Age ratings - undermined by parents?
With the media over the past couple of years jumping on the anti video game bandwagon when it comes to attaching a meaning to crimes of varying seriousness, we have to ask ourselves, how are children under the age of eighteen getting their hands on these games? For an example of how many of these kids are playing games that they aren't old enough to own, I suggest a short visit to the Gears of War multiplayer lobbies. Its astounding. Now Gears of War is an eighteen rated video game. Slicing someone from head to toe with a chainsaw bayonet is likely to give a game that kind of rating. If that isn't enough, the nice red 18 slapped all over the box is a dead giveaway. Its eighteen therefore nobody under the age of eighteen should be playing it. Its a simple concept but one that is not being heeded by parents it seems.
The first line of defence is the games retailers which have a legal responsibility to check and if necessary refuse to sell games to individuals if they aren't convinced they are of the correct age. I have seen this occur in person in my own local games shop and I commended them for their action. You wouldn't sell a copy of Maniac Chainsaw Orgy III to a child would you? The same criteria must always apply to video games. Games are rated for a reason and its to keep children from being exposed to the adult elements that make up video games as more and more 'realistic' titles are produced. Grand Theft Auto 4 has you whacking drug dealers, murdering gangsters, shoot outs in a strip joint and gunning down cops to retrieve bags of drugs. Not exactly the sort of game I would want any younger members of my family playing but one I fully enjoy.
I think the only way that this can be curbed is to make parents more aware, to be more educated about what they are often blindly purchasing for their children and be held more responsible in what they allow their children to play. Parents are warned these days about the dangers of unsupervised access to internet chat rooms, yet the amount of children present in online games such as Call of Duty and Gears of War is still proof positive that many are ignoring what their child can be exposed to.
Its not a case of passing the blame from one thing to the other, its more a point of educating parents and urging them to study the age ratings and symbols of the games, consulting game retailers if they are unsure, and making themselves aware of just what type of games their children are playing.