I've touched on this subject in the past but once again find myself returning to it because it's still an all too frequent sight in the highstreet.
What is it about people, be they parents, grandparents or anybody else, who cannot grasp the simple concept that computer and console gaming has come a long way in the last 30 years and some games, ya know, might not be suitable for little Timmy, even if he does so badly want it!?
Today in ASDA, Southgate, North London, a young boy of probably not more than seven or eight happily took hold of a game. He was accompanied by what was presumably his older brother, who was maybe around ten or eleven, and what we take was likely their grandmother. They then all trotted off to purchase it. Ah, a nice family scene with the youngsters eagerly looking forward to getting home and playing Mario's latest adventure, or perhaps Sonic.
Well, no, because they game in question is not Mario, not even the gold ring obsessed Sonic, it was a recently released game entitled [Prototype 2], the cover of which is below.
Now, it might have come to you attention that prominently displayed at the bottom left is a big red and white 18 logo. Has this some arcane, yet to be deciphered meaning that could herald in a new era of knowledge to humanity? No. It's the age rating for the game, decided upon by independent rating organisations specifically to ensure that minors are not exposed to unsuitable material. All games have to display one, they have done for years, just as videos and DVDs have. So why do parents continue to ignore these warnings?
Doesn't make much difference though, does it? I mean, c'mon, how bad can [Prototype 2] be compared to the games their parents and grandparents might have played? Well, here's a couple of screenshots.
It's really difficult to tell which game is which, right? Granted the one on the right does have a giant beer barrel and massive green razor blade, but between you and me I think Jet Set Willy was on something in those days. He's cleaned up a lot since then.
Is this the problem though, that parents think the games Timmy plays in his room, where he's quiet and out of the way, are no more advanced than JSW jumping about being a bit trippy, just as back in their day? Or do they simply not care that they're allowing their precious little darling access to graphic violence and bad language?
Below are examples of the ratings we see on games, certainly here in the UK. The first row are from the easily recognized BBFC system, as films must carry. The second row are the increasingly common PEGI rating system. Both serve as a guide as to the suitability of the content.
Those last ones, from the PEGI rating system, even signify if a game contains violence, bad language, drug use, sex and so on. Do you think a game containing bad language and violence is suitable for a child of seven or eight? I'm damn sure I don't, so I'd never allow a child that age access to such a game.
When a child does something horrendous and the parents blame the games he/she/it plays are we honestly to raise our hands in anguish and bemoan the irresponsibility of the games companies for their making such despicable titles and then paying to have them rated before release? Are we supposed to prohibit those companies from making these games, thereby depriving adult gamers such as myself access? I think not. Yes, it's a cliché to say blame the parents but in these instances we invariable can blame the damn parents, but we can also blame the stores.
Very rarely have I witnessed a staff member question the suitability of a game when it is clearly being purchased for a minor. So perhaps it's time that hefty fines were imposed, with undercover shoppers with children attempting to purchase these games. If we can do it with cigarettes and alcohol then we can sure as hell do it with computer games, surely? We have signs saying that cigarettes and alcohol cannot be supplied to minors and to please understand if asked to provide proof of age.
This is common practice, so why are games featuring graphic violence, nudity, drug use, extreme language and so forth considered less of a priority? Something needs to be done about this problem, not least for the sake of the children but also before the hand wringing, nanny state, namby pamby bleating sheep decide that I and other adults must have our enjoyment of an adult gaming medium curtailed because some moron can't work out what the symbols on a box are telling them!
Now, if you'll excuse me I'm off to play Modern Warfare 3. There was somebody playing it online earlier who sounded about ten so I'm going to take great pleasure finding them again, then shooting them in the face … with a bazooka. Shame I can't shoot their bloody irresponsible parents!