All of the games I’ve mentioned above have been granted either a 15 or 18 certificate by the BBFC and just like movies with those ratings they are not to be sold to anyone under the age of the certificate. It is illegal to do so. This is all fairly straightforward there’s no complexity here, these games are just not suitable for children, the fact that they are just games changes nothing.
Yet we continue to to see feckless adults, through emotional pressure or sheer ignorance, buying their ten year old child violent video games that are horrendously unsuitable for them. This is the same moronic logic that sees parents letting their kids watch The Simpsons – because it’s a cartoon. It may well be a cartoon but that doesn’t mean it’s a show a child could, would or even should understand. The Simpsons is of a similar level of sophistication to Friends if in fact not more sophisticated, don’t let the fact that the cast are yellow and drawn funny throw you off the scent, The Simpsons is for grown ups.
The same logic applies to those cases where a mentally unstable individual goes on a killing spree. Inevitably their homes are trawled, a copy of Splatterhouse is found and immediately the root cause for the individual’s murder bout is identified; it’s violent video games wot done it. All it takes is for them to do something – even vaguely – similar to what occurs in a game and lo and behold we have a headline.
For reinforcement of this message you need look no further than a 2010 debate on Alan Titchmarsh’s show (sadly no longer available on YouTube unadulterated) with Titchmarsh, Tim Ingham, Kelvin MacKenzie and Julie Peasgood, where Peasgood acts like a buffoon by simply to ignore every rational argument made by Ingham about certification, the need for parental responsibility and the inherent lack of some games’ suitability for children, choosing instead to focus on bogus research and making unsubstantiated, vague, populist statements about the damaging nature of video games. Not particularly rational or reasoned arguments.
At one point MacKenzie even indicates that one of the killers of Jamie Bulger had played video games, it wasn’t made clear whether or not it was Super Mario Kart or Mortal Kombat, but it was definitely a video game. Right?
When I think back to when I was twelve I remember loving video games, obsessively loving video games, spending hours a day playing games and when I wasn’t playing them I was reading about them. The games then were nothing like they are today though, there was no video, 3D was rudimentary and games had to be written to fit inside 64 kilobytes of memory.
Gaming back in 1986 was more akin to reading a book than watching a movie. It took a lot of imagination to believe that the blob with 001 written on it really was a robot and that the overhead view of the spaceship you were steering said robot around really was a spaceship.
When The Last Ninja came out in 1987 it was a revelation. The graphics were astounding, the music was phenomenal, the gameplay a sensation. Yet looking at it today – which you can still do, it’s available to download on the Wii – it looks dated and those graphics, while pretty, really aren’t all that astounding. Comparing it to Ninja Gaiden – the closest resemblance in modern gaming – highlights an almost immeasurable gulf.
Computer power has improved so much in the past twenty five years that in game effects are now almost indistinguishable from those displayed in movies. Consequently this means that when a character has their head chopped off in a game, kids are seeing something very graphic. It is unlikely they will have the ability relate that to the horror of a real event and understand its real life consequences. This leads to an eventual desensitisation to violence.
It’s a parents responsibility to shield their child from the unsuitable and damaging, and this is exactly what certain video games are. Damaging. Don’t blame video games for the nation of fat, aggressive children that we allegedly have, look closer to home. Good parenting is the only thing that is required.