In the wake of the Newtown shooting tragedy, the world once again turns its probing eye on the video game industry.

Numerous politicians are calling for new studies focusing on the effects of playing violent games, and community leaders in Southington, CT proposed an event that would involve the burning of violent and potentially damaging pieces of interactive entertainment. This event was recently canceled, as those in charge said the action wasn’t necessary; they were successful in generating “frank talks” between parents and children.

Two points of interest arise— firstly, despite over three decades of significant growth and an average participant age of 35 (according to recent ESA statistics), the mainstream media and the majority of the population apparently still believe all video games are for kids. Secondly, it appears those lobbying for change have forgotten the law that prompted the creation of the ESRB in 1994, which rates video games. For the uninitiated, these ratings are akin to MPAA ratings for movies; “E” for Everyone, “T” for Teen, and “M” for Mature. “M” is the equivalent of an “R” rating, as you must be at least 17 years of age to purchase the product.

In reading comments made by politicians and community leader since the Newtown elementary school disaster, I have found one common thread: Video games and children are always linked. To be more specific, violent video games and children are consistently tied together in these public statements.

Having been a game journalist for over eleven years, I have seen the strides taken in terms of storytelling, artistry, cinematography, and technical capability. One could make the argument that while the “normal” entertainment venues (movies, music, books) are stagnating, the only true innovation can be found in the rapidly expanding interactive entertainment field. Therefore, hearing politicians and parents who are still living in 1985 has long since grown tiresome.

The ESRB has been in place for 18 years and in my experience, the ratings are quite accurate and in some ways, even stricter than the MPAA. Developers have been creating games for adults for the majority of those 18 years. Violent video games and indeed, any games with adult/mature themes are not made for children. They’re not marketed toward children. And yes, it should be illegal to sell them to children. We took the necessary strides to pass that legislation (of which I remain a huge proponent) and the education and information has been available for a long time. “Grand Theft Auto” was never intended for children and hence, conducting studies concerning the effects of an 8-year-old playing GTA should be unnecessary. Kids shouldn’t be playing that game. The industry never wanted kids to play that game.

I believe violent media can and does have significant effects on developing minds. There should be no “frank talks” between parents and kids about the subject; parents should simply not buy “M”-rated games for their children. The town of Southington asked families to drop off their violent video games; presumably, games their kids were playing. What were those kids doing with such games? What were those kids doing playing games not designed for them, games with a big label on the cover saying the product is reserved for older individuals? In short, these families should have no violent games to destroy if we place responsibility in the proper place.

That being said, I believe a loophole for promoting violent games – and other violent media – exists within the advertising realm. Although certain games are not directly marketed toward children, commercials for such titles can still be seen by anyone. These commercials, along with ads I’ve seen for recent horror movies, push the boundaries and are not appropriate for people of all ages. However, seeing a ten-second commercial for something like “Killzone 3” is unlikely to have the same effect as playing the game for many hours. Of course, the game in question was rated “M.”

Video games have been a convenient scapegoat for far too long. Such accusations turn a blind eye to the important strides gaming has taken. Generalized ignorance is unfair to the many highly creative minds who work in the industry. We have rich, beautiful, complex worlds these days, and many are designed for everyone. We also have dark, violent, twisted worlds, which are only designed for a select few. Children are not a part of the latter group. The sooner the mainstream press, various politicians and above all, parents, understand this, the sooner we can stop wasting time asking unnecessary questions.

Subscribe
Notify of
102 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Snaaaake
Snaaaake
8 years ago

And let's not forget that for every beginning of a game or a trailer for mature audience, you'll always see this:
"May contain content inappropriate for children"

Do these people even read?

sawao_yamanaka
sawao_yamanaka
8 years ago

Nobody ever reads sadly enough. Also, none of my nieces have seen these commercials because they don't come on with their programming schedule. We have the chip in place that other parents should use which they don't. The blame will always be on the adults who don't care. I think the only film I have watched with them was paranorman and they found it scary. Still too young for it, it seems.

