Thursday, January 7, 2010

Advance Release: 1-13-10 Editor's Column: Parents and Video games: A Better Combination Than We Know

Like many people throughout the country and the world, I enjoy spending some time playing video games on my Xbox 360 while chatting with my friends and decimating enemy teams.

However, as I find myself still relatively new to the online gaming arena, I've discovered an increasingly bothersome fact about gaming: There are too many underage players.

Currently, I'm playing the game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2), which is a first-person shooter that utilizes tactical gameplay and teamwork during the multiplayer matches and requires a great deal of concentration for the more difficult settings of the single-player campaign.

The game itself is rated M for Mature, meaning individuals who are under the age of 17 may not purchase this video game. In the same regard, the rating is in place as a recommendation to parents that they should not purchase it for their children if they are not at or at least close to the stated age requirement.

Yet, time and time again I find myself playing an online match with other players my age and then chimes in a voice of someone no older than 10, using words I would never in my life picture a 10-year-old using and making an obvious attempt to instigate confrontations with other players.

On the Xbox Live web forum for MW2 I read a topic requesting input on what players felt the appropriate age range for this game is, stating his position as a parent who allows his eight-year-old - yes, you read that right, eight (8)-year-old child - to play this game.

Eight. Playing a game in which the primary objective is to eliminate the enemy using weapons such as shotguns, machine guns, tactical knives, grenades and even a nuclear weapon if you can attain it.

To say that I was a little disgusted is an understatement. In fact, provided the original poster with my own perspective on the matter, especially since this argument has implications that reach farther than just to a few individual television sets.

I learned from my parents that it was their job (and will be my job when my wife and I have a child) to provide a solid base of core values and understanding of sensitive subjects. This way, as we grow older, we have the opportunity to form our own opinions from a solid frame of reference.

In the case of allowing small children to play war-based games, parents are allowing their children to learn from something that cannot point out differences, explain historical situations, cite actions and consequences and dispel the misconception that you can do what you see in video games.

Contrary to what I've read and heard some parents say about their children, they are not mature enough to handle the concept of war and all it entails at the age of eight. No matter how mature you think your child is, you have to remember and consider the fact that he or she is exactly that: A child.

I remember a few years back, video games were put under a microscope because of children who were allowed to play violent video games and then practiced what they saw in the game on friends.

In those instances, the parents blamed the video games they had purchased for their children instead of placing the blame where it rightfully should have been placed: On themselves.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't believe everyone matures automatically at the age of 17, nor do I believe everyone below the age of 17 is absolutely immature. There are always going to be people who are old enough but not mature enough and vice versa. The point is, taking the time to recognize it as a parent while it is still up to the parents should be important.

I know my parents didn't allow me to play any mature-rated video games until I was around 15 years old. Though I wasn't 17, I had reached a point where my parents could trust my opinions on things like war and violence enough to allow me to play such games.

While this is likely nothing more than wishful thinking, I believe it would be more beneficial for not only the people who are old enough to enjoy these games as well as the children who have been prematurely allowed to play them, to reevaluate whether or not certain games really are acceptable for our children.

With a rating on the box stating no one under the age of 17 should purchase this game (I still get carded for games), perhaps we should stick closer to this rather than seeing the popularity of a game and buying it blindly.

Our kids will thank us for it in the long run. Take my word for it.

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