On Banning The Sale of Violent Games To Minors
Recent news boasts that the U.S. Supreme Court will make a decision on whether or not the sale of violent video games to minors should be banned with the seller fined $1,000 per sale. But there is an inherit problem with this.
For one, as PC World mentions, video game sales are among the best regulated in the entertainment industry. Every game has a rating, and every console, handheld, or computer able to play games has a built-in parental control system that can block games above a certain rating, keep the system inactive during specific hours, and more. It’s extremely easy to stop your kid from playing a game if a parent wants to.
Hence the problem: it’s not the sellers that allow young or immature kids to play mature rated games, it’s parents. Every electronic device these days has a setting to limit its capabilities, and it’s the parents’ responsibility to be knowledgeable about this. One site that may help is What They Play, which explains and simplifies the plot and content of games, making it easier for parents to screen games before allowing their kids to play them. Unfortunately, most parents either don’t take the time to look into all that or don’t pay enough attention to what their kids play to begin with. When I was 13 and Resident Evil 2 was released, my mom cringed and told me it looked scary, violent and disgusting. Of course she was right, but it weaved a great narrative with puzzle-solving and survival instinct as well. This was before sites like What They Play were mainstream, or even known about (if any were in existence at the time). The game was rated mature, but my mom, knowing my personality, allowed me to get the game from FuncoLand despite her aversion to it. She told me if she doesn’t think it’s appropriate she’ll return the game. She watched me play, and though she thought it was disgusting, she deemed me mature enough to continue playing. Of course, that doesn’t mean it would be appropriate for a kid of the same age who is prone to violent behavior. Hell, for a long time the opening to The X-Files TV series gave me nightmares but Resident Evil never did, and so the maturity of a gamer of any age largely depends on the person’s personality and ability to consciously realize that what they’re playing/seeing is fantasy and should remain that way. I just happened to be afraid of aliens. It somehow seemed more plausible than zombies. In my own personal case, the title sequence of the X-Files was more inappropriate for me at 14 than the entire game of Resident Evil 2 at 13.
Though there are independent game stores that break release dates and sell games to kids younger than the game is rated for, I’m pretty sure the biggest game retailers in the U.S. are GameStop, Best Buy, and Amazon. I’m 25 years old and GameStop still cards me when I try to trade in a game or buy a mature one, simply out of company procedure even if they don’t think it’s necessary. I can’t speak for Best Buy, but they’re a big enough chain that they have to play by the rules as well. As for Amazon, you have to have a credit/debit card to purchase anything, something not available to minors anyway.
This isn’t an issue that pertains to only gaming, either. Movies enforce ratings and most theaters will not sell R rated movie tickets to minors without an adult present. DVDs also have ratings which are often less enforced than game ratings are. And as far as I know, there are no regulations on book sales due to age. I believe that would be a decision the manager of the store would make if the issue came up.
Video games are not responsible for a rise in violence. Most people who play video games would rather be playing the video game than performing the real life equivalent. Much worse violence existed in the time before video games. Game developers are not the pioneers of violence, so stop treating them like they are and take the fight to the parents of minors.