Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Games, Violence, Politics, finger pointing

 I'm sure by now everybody who even remotely listens to the news has heard of the horrible event that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary.  It's saddening and sickening and I really don't want to go over it.  With that said, after the events that took place, many people who found the killers brother on Facebook and mistook him for the psycho, not only gave him a ton of grief, disregarding his own personal feelings for his family and of what transpired, but also saw that he liked Mass Effect, a rated M scifi role-playing video game that's more or less a science fiction soap opera about saving the galaxy and started blasting the developers and the video game industry as a whole.  Things appeared to die down once people understood they had the wrong person but since then, the ever so smart decision makers who play this rather annoying game called politics that rarely get anything of worth accomplished, have decided to continue the attack on video games, in particular games that they deem "extremely violent" and disgusting, completely disregarding the obvious ratings system that ESRB has in place and the fact these games are made for adults the same way that shows like Game of Thrones and CSI, movies like Punisher and The Last Samurai, music from artists like Limp Bizkit and Eminem, and books like 50 Shades of Grey all are.  It's almost like we've come full circle back to the keep the violent games out of the hands of kids argument, even though this has little to do with anything that happened.

Thing is, gaming is a very expensive hobby and its not easy for adults to keep up with stuff that's going on, much less kids.  When I was a kid, I had easier access to explicit music, rated R movies, TV MA television shows, alcohol, porn.... I even had easier access to drugs if I wanted them.

Video games are expensive and require a huge investment to even get started.  These days the cheapest console on the market that games are still being made for is what, Nintendo 3DS?  If you want a new one you're looking at $170, not including any extra things that you normally buy with most new hardware (screen protectors, stands, etc).  For most adults, that's not exactly cheap but for kids, that's a life time of savings or even worse, an impossible purchase on your own.  New games on 3DS are $40 which for many kids, my previous description applies to this too.  This is the cheapest system too, there's no way they can purchase this on their own.  Even if they somehow made the money on their own, which is doubtful, getting to the store on their own is a huge hurdle not to mention once they get to the store and find out the clerk won't check them out because they need an ID, another barrier is added.

As I said earlier, it's easier for a kid to sneak in a Rated R movie, sneak in watching a TV MA show, sneak out of a store with porn or alcohol, or even find access to drugs then it is for them to get a rated M game from a store legally or even illegally as most games are behind glass and/or the clerks shelves and if they aren't, they're wrapped up, taped up with bar codes, have bar code on the back, and sometimes even have the computer chips in the box (the same way clothing do).  This doesn't take into account, some of stores that don't have the games behind glass or with the clerk check have somebody standing at the entrance and exit, many times ready to look through your bags and make sure you purchased your items, such as Fry's and Best Buy.  Getting the game under age or shop lifting it just isn't going to happen.

Of course these days, there's the prospect of getting games illegally online which most people don't realize the amount of effort that goes into this for games in comparison to other things.  You need a decent computer for any and all computer games, which again, costs money (a lot more money to be quite honest) and if you're a kid trying to hide this from your parents, you need your own computer or if you're lucky (or rather unlucky), parents that pay attention to their kids less then the parents from Rugrats.  Second you need some decent computer knowledge, which is something most kids don't have.  Again, like shoplifting or walking in a store and buying a product, to get a game illegally online is even harder then music, TV shows, movies, and porn.  You can't just search and download, you have to convert files, burn to a disc, do command line, etc.  Most kids don't have the skills it takes to do this, nor do they have enough time alone in front of the computer to do this IF their parents are paying attention.

Lastly the prospect of buying a game online for a kid just doesn't work as they need a credit card and all the info in order to do this.  Playing free to play games on the computer is the only option that's left available but do realize there is another barrier again.  You need to register an account, remember the info, have an email, confirm the account, download and install the game, etc.  This all takes the basic computer skills which most kids, even in our society, don't have.  This isn't to say they can't or won't, I know I did when I was a kid, though F2P games were few and far between back in the 90's.  Furthermore, these games are again PC games, which most kids don't have their own PC's because of the price and again, if the parent isn't paying attention to what their kid is doing on the computer.... well.... be a parent?

Ultimately this comes down to the parents not paying attention to their kids or not caring about what they're doing.  If a parent says "But my little Johny plays it at his friends house" then you should be concerned about what else your kid is doing behind your back as well.  Step up, be a parent, get involved, take responsibility.  For game systems, there's parental controls and even more options for computers.  Before you buy your kid something, do some research.  It's not that hard.

This is something I wish politicians would understand and address.  Parental controls are there, the ratings system is there, many hurdles for buying a game under age are there, many hurdles for playing a game illegally are there.  This complaint ultimately makes me question how closely congress or the accusers have taken a look at games and how well people who are this misinformed about a topic such as this can make decisions of much greater importance.