I come to you in frustration. I guess, maybe it’s more of a dilemma. I come to you wanting to educate anyone who may have video game lovin’ children. My intent is not to convict you, make you feel bad or even to really talk about a specific game but I truly want you to understand what is actually in some of these games. Especially for young boys (who I have run into the most) as the market is driven by them. The reason this is at the forefront of my heart currently? It has come up with one of my kids asking me to buy him a certain video game that is REALLY popular right now with all of his friends. I know the “ins” and “outs” of video games because I myself have been a gamer for years and really try to keep up on what’s the new thing. Alyssa and I have been known to sit and play Mario games together for hours! Date night baby! We’re really good at it too. Anyway, I keep up on what is out there also because I want to know what my kids are seeing daily, as well as what the culture is seeing.
I guess I want to start by asking this question. Do you know the rating system of video games? If not, here is a quick explanation and comparison to make things easy to remember:
Rated M is the worst rating you can get on the market. This is compared to a Rated R movie.
Rated T is for Teenage kids and is compared to a PG-13 movie.
Rated E has several smaller age rating inside of it and is basically compared to a PG or a rate G movie.
This rating system is set up by the ESRB or the Entertainment System Rating Board. You can get more information from esrb.org. I encourage you to go there! There are a few more ratings but these are the ones that are used the most or you will probably see. Right beside each rating, just like on movie, there is a brief description of WHY it received the rating it has. Now PLEASE understand this is NOT a Christian rating system. This is what the culture has set up to say what is and is NOT suitable for kids. I encourage you to check this out further and get educated about the gaming craze.
Now to go on with what we are dealing with. The game that was asked for by my 5th grade son is called GTA 5 or Grand Theft Auto 5. Now just from my past experience of “reading up” on this particular game, I immediately told my son it is not a game for someone his age. He had a hard time understanding why he wasn’t allowed to play it or buy it because “ALL” of his friends have this game and are playing it. Now of course he is a kid and not “ALL” of his friends have this game, but there are several who do. I want you to read WHY this game is rated M and then I will tell you some of the specific reasons it is rated that way.
"Content Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol"
The rating is pretty specific in and of itself. If you were to read this description about a movie that was rated R would you still allow your child to see it? I want to quote some of the other things though that are specific to this particular game.
“The game includes depictions of sexual material/activity: implied fellatio and masturbation; various sex acts that the player's character procures from a prostitute—while no nudity is depicted in these sequences, various sexual moaning sounds can be heard. Nudity is present, however, primarily in two settings: a topless lap dance in a strip club and a location that includes male cult members with exposed genitalia in a non-sexual context.” ESRB Rating page.
This is just about the sexual part of the game, now here is another specific about the drug aspect and language of the game.
"Some sequences within the larger game allow players to use narcotics (e.g., smoking from a bong, lighting a marijuana joint); cocaine use is also depicted. Players' character can, at various times, consume alcohol and drive while under the influence. The words “f**k,” “c*nt,” and “n**ger” can be heard in the dialogue.” ESRB rating Page.
That is just a brief description, not including the violence and the other criminal activity. As you can see this is NOT suitable for kids under the age of 17, hence the rating “M.” I don’t want my personal feelings on this game to be the center of this post however. Using this game as an example, I want to get across to you this… there are so many kids playing these types of games because they ask if they can have it and parents oblige. I’m sure some of them sneak it. Some of them probably had it on their Christmas list and Grandma bought it for them. This happens, to a certain degree, because parents don’t know what is happening in these games. If you read those descriptions about a movie there is no way you would allow your child to that (or so we hope), however, one step worse… in this game they get to ACT the movie out as a virtual character.
The rating system is set up to give us guidelines so that we know what not to feed our children’s eyes and ears. Think on this… that rating system can mean absolutely nothing if a parent does not take the time to be educated. I will also say it means nothing if parents aren’t willing to say “NO” to their beging child either. We had a long conversation with our son over this game. It’s hard to hear that your child feels left out of conversations between his group of friends or that things are going well socially. We get that, but in no way are we willing to make this trade.
Obviously, this post does stem from this specific incident with our son, but something else you have to know… the post has been building up because I have recently been dealing with guys who are buried in a pornography problem. We see guys who have raped and/or molested kids or even adults because they have major issues. These are serious problems but the thing I ask you is this. Do you think those guys just one day woke up and thought, “I want to rape that woman, or I want to get involved in porn at a huge degree.” I’m not saying that video games equate to this outcome every time. We stay away from extremes and extreme thinking. Don’t jump off the bandwagon or shun all things video game related from your home. But know this: It all starts somewhere and this could be the start of it in any of our kids. I am not saying it will, I am saying it has potential. Take this seriously.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Yes they are “just games” but at the same time they have such mature themes that they are not for kids in any way… Even the culture is telling us that.
I want to urge you to be proactive on what your kid or the kids around you put in their minds through video games and even movies. I know when I was a young boy with raging hormones I would have played the same thing and asked for the same game from my parents. Be proactive. Get educated about this and don’t let this get the best of your child…. or yourself.