Snaaaake
Snaaaake
8 years ago

Well I'm not sure about TV but in video games they always include the caution.

And to find Paranorman scary………..too young indeed.

sawao_yamanaka
sawao_yamanaka
8 years ago

Oh sorry for not explaining myself. During commercial breaks they show such commercials for kids but unless the parent have their parental settings set children won't see them. They have found other things scary as well not just paranorman. It is actually kind of cute because one of them is afraid of my little pony :p.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

Ben great article, however Call of Duty does market heavily towards children. Its the one game that should be scrutinized and those selling it to minors (which allot are) should be penalized. Not to mention parents need to be educated on these types of games so they are not baited to get them for there kids on lets say christmas. Either way great article, would even ask those politicians that are in charge of the game violence committee to look at it.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
8 years ago

Can you please tell me how "Call of Duty does market heavily towards children"?

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

In no way does Activision market Call of Duty towards minors. That isn't true at all.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

Trust me when i say they market to children indirectly. Call of Duty would not be half as successful if they didn't. To prove my point, the movies that have generated the most income over the past 5-10 years have been cartoonish in nature or super hero themed. Add them up and then add the same number of any other movies not kid oriented and you will see the difference.

Kids drive the entertainment market, activision knows this and is why kobe bryant, iron man (robert downey jr.) have been cast in there tv promo's. Not to mention there slogan, "there's a soldier in all of us". In addition these live action tv spots are so over the top and use comedy to suggest violence.

You will not convince me that activision does not target children, take a close look at what they advertise. However activision is only half the blame, Gamestop promotes COD as the next mesiah. Three months before the launch of COD every person that calls, shops, or talks to an employee is asked if they want to preorder COD. Can you tell me that they don't ask teenagers the same thing, they ask everyone. When you call thats there greeting. Actually if i was a smart man, i would sue them for not verifying my age before asking that.

Its a mature game with heavy violence both in single player and online. Yes its true i am beating up the popular kid, but that popularity didn't just happen; it was manufactured. By the money hungry minds of activision and gamestop.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
8 years ago

Well im glad you thought that out. The first problem though is youre blaming gamestop who has no affiliation with the marketing of the game. They sell it and market their business, they do that sort of thing with any new release. On that point my encounters with gamestop is that they will not sell an M rated game to anyone under 17 let alone pre-order, and on that same note Gamestop does NOT take pre-orders over the phone, I've tried this many times. Going back a second, they market their business by saying they have such game.

The other thing to note is, you can say what you want about the commercials, and I somewhat agree about the nature of them. But that doesn't disregard the fact that before every commercial there is a huge "Rated M for mature" logo. At that point its very clear the game is not intended for children.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

You're not making any sense at all. Because Activision has other products they DO market towards kids, THAT'S why Call of Duty is also marketed toward kids? …what kind of logic is that?

No, kids do NOT drive the entertainment market. A common falsehood. They don't drive it because they can't; they don't have the means to drive anything. PARENTS drive it. And based on recent studies, MOST parents have no desire to buy Call of Duty for their 9-year-old and no, that is hardly the average age of a CoD player.

The commercials are humorous; they're not designed for children. GameStop certainly isn't pushing CoD on kids, either. CoD's success is in no way predicated on children. That's just absurd in every sense of the term. That basically says that the entire industry is dominated by children because CoD is the biggest franchise on earth. And that HEAVILY clashes with the statistic that the average age of a gamer is 35.

You're dead flat wrong about this, my friend.

Ludicrous_Liam
Ludicrous_Liam
8 years ago

I can see what The Real Deal is saying. Kids perception of what's 'cool' is often derived from what older brothers or friends or whichever are playing.

And on the occasions I've played COD, I've met a fair share of young children playing it.

