Video Gaming

In Digital, Life, Video Games on April 4, 2011 by kiltforhire Tagged: , , ,

Had a very interesting night tonight on Twitter. I noticed a woman say she had bought her kids Bulletstorm (a really fun but uber-violent First-Person Shooter).

I asked what age her children were and she said 10 and 13 years old. This made me take a step back. I was actually stunned. A 10-year old playing Bulletstorm!! Madness. I have a massive list of games that I wouldn’t let a 10 year old play and that is one of them…there is a blurry line as to what age I would let kids play that game but 10 just seems to be a tad too young.

I’m not judging the mother here. Maybe she believes that her kids are sensible and stable and can handle playing that kind of game. She probably knows them better than anyone and she even said she knows her kids ‘know it’s only a game’ but what happens when they go to school and tell their friends.

Those other kids will want to play it. They will want to get their hands on it. Or they will want to head to their mates house to play it.

And this is where i have the problem I guess. We have ratings for a reason. Many of us in Australia have been fighting for an R18 rating to ensure that certain games are seen by certain audiences. It’s for a reason. Across the globe there are a lot of games that have an 18 rating because the content is deemed unacceptable to 10 year olds in the eyes of most gamers.

I have grown up playing games. I play Pong back in the 70s and I have played every single GTA game. I played Modern Warfare for hours and hours (not Black Ops though that was a bit shit). Hell I even played Leisure Suit Larry when I was 16 and was baffled as to what a profalactic was but I believe that we have rating systems for a reason.

Yes they are a guideline

Yes they are an option.

But if a storeowner sells a 10 year a copy of an 18 game in Britain or an NC-17 game in the US (I think that’s the rating) then they can be fined a damn lot of money because it is illegal.

In Australia there are some people who don’t believe an R18 should be introduced and who are doing their damned best to stop it ever happening.

I could go on but the amazingly talented writer Mark Serrels who writes for Kotaku in Australia says it so much better than I:

Ultimately it is the choice of a parent to choose what film their kids watch, what content they see on the internet and what games they play.

I have no doubt the mother I spoke to is a good woman who knows her kids and I hope she sits with them while they play. But for the handful of fantastic mothers and fathers out there there are also a whole bunch who just want their kids out of their hair and will buy them any game just to keep them away…and that’s where the problems arise.

We need games ratings in this country.

We need parents to adhere to the ratings to ensure that those trying to stop the R18 don’t get any more fodder for their battle against us.

15 Responses to “Video Gaming”

  1. Firstly can I say that was quick!
    And next let me say I agree with you whole heartedly! This particular incident displays the EXACT reason we need an R18 classification and enforcement of the system. Currently there are no ramifications for the staff of game shops if they sell over classified material to a younger customer nor is there for the parent of the child in question – AND THERE SHOULD BE! if the game in question (Bulletstorm) had say for instance an R18+ restriction (where it implemented) I dare say the mother would have made a different decision regarding the purchase. Many opposed to an R18+ classification constantly spout the much repeated argument ‘ what about the children?’ well let me inform them all of a FACT this is for the children because if we had the system in place a 10 and 13 year old wouldn’t be playing one of the most over the top violent games of the year! It is a shame to see this kind of misinformed gesture happening with the parent doing her research and asking employees (whose sole purpose is to sell sell sell!) to come to an apparent informed decision. I wonder if she has sat down with her boys and gone through the first 10 minutes of the game with them and then had to answer “Why does the lady want to ‘shoot his dick’ Mummy?” I also wonder if the game will still be played after that conversation takes place…. I digress, YES it is ultimately her decision and yes i completely agree she has to stand by that decision, but as Scott has said what happens when those kids go to school and tell the other kids they have Bulletstorm and how awesome it is? How many other mothers out there will make the same informed (albeit ill advised) decision and purchase this game because ‘little john has it and he’s only 10!’. We need this classification and we need it now there can’t be anymore debates or public opinion polls they have been held and counted, the public agree and have done the previous times they have been held. Quit procrastinating and get it done already!

    • Fantastic reply!! Thanks for adding your thoughts. Well put together.

    • Kids aren’t stupid and I doubt a ten year old is going to ask “Why does the lady want to ‘shoot his dick’ Mummy?”. Your points, while valid, paint children to be from the world of Enid Blyton where everything is gumdrops and puppies. Kids are smarter than you give them credit.

      Now the violence in Bulletstorm is over the top, so it puts itself in a different realm to the realistic violence of COD or BF2. Therefore I’d be more comfortable kids playing BS than COD.

  2. Agreed. A better rating system is needed to act as a guide & also to prevent the “video nasties” getting in the hands of the children.

    I believe the stores and staff also need to take some responsibility and enforce these ratings.

