I've been a roll lately, writing about how the media is very quick to blame violence on gaming, this is an on-going theme that I'm sure all of us are familiar with. Recently in Louisiana, police investigators were quick to point out that an 8-year-old boy was playing Grand Theft Auto IV before finding a .38 caliber handgun in his home and shooting his 87-year-old grandmother. You can read about that here and here.
After a fair amount of investigating, police have concluded that the shooting was just a horrible accident and had nothing to do with the boy playing GTA IV. Of course there was no major retraction or 'mea culpa' from the sites that initially reported the story, like the Huffington Post, who tried to sensationalize the story and then just moved onto the next non-story du jour. There is one thing that made me proud to be a gamer and member in this community however, and that was the smart and professional comments I received from my two blog posts on this story. One recurring comment was, "What was an 8-year-old doing with a copy of GTAIV anyway?"
So why am I beating this dead horse into an even more .... deader horse? (I'm bad with old-timey sayings sometimes). Well, yesterday I was at my local Gamestop, trading in my Xbox 360 for store credit. As I was standing there, holding my squirming daughter while waiting in line, which was not at all long, but was taking forever because the Gamestop employee at the counter was bullshitting and up-selling the person in front of me, I had the displeasure of witnessing the interaction that was occurring in the line next to mine.
In that line was a boy, maybe around 8-years-old and his mother, waiting to trade in some games of their own and pick up some used titles. Couple of things that struck me was that the boy seemed like a good kid. He was waving and smiling at my daughter, making her laugh, which was cute. His mother however, was talking on her cell phone, loudly, obnoxiously and obliviously, which is one of my biggest pet peeves.
As the boy was trading in his games, he asked for a used copy of Dead Island, an M-rated title. The Gamestop employee did the right thing, pointing out that this was an M-rated game, trying to get the boy's mother to acknowledge him. Her response pissed me off. She just sighed, gave him a sarcastic grin and waved him off. Apparently, she couldn't be bothered while she was having an all important conversation on her phone.
This may seem fairly innocuous. The boy looked normal and mature enough to handle an M-rated game. Yet, his mother's disinterest in the entire transaction was disturbing. If I could read minds, I would say that her reaction was akin to "it's just a stupid videogame, how mature can it be?"
Meanwhile, we have politicians pushing for greater controls and censorship against videogames. We have politicians who have pushed and succeeded in getting retailers to check for ID when selling M-rated games, but this doesn't amount to a hill of beans if adults and parents are not educated into what those rating even mean.
This will become a problem that eventually goes away. Gaming is becoming more ingrained into society. I'm aware of the differences between M-rated and E-rated games and will be a lot more hands on when my daughter is old enough to play videogames. I'm also very conscience of what games I buy for my nephew, who is budding gamer himself, like his uncle. There is however are large group group of adults out there who simply don't know, or maybe, don't care.
I'll simply end with this, if the media wants to perform a public service, how about some more articles on the rating system and how some games are not appropriate for kids. Go ahead and educate some of these people out there. Oh, that's right, those stories are boring and not in any way sensational.