Also, weren't Activision around in the NES era, with games that had you with a gun shooting aliens, aimed specifically at children? Just saying, they might've learned from the past.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

Irrelevant. Kids think almost everything they're not supposed to have is "cool." They think alcohol is "cool," too. Doesn't mean beer companies market to kids, nor does it mean they're a driving force of that market.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

That M rating does nothing to deter anyone. Cigarette packages say they cause cancer, yet people buy them. Alcohol causes many adverse side effects that are known, that doesn't stop anyone. I am calling into question the motive and the integrity of these two institutions and how they promote directly or indirectly to children.

This should be looked into and there should be tougher regulation to stop this form of marketing. Much in the same way there are no commercials for cigarette's, I suggest the same approach for m rated games; or at the very least a place that can verify your age before watching them.

If companies didn't abuse there power and were not money hungry these regulations wouldn't need to exist. Let's see a very heavy regulated COD game that parents know is bad for their kids do 25 million in sales. It wouldn't happen!!!!!!!

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

@Ben,

Your'e right; parents are the root cause of the problem. But that doesn't address the child pulling on the pant leg begging for the next call of duty. Why are kids clamoring for this game, commercials: check, the local game stop employee talking about it constantly: check, the fact that parents are not associating this game with violence or are to busy to see; check.

The bottom line is there's room for improvement, if parents can't be responsible which tends to be the case, then the market has too. If that means regulation then so be it. There is such a thing as being to real, you know?

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

The only reason the average age of a gamer statistically is 35, is because we don't count underage kids that have there parents buy mature rated games. The average age for a COD player is closer to 25, with a majority of them being in the age group of 12-17.

Look at a far superior product in Battlefield 3, that didn't sell half as near as COD. Why? One they don't market to children, all there ads are adult themed and you know when you see it what you get. The second is they don't have the core audience that COD has. What makes all those kids buy it every year, well its the facebook of video games. Its the ones place where all there friends are at. Its like going to high school in the afternoon, lol.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

The Real Deal: I'm sorry, I just never see kids "clamoring" for Call of Duty. I really don't.

Simcoe
Simcoe
8 years ago

I agree with The Real Deal…the part where he says that Battlefield 3 is a superior product (compared to COD)! 😉

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
8 years ago

Well said Mr. Dutka, couldn't have said it better myself. What ARE these children doing with these games and WHO is actually to blame for said possession. Should we conduct studies on the effect of giving children assault weapons too? (Not that that's the same thing but just as asinine an idea).

Did you all know the FTC has cited the video game industry as being the best enforced in ratings? But nothing can keep a parent from purchasing the game for their child can it?

As we sift through the ashes looking for blame we will find plenty to go around, but I think it's better to listen to Mark Twain: "Do not argue with idiots, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience."

The industry is good for capitalism, makes a lot of money, so it isn't going to be damaged much by any of this rabble rousing from people willing to do anything but put in place common sense safety measures.

Cabalavatar1
Cabalavatar1
8 years ago

I've been doing a fair bit of reading on this issue for a while–only in science and psychology publications (and non-published but peer-reviewed experiments). I can't find much in the way of a solid conclusion. Sometimes I read "playing violent games is a predictor of later aggression. But being aggressive isn’t a predictor of playing violent games." So they make us aggressive. However, the amount of excess aggression is often around 2%, which is statistically insignificant, and those articles get published more often than the studies that fail to show a correlational link between aggression and video game playing.

People who tend to be physically violent and aggressive, overwhelming choose to play video games (Lemmens et al 2006). A study of Korean youth found that aggressive and narcissistic personalities were more likely to become addicted to online games (Kim et al 2008). However, as I've said before here, we don't get any CAUSAL links, only correlational links. The latter doesn't really help us.

The debate in scientific circles is contradictory. You can find evidence for and against, about most if it depends on the researchers' interpretations. The two big heads are Bushman and Ferguson. Bushman fears that the violence is changing development. Ferguson tells us that there isn't enough evidence to suggest that. Something to take away, though is that they "both agree on one thing: as fathers, they've banned their own kids from playing violent video games."

