I grew up in the 1980’s, in my opinion a golden era for video games. The playground banter when I was a boy was Sega or Nintendo, Sonic or Mario. Games back then had wholesome innocent themes which continued well into the 1990’s but not many years after the school yard argument had shifted to Blur or Oasis Grand Theft Auto launched for the Playstation 1. The controversy erupted immediately but of course talk of banning the game helped make it a roaring success.
The adult themes were apparent from the start, sex, drugs and violence throughout and the obvious argument was that this kind of content could corrupt the young. Since then the floodgates opened and fuelled by the ever increasing power of games machines has meant that playing the latest GTA or Call of Duty its sometimes difficult to distinguish between a video game and a movie.
I’m now 37 years old and over the years have played a LOT of video games, the many hours I have spent could well have been used more productively but as form of entertainment I love it and many millions do, if you had listened to the campaigners I should have by now been in prison but yet here I am married with a 1 year old boy, a proper job, a mortgage and a goldfish and to boot I’m not 5 stone overweight and suffering from diabetes. So what happened? Does that mean im happy for my boy to be playing age restricted video games before his time? Well yes and no!
I think children are totally aware that if they have just driven over a prostitute in a stolen car whilst playing GTA that this is the sort of behaviour that is not acceptable in the real world, quite frankly we need to give our children more credit. A child knows way before they are 18 that if they shoot a gun and kill somebody in a game that in the real world they would end up in prison for their actions.
I do however have one massive reservation with modern video gaming and that is the Xbox live / Playstation Network element of many modern games. As an adult I love playing games like Call of Duty online in ‘deathmatch’ style group play, it opens up your gaming via the internet to connect and play against anybody with the right equipment across the globe. So far it all sounds great but the issue for me is the chat function on these games, just spend some time ‘camping’ in Call of Duty and before long the amount of foul mouthed verbal abuse you receive is quite shocking, which for me has culminated in people asking where I live so they can come around and sort me out for real!
This level of verbal abuse for me is what our children should be protected from, games do have the facility to report such abuse but in my experience its so widespread in some games that it is basically tolerated.
I think gaming is a very valuable form of entertainment and I’m looking forward to the day I can introduce my boy (only just turned 1 so some time to wait) to some of the classics in daddies games collection. When the time comes I will use my common sense to decide when my child is old enough to play a certain game, not the guidelines on the box but for sure, as will all of our children’s online activities, it will be with a close eye on his use of Xbox live.
By the way it was Nintendo, Mario and Oasis.