  3. It is easy to say its a different kind of violence, but we are exposed to wars and human atrocities every hour of everyday, thats still doesn’t make them right. Seeing the violence and CAUSING the violence are two completely different things you are essentially creating a child soldier that you see on the news give the kid a gun now there is no difference, especially to a young mind! I am fortunate enough to remember my life as a 10 year old and as a 13 year old and there was nothing even close to Bulletstorm in either one, for example when I was 10 it was 1990 the most harmful game I had played was Bubble Bobble the story of 2 little boys who where turned into dragons by an evil wizard and must rescue their girlfriends by catching the bad guys in bubbles and popping them ( my parents owned a corner store and this was one of the games there). The Simpsons had just started its run on TV and every kid my age was into Teenage mutant ninja turtles and GI Joes. skip forward 3 years and ALOT has changed it is still 2 years before Wolfenstein and doom are know to me, but my interests have changed I’m a teenager now! playing war with my friends building bases to defend, my games interest had progressed from bubble bobble ( though it is still my favorites game) to wonder boy and the dragons trap ( I got a sega master system 2 for Christmas the previous year) my movie and TV taste had changed also I had seen alien 3 at the cinemas that summer and subsequently hired the others on VHS, though the graphic nature of the films had put my parents off I watched anyway and and had researched that they were in fact not aliens and blood but special effects make up and men in suits, to a young analytical mind it was fascinating on the other hand if I would have been 10? well I’d probably be emo with some major problems with my genitalia.
    Also saying that bulletstorm is an escapist medium and over top as compared to modern warfare is a cop out, yes war is horrible there fore modern warfare is horrible BUT MW doesn’t reward the player for performing more and more gruesome kills with a score ticker going off before the bodies have hit the floor, and to a seasoned child’s mind in out current state of life war is a necessity (true though it upsets me to say) and there for somewhat justifiable no matter what the medium. However over the top stylized violence is the worst possible type as we have found out above, Jahn deems this kind of violence OK because it does not simulate the horrors of war – and thats the problem you trade the gritty in your face consequences of war and are left to deal with them in your own mind OR you see if you can bounce the bad guy from one spike trap to another before ricocheting him in to the meat grinder whilst doing a back flip with your laser whip so you can unlock the the gun that throws the IED’s linked together with barbed wire. I come in contact with small impressionable children on a day to day basis and have to study there development and monitor results and i’m telling you now there is no way a 10 year old is wired to handle that kind of violence nor should they be exposed to it let alone control it. As a foot note how many 10 and 13 year olds do you know that watch the news when there is a perfectly good xbox in the house….

  4. Nothing quite like a good debate to fire up the synapses on a Tuesday morning.

    In your first paragraph you retold your childhood gaming life (one thats is not too dissimilar from mine) and finished by mentioning how you understood that the Aliens “were in fact not aliens and blood but special effects make up and men in suits”. So in saying that, do you not think children 10+ are not able to comprehend that Video games are pixels & polygons set in a virtual world? Ok, some kids may not be able to, but the mother that bought about this debate, believes her children can & i am sure there are many parents & children like her & her boys.

    Boiling it down. I’m for R18+ ratings and laws to prohibit the sale to minors, but what I’m not for is the tweetverse having the audacity to judge someone on their parenting based on 140 chars. Surely there are better things to tweet about.

    Good Debate btw.

  5. Great topic matey. Pity it has been going on for so long… You would think that logic would succeed in the end, but some ppl find such concepts as foreign.

    Was reading another great post about this this morning at

  6. Great post.
    I’m glad that there seems to be some kind of shift in perspective to the realisation that the classification will make it HARDER for minors to access this material, not easier. I’ve been struggling to convince many people (admittedly, mostly baby boomers and older) that this is a good idea. I had the challenge last year of creating an education campaign on the topic for a lecturer who was adamant that the R18+ classification is a bad idea.

    I have the misfortune to live in the electorate that has Mick Atkinson as MP. However, it was encouraging to see the rise of Gamers for Croydon during the last state election, with a 15.6% swing agaisnt Atkinson. His response to this? (paraphrasing) ‘A lot of young people voted, and they don’t really know what they’re on about.’

    Sorry Mick, I’m afraid we do.

  7. true Jahn, my views had changed radically from the ages of 10 to 13 yes games are games and pretty pixels but the growing mind processes thing differently all through life, I think the biggest hassle with the whole concept is that graphics are going far beyond pretty and becoming very realistic and that may cause a problem and as a fellow advocate for R18+ I have to admit I can see where the opposed is coming from. I remember when I first booted Bulletstorm I remember saying out loud ‘my god this looks gorgeous..’ and laughed out loud in shock at the first moral dilemma I was faced with (the drunken interrogation scene, first time I shot the guy second the bottle..) and then thought my god I don’t think this going going to let up, and it didn’t the language and crude humor turned me off a extremely well put together game. Now don’t get me wrong I’m a barman by trade so I am not a sheltered individual, and a backpacker barman at that so I have some stories that would have you changing your view on tourism and people to boot. I am a fan of duke nukem as well (have the new one pre-ordered, if it gets released) and I know already what to expect but if the language and crudeness of the humor get in the way of a good game then I’ll stop playing that too, games are a great and expressive medium but sometimes it can be taken to far. I also understand it is difficult to express ones opinion 140 characters at a time ( me more than anyone else I tend to ramble a bit) but also there is a point where freedom of speech should be muzzled, everyone is entitled to their own view but not everyone wants to see those views expressed with a variety of colorful language, no matter how closely it resembles a rainbow. I’m also wondering if the staff that helped with the informed decision knew that the game was for a 10 year old or in fact did they even care?