I wouldn't ban my kids from any specific media; that's their decision. (And how dare I impose my beliefs on them.) I find humans are quite adept at discerning the difference between reality and fiction (religion aside). We may react to each of them similarly, in the moment, and for a little while afterwards while those neurons are still firing. But we adapt back into reality.

Snaaaake
Snaaaake
8 years ago

True mate, my lil cousin played GTA at 11, still a normal kid he is.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

"I wouldn't ban my kids from any specific media; that's their decision."

Kids aren't supposed to make certain decisions for themselves. It's why they're kids, and why parents are supposed to be parents. This BS about "letting them choose to do what they want to do" has resulted in zero discipline and absolute monsters in the schools. I have two aunts who are teachers…it's a freaking MESS, and it stems directly from so-called parents letting their kids run amok.

Either that stops or we will continue to raise individuals with no respect for authority figures and who believe they're entitled to absolutely everything on the planet.


Last edited by Ben Dutka PSXE on 1/24/2013 1:02:12 AM

PSN French
PSN French
8 years ago

@Ben, Society didn't just magically change after how many millenia? The entitlement nation has been formed from 100 years of work through propoganda from governments and shadow groups like bilderberg, to convince us that PEOPLE are evil and GOVERNMENT is good, when it's the other way around. So many people around me detest others, it's a disgusting trend that is causing society to decay and bring my country with it. I kindly ask… why is it "people" are so incapable of taking care of themselves or being good parents… except the people YOU know? Is it because it's a bunch of bullcrap and the REAL problem is government? Think for yourself… EVERYONE is capable of great things, but most will become apathetic when others (government) promise to do things for them.


Last edited by PSN French on 1/24/2013 6:20:41 AM

SirLoin of Beef
SirLoin of Beef
8 years ago

You, as a parent, think you shouldn't pass your beliefs on to your kids? Wow. Do you teach them nothing, then? Where are they to learn things? Television? Magazines? The school system?

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
8 years ago

PSN French: Uh…does that socialistic diatribe have anything whatsoever to do with the topic at hand?

All people are equally capable, INCLUDING kids? So parents don't have to tell them anything, huh? Is that what I'm supposed to deduce from your rant?

Underdog15
Underdog15
8 years ago

If you were so knowledgeable in psychology as you claim to be, you would know how long it takes a child to fully develop socially and mentally to fully think for themselves at an adult cognitive level. Not even adolescence has it fully developed. You would also know that a laissez-faire approach to parenting leads to increased likelihood if unhealthy social interactions, depression, and underdeveloped psycho social abilities. A passive-authoritative approach is best. Even for teachers. Guiding thoughts with a moral foundation is necessary, because kids believe many things. And even if they believe the right things, it's not always for the right reasons. Yes, you encourage them to think independently, but you need to provide a moral compass. You aren't shaping them into a zombie. If you do your job right, they'll make their own decisions as adults anyways, but with a better understanding and foundation for reason. Your method will lead to many personal beliefs founded in "just because" or they will create justifications out of thin air to support their beliefs.

in other words, I disagree with most of your post.

wackazoa
wackazoa
8 years ago

@French. You left out the templars, the freemasons, and aliens in your conspiracy groups. Your welcome.

By the by… you want a sure fire way to tell if someone is gonna be agressive or more prone to violence ? Watch how they treat small animals…

(Caveat: All animals are capable of violence, if put in certain situations.)


Last edited by wackazoa on 1/24/2013 1:38:14 PM

clockwyzebkny
clockwyzebkny
8 years ago

i couldn't have said it better. I detest it when people use the video game industry as a scapegoat. The industry and a very great amount of video gamers are grown freaking adults!

I get incredelous looks when i say i'm a video gamer Why? Should i look at someone weird when they say they're going to watch a movie?! Read some fiction?!

As you mentioned video games have continuously grown with so much inovation There's tons of categories in video games like there's a myriad of genres in the music industry. To have tunnel vision and think all games are like Mario and meant for everyone is being completely ignorant.

