Okay…I’ve resisted talking about the Sandy Hook shooting last year because there’s nothing I can say. It was a tragic event, and the perpetrator will never be brought to justice because he killed himself. So, this is not about that – directly. This is about what the nitwit Wayne LaPierre and the brain farts in Congress have been saying since it happened. Basically, they’re blaming it on violent entertainment: TV, movies, and video games. In fact, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) is asking for a study to see how violent games impact children. That, and people have been climbing the walls against entertainment they deem too violent for YEARS. In fact, there’s a town in Connecticut that’s offering to collect and destroy violent games.
This is completely stupid.
I’m 35 years old. I grew up in the era of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and Steven Segal. I was raised watching movies like Predator, The Terminator, and Cobra. Watching Magnum P.I., Knight Rider, and Miami Vice was a rite of passage for me. I spent countless hours playing games like Contra, Mega Man, and Ikari Warriors. Hell, Commando has a scene where someone gets impaled through a steam pipe, and that – plus Schwarzenegger’s one-liner at the end (“Let off some steam!”) – is one of my favorite movie lines.
Paranoid people, allow me clue you in on a little secret: it ain’t the games. It ain’t the movies. It ain’t the TV shows. Kids get exposed to these things, sure. But, kids shouldn’t be able to buy these games, they aren’t supposed to get into these movies, and they’re not supposed to be watching these shows on TV. Know why? Because we already have a rating system that covers ALL of these.
In response to games like Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, and Doom, the Entertainment Software Rating Board was created. Established in 1994, it was created to assign ratings to games based on their content, i.e., someone getting shot in the face at point blank range. These ratings have been in effect for about almost 20 years now. If you’ve looked at a video game box recently, you’ve probably seen the rating plastered on the front.
These ratings make it clear who these games are made for. I won’t let my 22 month old daughter watch me playing Mass Effect. Nor would I allow my 11 year old niece to watch me play the latest Call of Duty
game (primarily because I don’t like first-person shooters, but that’s neither here nor there). These games are rated M for a reason; they contain violent images and sexual situations. Where have we heard this saying before? Oh, yeah…the MPAA.
In 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America implemented its own rating system to replace the Hays Code (a fascinating read; find out more about the Hays Code here). In its infancy, it only had four ratings: “G” for General Audiences, “M” for Mature Audiences, “R” for Restricted (no one under 16 to be admitted without a parent or guardian, and “X” for Adults Only. Over the years, “M” gave way to “GP”, which changed to “PG”, and that’s what we had for years…until 1984. That’s when movies like Gremlins, Poltergeist, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Clash of the Titans (the original one, not the worthless one featuring the wooden Sam Worthington) were released to unsuspecting children, and it effectively scared the crap out of them. As a result, the “PG-13” rating was created to delineate the difference between a movie that might scare some younger children. In 1990, due to the influx of porn films taking the “X” rating as their own – even though most of them weren’t rated in the first place, the MPAA created the “NC-17” rating. Thus, giving us the following ratings system we use today.
In 1997, Congress, the television industry, and the FCC created TV Parental Guidelines. These guidelines were created as a tool to show parents what TV shows they may not want their young children watching. It also was created to be used in conjunction with the V-chip, which would censor shows with specific ratings. If you’ve watched TV recently, you’ve seen the ratings pop up in the upper-left hand corner of the screen. If you’ve watched a procedural, you’ve seen it every half hour.
Now, I’m sure you’re wondering why I took you on this trip down memory lane. Well, the answer is simple: we have a system in place to handle these things; we’ve had it for years. All it requires is a bit of common sense and proper implementation. The fault doesn’t rest on the entertainment industry; it rests with the consumers – specifically the parents and/or guardians who allow their charges to consume the offending media.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that all parents aren’t doing their jobs, nor does it mean that all sales reps aren’t adhering to the guidelines. However, it DOES mean that some of them aren’t.
Kids aren’t stupid; they’ll ask an adult to pick up a game for them – even though they know they aren’t supposed to play it. They’ll either sneak into a movie or ask an older cousin to get them in one. They’ll wait until their parents are summarily distracted so they can watch The Walking Dead. Instead of taking a look at everyone else, take a look at your immediate circle; you just might find the solution you’re looking for.
Of course, that’s just my opinion; I could be wrong.