Written by Ryan Johnson Sunday, 07 November 2010 05:00
There’s a Supreme Court case going on regarding banning and restricting violent video games. How did it get here? As humans, we have a right to what we want to create, what we want to purchase, and what we want in our homes. Unfortunately, when people don’t understand, extremes such as this arise. Parents and children need to be more involved in each others’ lives. There are many adults getting ready to purchase games for Christmas for their gamer friends, and they fall somewhere in the spectrum below. Therefore, I present to you the 6 Stages of Game Content Awareness:
Stage 1: Idiot Grandma Mode. These are the gifters who are just trying to please someone. They got a list of what someone wants, and to them, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow is an equivalent purchase to the new pair of jeans at the Gap that the kid wants. They walk into the store, looking like a deer that just found themselves in the middle of Times Square. Shuffle up to the counter with a crumpled piece of paper, and say “excuse me, I’d like to buy *reads paper* Castle Vania.” Usually, they are asked what system it is for, and they will either have to call home to find out or look at the boxes and remember what color the cases for those other games they bought them are.
Stage 2: Annoyed/oblivious gifter mode. Dragged into the store by the gamer, these adults have two different attacks placed on them: either the manipulative “I hear this game plays like Grand Theft Auto, but there’s no guns or violence in it” or the “IWANTITIWANTITIWANTITNOW!!!!!!!!” attack. Both seem effective when the gifter is, again, looking to please, and also oblivious to “that machine that sucks his time away”. I don’t know how many M-rated games have been bought by families for people they wouldn’t want to play them. I’ve even seen parents try to return them to GameStop opened, after they walked in on their child and witnessed what they really were.
Stage 3: Starting to get it. These individuals have seen the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) ratings, and know what the difference is between an E and an M on a box. Unfortunately, that’s all they may know. “Castlevania is an M rated game. My kid only plays T rated. You can’t have it.” or “My kid is mature. He may be 13, but I think he can handle this. I remember Castlevania on my Nintendo. It’s about a guy stopping evil! Surely it can’t be bad.” This is where the current system begins to fail us. No matter what, a ratings board is created by a group of individuals. Just like the Motion Picture ratings board, no matter how neutral they try to be, I guarantee there’s some Mature rated games that are less offensive than some T rated games on content alone. Parents who don’t get past the letter may be sorely surprised.
Stage 4: The “Extra Effort” gifter. These are the people who are aware that there is more information about a game on the back of the box. Not only can you see pictures and read a small synopsis, but there is detailed information from the ESRB there as well! “Castlevania…let’s flip this over. ‘Dark times call for a dark hero’? I thought this was about a good guy. Ratings info….’Blood and Gore, Nudity, Violence’? Hmm…”
Personally, I purchased this game for myself, and not a child, but I have my moralistic standpoints. I don’t like the nudity idea, but I’ve had my share of blood, gore, and violence in video games, so I purchased it anyways. I personally wasn’t prepared for the level of realism, which you can read about in my review here on GoozerNation. This may stop some people, but again, the gifter may be like me, thinking “well, it must not be TOO bad, it is a video game, after all.” Again, not realizing the full potential of the medium. This person still sees video games as a cartoony guy breaking bricks and squishing enemies who go flat and then a 100 appears in the air.
Stage 5: The “Net-Savvy” gifter. Many people who buy video games this time of year as presents may not be as aware of the resources available online as us traditional gamers. You can look on Youtube for videos, search sites such as ours for reviews, or even go to the ESRB’s website. This is noted on the back of the box, but it doesn’t directly state how much more information there is at the site. I had not done this for Castlevania, so I decided to test that out after I became a bit uneasy about the game. It’s interesting, reading this all in black-and-white:
This is an action-adventure game in which players control a warrior named Gabriel as he battles the forces of darkness. Gabriel uses a bladed whip as well as large hammers, swords, spears, and axes to kill human and fantasy creatures (e.g., werewolves, vampires, goblins, demons). Combat includes depictions of repeated punching, slashing, and occasional stabbing or breaking of bones. Blood-splatter effects occur during battle, and blood stains can be seen in the environment. One scene depicts a butcher chopping up corpses and feeding them to vampire creatures; boss fights may also contain instances of gore, including dismemberment of a monster's arm. Some female creatures (e.g., green fairies and a dragon-like female) appear topless throughout the game.
Looking back, I do see all of that. I stopped playing Grand Theft Auto when personally, I decided that I didn’t want to be illegal in my virtual world; I much prefer being the hero. Gabriel in Castlevania was slowly becoming a non-hero. Which leads me to….
Stage 6: The Involved Gifter. I purchased Castlevania for myself. I have now looked at all of these steps, perhaps in the wrong order. But none of them would give me this information. *spoilers ahead if you are playing Castlevania right now* I’m a Christian. I enjoy my games, and can separate gaming from real life, but the storyline of this one started cutting too close. Gabriel learns that the evil he is facing was in fact created by the clan he is a part of, a clan that follows God (Capital G and everything). Instead of holding true to his beliefs, he starts doubting his order. He may have received “light powers”, but he also gets “dark powers”. He starts fighting not for “right”, but for “rage.” “Dark Crystals” used to solve puzzles can also summon a powerful ally to aid you in your quest. I hit that button, and Gabriel (a knight of the holy order)….summons a demon. Who happens to have the top half of a nude woman. And this creature shows up every time you use that power. To me, the nudity was unnecessary, and the concern arose in me that if my son (he’s four now, but later) were to play a game like this and I was completely oblivious, it could place doubts in his own faith. Everyone here reading this may not be of any faith background, so don’t hate me on this. My point is being that if I go through all the steps to learn about a game, I may not know it all, and there may be something inside it I disagree with. Parents need to be less selfish, and give up some of their time to be available during hobbies that their children enjoy, and understand that games are more than Pac-Man these days. They are as involved as any novel or movie, with deep and involving plot points that you may be more concerned of than your kid seeing "boobs and guns." Kids need to be open to their parents’ questions and concerns. There is a reason your Mom or Dad don’t want you experiencing whatever it is you may desire to hide from them, and an open conversation will break that wall of confusion so you can both speak your parts.
I know that this site is frequented by gamers of all ages, and I may be offending some right now. But tell me: I have a four year old son. Should I let HIM play Castlevania: Lords of Shadow? Parents care for a reason. Would you rather your parent be curious about your hobby and ask questions, or ignore you and get mad when they don’t understand, eventually making a run on Capitol Hill to ban the newest game that you want to play? I plan on writing an article soon from a Gamer’s Perspective of how to approach your gamer family member and be involved in his or her hobby. And parents: the technology behind these games may be confusing (my mom couldn’t even get past the first Goomba in Super Mario 1), but don’t give up. Don’t force yourself on your kids (“Let me play this now!!!”) but engage in conversation. Do your hobbies with them while they game. Sit next to them, ask questions when appropriate. Show an interest in your child’s hobby. It will make it much easier come Christmas or birthdays for you to know if the wish list is something you want your child to have. We don’t need governmental bans on games. We need mature parenting and understanding. We need to come together as one and enjoy each other’s hobbies (younger readers, your parents like what they like for a reason, too). The Supreme Court has many more important things to take care of. Let’s take care of our home problems at home.