Also the theory that violent games are affecting people to make them into immoral killing machines is a load of crap People with PRE EXISTING MENTAL ISSUES kill people And if a breaking point is reached, they'll kill people for whatever reasons whether violent games, media etc exists or not.

The big issue is that parents, politicians and much of news media don't like to take responsibility and seek the truth behind such matters.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

"I get incredelous looks when i say i'm a video gamer Why? Should i look at someone weird when they say they're going to watch a movie?! Read some fiction?!"

Classic, incredelous….. funny stuff right here!

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
8 years ago

I have mental issues, but my games help me 🙂

Killa Tequilla
Killa Tequilla
8 years ago

What kind of issues?

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
8 years ago

Anxiety and panic disorder, nothing helps me relieve the tension of a hard day at school or work(and mine are by nature much harder than they are for most)like saving the world.

bigrailer19
bigrailer19
8 years ago

This is what I argue all day. Great article Ben! Nothing better than common sense before bed time!

kraygen
kraygen
8 years ago

I think you're wrong Ben, obviously video games are the cause of violence. Video games have been around for about what 50-60 years?

So obviously violence has only been around for about 40-50 years and gun violence has only been around for like 30 years. Proof positive right there. . . .

Oh wait, I think people killed each other with guns before 1940, nah, gotta be video games. That seems logical.

wackazoa
wackazoa
8 years ago

You didnt know ? When he wasnt fighting vampires or freeing the slaves, Abe Lincoln was a badass Street Fighter player.


Last edited by wackazoa on 1/24/2013 1:29:49 PM

Dirt
Dirt
8 years ago

I pegged Lincoln as more of a Dead Or Alive enthusiast, myself.

Jawknee
Jawknee
8 years ago

Good article but a waste I'm afraid. These pols don't care about facts or reason. Every move they make these days is based on sheer emotion and politicking in a hope it will shore up more power for themselves. I fear some in Washington actually relish terrible events like Newtown. It gives them a reason to attack our Bill of Rights and further empower the state. Ed Rendell said as much not long after it happened. Most of these pols know their 'solutions' will not stop the next Newtown. But it doesn't matter, if they can exploit it to further stigmatize gamers and law abiding gun owners to advance their assault on our individual sovereignty, they will continue to see these horribly evil events as opportunities to grab more power and further erode our Bill of Rights.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

Agreed, and yes politicians use events like Newtown and September 11 to further there agenda. Usually thats for the good of America. But in some cases its for there own personal reasons or there supporters agenda. Example: Bush and Cheney = Iraq!!!!!

Corvo
Corvo
8 years ago

Really cool article Ben. I agree with it 100%. But when i was 9, GTA Vice City came out and i played it. I have played probably hundreds of M games and i haven't killed a single person. Don't get me wrong, i've been tempted to. Namingly the drivers around here.

These "Officials" really need to stop blaming video games and developers, and turn their eyes at the parents. I've said this before, i saw more parents with their kids at the Black Ops 2 release than i did teenagers. Parents use games to babysit their kids. Instead, spend time with them, or at least buy them a game with the tag T, or E. Their not for decoration, they literally are designed for parents to say "Ok you can play this game billy."

This is becoming more of an issue than it needs to. If videos games made children more violent, then why isn't the what… 60 million avid gamers serial killers? Plenty of the people here, im sure, have been playing video games since they were kids. None of you are murderers. The only reason that all of this focus is on video games, is the parents way of avoiding the embarrassment of people turning to their failure of raising their own kids, and allowing the developers to do so.

I blame the parents 100%. I've heard "Oh well his brother plays it so its not fair that he can't" Thats the opposite of what you should be saying. If the brother is 17, he is allowed to play M games, for the most part. They shouldn't allow their little 7 year old to be playing the games the 17 year old plays just because you don't want to be a parent.

