you game on a multi-platform-capable, powerful, (hopefully) affordable new gaming system. Check out the link to learn how to make yourself eligible for beta-testing.
- South Park: The Stick of Truth (the RPG you’ve all been waiting for this year, let’s face it) launches on December 10. In the meantime, enjoy Ubisoft’s latest trailer.
- Finally, a very happy birthday to one of the most iconic PC games of all time. Myst turned 20 this week!