  8. I caught part of this debate on Twitter last night. I am a parent and while my son is too young for this to be an issue yet there is NO WAY IN HELL I would allow him to be exposed to a game like this at age 10,12 or even 15 (although I suspect my veto power may be less effective at age 15!).

    You are right that it is ultimately the choice of the parents and ratings are there for guidance but IMO, a 10 year old and a violent game like this do not go together, regardless of how mature or well adjusted or vegetarian (!) that child may be.

    I get that the mother in question felt victimised which is unfortunate and a couple of comments were completely uncalled for but having ‘done her research’ surely she would have understood that her initial tweet may have invited comment or controversy?

    I’m not fully across all the arguments for and against this issue but I have trouble understanding why it has been such a struggle to get a R18+ classification in place. It seems like a win/win, adults get more choice and there is another level of protection for children.

    I often use this website to get guidance on the age appropriateness of various movies etc for my son:

    I don’t always agree and have let the small boy watch things that this site say aren’t appropriate but it is a guide. It also offers a pretty scathing opinion of the game in question.

    I am against censorship in general but I think it is important to have a fair and reasonable classification system for guidance and also to have informed and mature debate on these subjects.

    Nice post, thanks

    • Thanks for the well thought out reply. I didn’t know that site but will drop on to it and check it out.

      Fox News went nuts when Bulletstorm came out slamming it’s violence etc and some crazy media psychiatrist or something linked it with rape – which is clearly mental but I believe we have a ratings system for a reason. There can be some movement as to recommend age and actual age but an eight year gap seems like too much when the kid is 10 and the game is an 18 in the UK.

  9. Just a quick note on something not covered here I think.

    There is a difference between violent video games and scary movies when it comes to kids. And I think it’s about control.

    My 10 year old has played Left4Dead and/or Aliens vs Predator/Halo Reach etc quite happily and under my knowledge. When asked about it he says “daddy, I’m not going to go to school and shoot the other kids or teachers. I know it’s a game and totally understand the difference”.

    But this is the same kid who is terrified by watching Jurassic Park or The Matrix.

    My take on it:
    Games = control and interactivity and setting of your destiny/outcome. Wee bit scary, but less “damaging” in my view
    Movies = no control. So subsequently much scarier and I think a potentially much worse influence on kids

    Fundamentally I disagree with the government’s crazy lack of R18 game ratings. For me it’s not about protecting the children (although that is relevant), but about the huge majority being denied a better gaming experience. And let’s not forget about the games industry – a better ratings system will lead to more money for the industry.

  10. Couldn’t agree more. Not quite sure if that mother should be letting her kids play that game but ratings are there for a reason and we should have the right to play games deemed to need a R18+ rating.

    Growing up with some older style games made it easy to distinguish between what was reality and fake but with the advancements today the lines can get blurred and so further classification is needed. On a side not I was shocked to read that many people were turned off by the ‘realness’ of characters in some animated movies

    I along with the vast majority just hope that commonsense prevails and get classification that is sorely overdue.

  11. I agree with the need to have an R18 system, but if a parent makes an INFORMED decision and she’s going to buy it for her kids, then I’m not going to stop her or criticise her decision. It’s similar to having a bbq at home and letting your 16-17 year old son have one beer. It’s technically not legal, but it’s a parental decision.

    Kids buying the game on their own (without parental approval) is something that should be prevented.

    I know that most people my age (31) watched Alien and the ultra-violent Robocop before they were of the certified age. I certainly did and (I’m pretty sure the blogger did too as it was an R18 film). I also saw the Terminator before I was legally old enough, as well as various horror films.

    As for the kids going to school and telling other kids they have Bulletstorm – well, that’s the problem of those parents. They should be monitoring what THEIR kids play — nevermind what other parents say is okay.

    As for “Mummy, why does the lady want to shoot his dick?” — I don’t know any 10-13 year olds who speak like this. Despite what some people believe, kids are savvy and smart. At ages 10-13, they understand what’s real and what’s not and they understand right from wrong. At this age, they may not realise the long term ramifications of their actions (e.g. the bullying in the Casey Haynes case), but they’re not stupid.

    I think that the need for an R18 rating and the parent purchasing the game for their kids are two separate issues.

    I also think gamers should stop kidding themselves that their motives are purely altruistic and that an R18 rating will stop kids getting their hands on adult material. Be honest with yourself, the REAL reason we want an R-18 rating is so we don’t have to play watered down versions of GTA, Manhunt and Mortal Kombat that other territories get untouched.

    We’re not kids and we don’t need protecting, but if we get that R18 rating, we’ll get to play the games we deserve and protect a few kiddy-winkles while we at it.

  12. I do firmly believe in the R18 rating system for games but I think we also need to acknowledge what children are actually exposed to. The average age of losing your virginity in Sydney is now 12. I would be more worried about the loss of innocence in this regards than the censorship of violence in games.

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