Im going to end my post here, because i could keep going, but seriously, to the douchbags who can't fix our economy, but can afford private jets, LEAVE VIDEO GAMES ALONE. Some of us don't have 40g's laying around the house underneath couch cussions, some of us enjoy exploring a mystical world, and endangering that by pointing blame at things other than the REAL problem is BS. I don't go starting petitions to remove the scared and greedy individuals that sit on top of buildings looking down at the world while counting their money.

The Real Deal
The Real Deal
8 years ago

You are 100% correct. Babysitting with movies and video games have long been the norm in many families. I would go out on a limb and say; there are more parents that do this, then don't. Even a good parent in all respects succumb to these practices. Americans are too busy, overworked, and underpaid to worry about such a little thing as taking care of there sons and daughters. I am not a supporter of china's limit on children for families, but some people should not have kids when they do.

homura
homura
8 years ago

I admit that I have murdered countless cackroaches. Also back when I'm still an Elementary student, I Hadoukened my classmate because he Sonic Boomed me, at first I'm going to used Kamehameha wave but I still haven't perfected it. I also had plans to Finish Him that weekend and do some Fatality on him but it didn't happen because we became friends again during a basketball game. As for now I'm practicing on summoning Bahamut from time to time but still with no success. By the way I've mastered Izuna drop just the other day with my bolo.

Ludicrous_Liam
Ludicrous_Liam
8 years ago

I used to play Vice City when I was around 5 or 6. The only thing I did was try to find motorcycles and drive up staircases. Needless to say I often died, and it took me forever to find another bike. 🙁

I honestly don't think these kinda game have a bad impact on kids. If they aren't aware of what's happening (e.g the consequences of killing someone or being reckless), their minds just skip past it and concentrate on other things. Atleast in my experiance that's the case.

EDIT: Just incase anyone was wondering, the game was my uncles'. I played it when he was at work. When he found out he took it from me until I told him I just wanted to find a gold motorcycle…he actually took the time out to find it I remember. He then gave the controller to me and I promptly crashed and burned. :p


Last edited by Ludicrous_Liam on 1/24/2013 12:42:47 PM

Draguss
Draguss
8 years ago

Yeah, I'm sure plenty of politicians will read this…

SirLoin of Beef
SirLoin of Beef
8 years ago

You can always send the link to the article it to your congressman…

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
8 years ago

That's the point of publication, hoping it gets disseminated.

ulsterscot
ulsterscot
8 years ago

I hate it when kid's play – it should only be sold to 21+ year olds – then did do much better.

airwedge1
airwedge1
8 years ago

Agreed 100%. It is so silly that parents allow their kids to play M rated games. It is not just a small percentage of parents either. If you go play COD online, which I stopped doing a couple years ago, literally it seemed as over 50% of the players were 13 or younger. Parents are becoming more and more ignorant.

Saying that playing video games can lead to a person becoming a gun men, I think is ridiculous as well. If you look at the history of these people, there is likely a history of neglect, and not a single person in their lives decided to give that child love. In my opinion If a child is not loved they stop respecting life. That is the issue, not video games.

pavlovic
pavlovic
8 years ago

Parents should know that every console in the market right now has parental control, the 360 even allow parents to set play times.

Really, as long as the parents don't care about what their kids are playing, those same parents are going to blame videogames for everything.

Sometime last year my nephew (11) was at my home using my PS3, when he saw CODBO2 he was literally begging to play it because all of his fiends play it. I didn't let him and overreacted and stop taking to me…even stopped playing PS3. My sister was thankfully and told me "everytime he plays at his friends house he comes back irritated".

ulsterscot
ulsterscot
8 years ago

Children should be seen and not heard.

Or is that women

Can't remember

wackazoa
wackazoa
8 years ago

Women are supposed to be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen…

Your welcome.

ulsterscot
ulsterscot
8 years ago

Isn't funny that British Commonwealth countries like the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand where video games are equally as popular among youth as in the US – do not seem to have the same problems. They also all have tighter gun control. Do you think there might be a link there …