In my line of work, my main responsibility is printing photos, however, half of the time I am also required to keep an eye on the game section of the store. It amazes me how often that a customer will come up and argue why we can not sell a blatantly seven or eight year old kid an eighteen-rated game. Join me in this article as I muse on the continuous battle between retailers and inattentive parents.
Now, don’t for a second believe I’m super-adhesive to the age ratings on games – games like Mario, superhero games, driving games – games that aren’t inherently graphic, but are still rated a twelve or even a fifteen, I’ll turn a blind eye as the game isn’t that bad to deny the kid that, however the law frowns heavily upon selling a small child something like Saints Row 3 or Splatterhouse, and I’m personally with them on this. Someone who has yet to reach their teens should not be playing games at an eighteen level, purely because they aren’t mature enough – this isn’t a stereotype, my experiences have always been negative when dealing with severely underage kids on online games, and it’s something that is hindering the reputation of gaming and gamers as a whole.
The basic conflict comes from the following sequence – child comes up with say, Modern Warfare 3, I say no due to the age, kid wanders off, kid comes back two minutes later with adult in tow, adult thinks he’s beaten system, gets rather angry when told he has not. I want to see a culture of gamers, but that’s like asking a nine-year old who’s kind of fast to race Usain Bolt. There has to be a steady, gradual exposure to things like this – it is bad enough that we have the news and the media showing us death, chaos and destruction by the crane load, but it seems more and more kids lose that innocence of everything being sunshine and rainbows before they reach double digits.
Nine times out of ten, and this has been overheard by parents that don’t seem to realise us retail monkeys have hearing, that this will shut up the kid for a few days. It is unfair and irresponsible to toss a game with those levels of deep situations to a child who probably wants to grow up to be a dragon at this point in their life. Maturity is key, and I’ve occasionally met kids who have shown that level of maturity – which is awesome, but the minority is drowned by the majority who aren’t able to grasp what they are doing on the screen and, thinking it’s okay, begin to copy phrases or talk about what happened in games in front of panic-happy authority figures, causing the papers to report how gaming is warping children’s minds.
This is down to parents not even paying attention to what they are giving a child, which has then led to said parent walk into a room when something happens they oppose, like chain-reaction explosions causing cars to go everywhere, or liberal removing of heads with a katana, or even the utterance of one of the Big Swears – and demand to know where they got this game, seemingly forgetting that they themselves bought it – and I’ve been there when it happened once while visiting a friend’s aunt, quite amusing. The parent ignores the many warnings, then condemns the culture as a whole for producing such “filth” – one tactic I found useful is if they would let their child watch a gorefest like the Saw films, or give their kids alcohol and cigarettes – there is a reason these things are rated as eighteen, and it’s not to mess with kids, nor are they fake numbers designed to rank a game on how cool or fun it is.
If parents took time to think about how they were approaching things,then the continued outcry against things clearly not aimed for at a younger market, especially if parents actually looked at the game they were buying for the kid instead of lobbing it at them to get ten, fifteen hours peace. That said, if all parents approached gaming like how this parent did with the little girl below, and has done throughout her short gaming career, then I could have a sounder mind in concerns to these things, but for now my stance is such – parents need to be less blind and lazy when it comes to games, and make sure their kids don’t enter the gaming world without a guiding hand.