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Since there is a meth forum this week to help curtail and hopefully eradicate the use of the drug in my small Alaskan community, I thought I’d write about something that may be beneficial to parents.

My topic is video game violence. Actually, it’s not so much about the violence itself, but how parents can keep their children away from it.

Video games of today are different than they used to be. Little pixels that may or may not look like human beings used to die when falling into pits full of crocodiles or when bumped into by a turtle in a bright red shell.

Most of the time a quirky animation would follow an even quirkier sound signifying a character had fallen and the player must restart a level.

Games today are much more graphic.

An increase in technology along with the average age of gamers has prompted the gaming industry to evolve.

The game Brothers in Arms: Hell’s Highway, is about as graphic as Saving Private Ryan. And while it falls short of duplicating the grotesque images in the movie, it does show realistic images of war, features blood and mutilated bodies.

I wouldn’t want my child to see Saving Private Ryan at a young age, or play a game with similar images either. However, I constantly sold Mature rated video games to parents of young children during my college years working at Target.

Oftentimes there was a young child and confused mother or father making the purchase. I would explain what the ratings meant, and what would be in the game to the customers, but the child would just roll his eyes and parents out of frustration would buy the game to be done with the whole ordeal.

Parents can avoid this.

I don’t have kids, so I don’t know what it’s like to raise them. I did grow up in some of the best years of gaming however, and I have worked retail enough to see this common mistake parents make.

A lot of parents work from 9 to 5, cook, clean, run errands and who knows what else. I’m sure some of them don’t want to be burdened with an unhappy child at the checkout counter in a store while purchasing a game.

Just say no if the game’s intended for a Mature, 17 and older audience if you don’t believe your 13-year-old is mature enough to blast aliens apart. But that again is only half the battle.

What do all of those crazy ratings mean?

If your children are gaming on the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii or PlayStation 3, the rating that needs to be seriously considered for bad content is the M rating.

The M, means Mature, and is intended for gamers 17 and older. These titles can contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Those descriptions are quite vague. For instance, intense violence can mean realistic depictions of physical conflict, blood, gore, weapons and death. Games such as Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty may carry this tag.

Understanding the ratings is the best way to be an informed shopper and avoid a grumpy kid in the check out lane.

Take some time on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) Web site. The ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association.

The body assigns computer and video game content ratings. Parents can go to for a nifty printer-friendly guide to bring along with them while making purchases.

Having this list will make understanding game ratings much easier.

The ESRB also implemented rating summaries for games in July 2008.

Titles released after this date can be searched for on the Web site for more detailed content information.

For example, Halo 3: ODST is accompanied by a couple paragraphs describing the specific types of swear words and gun battles that take place. It also describes how the blood within the game is from both humans and aliens, and is often splattered on walls.

The summaries usually include the most important descriptions of content that the ESRB used to decide a game’s rating.

As a side note, it’s not a good idea to rely on a store’s staff when buying games unless it is a specialty store like GameStop. (Even then, I have heard from a friend who works at GameStop that workers will do anything to make a sale…including lying).

If a parent wanders in for some shopping with questions, the clerk may not even understand what content exists in the game Mass Effect 2 as much as the confused, non-gaming parent.

I remember when a Target coworker sold a PlayStation 3 pack-aged with Metal Gear Solid 4 to a kid that looked about 10.

The mother asked if it was a violent or bad game. His response? “Of course not, it’s just a silly game about being a spy.”


I also recommend doing a quick search on YouTube to see gameplay videos. It takes all but five minutes to load up a video and see what content awaits your children.

After being a gamer for years and knowing gamers, I am pretty confident saying violence in games doesn’t turn someone into a hate-filled person ready to hurt others.

If that were the case I’d be a professional soccer player and princess rescuer from all the FIFA and Super Mario I play.

Some children, however, are more impressionable or less mature than others. It’s important to recognize what a child can and cannot play, and understanding what content is in the games you buy.

Hopefully this post will help a parent out with future purchases.