So I was at Landmark recently, browsing through their decent video games collection, when I noticed a middle-aged couple pouring over a copy of Grand Theft Auto 5. As the nice Samaritan that I am, I decided to help them out.  I correctly guessed that they were actually planning to buy the game for their son. I also correctly guessed that their son was a 8-year-old and wanted GTA V for his birthday.

I brought their attention to the bold printed 18 on the left hand corner of the game’s box and told them that this game is definitely not for their son, especially for the next 10 years or so. I flipped over the copy, and showed them the different icons that said that there was nudity, violence, explicit violence and blood in the game. I told them to look for another game instead, the rating of which matched their son’s age. The couple obediently nodded their heads while I poured over them during my short lecture. Having done that, I returned to my casual window shopping escapades.

In-case the cover art isn't clear enough, it has a rating on the bottom left
In-case the cover art isn’t clear enough, it has a rating on the bottom left

Now comes the fun part. At the exit till, as I got myself billed for a few posters, I saw the same couple buying GTA V on the counter next to me. I shook my head, as I am sure they would be when they hear their son using the F word.

This is not an isolated incident. Across the world for years now, parents have been blaming video games for their sloppy parenting skills. Consider the following example:

Child : “Fuck Yeah.”
Mother: “<Insert child’s name here>. Mind your language. God! Where does he learn all of this from?”
Father: “It’s from all those stupid video games.”

The above example is common-place across households across the world. But it’s unfair on at least 2 counts:
1) A child does what a child sees, and he spends much more time looking at his parents than video games.
2) Who bought the stupid video game in the first place.

When it all started video games were restricted by technology, and what it could display on the screen was limited. Mario had a mustache because the pixels couldn’t draw the nose and the lips properly. So the games that were made were light-hearted, garage-born productions. During that time if a parent bought one of us a video game, it was pretty much guaranteed that it would be about a colored pixel jumping up and down. But as we grew up, so did the industry and the technology and the people who were making those games. The stories grew more mature, the characters became more detailed, the gameplay became more realistic, and the immersion became more vivid.

Its not as if they are hiding something, its all on the box
Its not as if they are hiding something, its all on the box

Today most of the video games are targeted at my age-group, because we are the one that play them the most. And just like in everything else, my preference in video games have changed over the years (from candy to you know…candy). That does not necessarily mean that all video games are violence and nudity driven. Games like Pikmen, Pokemon, Mario, Viva pinnate, Dance Central (I could go on), all cater to the lower child limit. There is something for everyone today and like any good parent one needs to exercise relevant control over their child’s choices.

Imagine this. Even if your 8-year-old child begs you, you won’t take him to watch 300. You might even stop him from watching TED. Then why won’t you exercise similar control over video games, especially when a video game last a lot longer than a movie.

A parent cannot, and I cannot stress this enough, cannot hide behind the fact that a video game lies to them. In fact, most video games are up-front about what their games contain (nobody wants another Hot Coffee). All the information you need is on the box. You don’t even have to buy the product before finding out. And if you cannot be bothered enough to go to a shop to check the details, then you can find the game rating for virtually any game that comes out on E.S.R.B. website, the PEGI website, or even Wikipedia.

I don't think they are playing God Of War
I don’t think they are playing God Of War

Parenting is not easy, and I get that. I also understand (as I am sure you agree) that at a young age whatever a child does influences him immensely. So weighing in those 2 options, I am still leaning a bit towards controlled parenting rather than blaming the video game industry for corrupting their innocent little child.

Most gamers (especially me) are very polite and helpful. They would help you out in every way in picking out the best game for your child. And yet the last decision will always be yours. So the next time you go out buying a video game, please look more closely at the number on the left hand corner or just ask that random dude, staring awkwardly at the cut out of the scantily dressed girl from one of those weird video games.

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