Movies have their ratings. Some music CDs carry a “parental advisory” warning. Video games have their own rating system, the ESRB rating.
I deal with this every day at work–What’s the game rated? Is this appropriate for my child? It’s not just something to be reactive about, we also have to be proactive, to be informative to parents that the game their child wants isn’t appropriate for their age.
Take yesterday for example.
A woman came in with her son, age pegged at about eleven, maybe twelve. They wanted to buy an XBox game, Conker: Live and Reloaded. This game is rated Mature, even carries a special warning that it’s inappropriate for anyone under the age of seventeen. The game features crude sexual innuendo, talking feces, drug and alcohol abuse, a generous dollop of profanity, and it stars not people but squirrels. Yes, that’s right. Fuzzy squirrels, who get drunk, do drugs, fight talking mounds of poo, and urinate on enemies.
Our conversation, mother and I, ran roughly thus:
ME: Just so you know, this game is rated Mature. It’s an adult game.
MOTHER: Well, what’s in it?
SON: It’s a war game. I play war games.
ME: Yes, that’s a part of the game, but it features profanity, potty humor, sexual humor, and it carries a special warning that it’s not for children.
MOTHER: What kind of humor?
ME: Southpark kind of humor.
ME: Would you let your son watch Southpark?
MOTHER: Well, no…
ME: Then you wouldn’t want him to play Conker.
And she bought the game anyway, telling me about other Mature rated games that she wished she hadn’t wasted her money on because they were crude and profane.
(As an aside, it surprises me the parents who object to The Simpsons. Two Simpsons games, Road Rage and Hit and Run are delightful fun and would be appropriate for anyone eight and up, yet I run across parents nearly every day who won’t let their much-older children watch The Simpsons. The subversive days of The Simpsons are long past, and frankly Homer and family are better sitcom role models for these times than damned near anyone else.)
I did my job. I told her this wasn’t a game she wanted to buy. I told her why it wasn’t a game she wanted to buy. She bought it anyway. All I could do then, all I can do now, is roll my eyes and wonder if she’ll be bringing the game back.