The National Institute on Media and the Family have released their 9th Annual Video and Computer Game Report Card, and it is a fairly even-handed piece of work, although some alarms get raised by hand-wringing over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas early on. The major points made include a call to retailers to actually enforce the ESRB’s ratings, and for parents to – and here’s a radical concept – pay attention.
The ratings are a powerful tool that go unused far too often, though I can recall a couple of times when I was trolling a Blockbuster for pre-viewed DVDs that I witnessed a clerk glance at a child, perhaps 12, next to an adult who was renting a GTA game, and quiz the parent over who would be playing the game. When it turned out the kid had prevailed on his father to rent it for him, the clerk pointed out to the father that the game was rated M, and what that meant.
In retrospect, I should have gotten the clerk’s name, and written Corporate a letter praising her.
The truly astonishing thing, looking back over the history of the home video game consoles, is how long it has taken games to come up – or down, depending on your point of view – to this level. Oh, there were anomalies like the infamous Custer’s Revenge, but it wasn’t until Mortal Kombat and a lamentable exercise called Technocop that some mature content – by which I mean blood and gore – started making inroads into the home consoles.
The Report Card is also good for checking out the 10 video games that the Institute feels should be kept away from children – and rightly so, for each and every one is rated M. Rumble Roses made #10.
I often wonder if game detractors thought that enacting a rating system would somehow contain the industry, the way most movie producers will do anything to avoid an NC-17 rating. There are, of course, two important points that counter this – the aging of the gaming population, and an entertainment industry that is not dependent on more standard, conservative advertising venues like newspapers to trumpet their wares. Gaming magazines are by and large made up of slick ads, often stretched over two pages, and the stories themselves in such magazines often double as advance hype.
That, and they also forgot that slapping ratings on broadcast TV allowed us such marvels as seeing Dennis Franz’ naked ass on NYPD Blue and the astounding amount of gore on display in the CSI series, stuff that would have made 80’s horror filmmakers pee themselves with glee. Utilizing the ratings actually allows more extreme fare to be created and shown.
The Institute also points the finger at video games as a contributor in the current “obesity epidemic”, but that’s only because a) they’ve never seen my son playing Dynasty Warriors 4 – he gets quite a workout; and b) everybody needs to be playing Dance Dance Revolution.
To their credit, though, the Institute does outline the positive aspects of gaming, and continuously hits the note that parents must be involved with their children’s choice of entertainment. If you’re a gamer, you should take a few minutes to read this article, because it is almost certain that portions of it will be used out of context by idiots in the coming months.