Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rated M for Mature

Wow I've bought a lot of games lately that I can't play in front of the kids. I'm admittedly pretty lenient when it comes to the violence and such that my kids see in games. There's a line of course, but things like Halo or even Call of Duty I don't keep from them. Kids have played with toy guns forever, and I really don't see any major difference. When it comes to something like Gears of War or Dead Space though, where blood  and limbs are flying and heads are being torn off, that's too much.

Before I had kids of my own, I'd never really spent any time around kids, so every lesson I've learned I pretty much learned the hard way. Violent video games is no exception. The previously mentioned Gears of War for instance may represent the most shining example of my not thinking too far ahead when my 4 year old son would be glued to the screen while I played. At that time he was going to a pre-k program at a local elementary school, one of these deals where they "prepare" your kid for what school will be like by putting him in school, only instead of school work, they color and play with blocks. I was picking him up one afternoon, and his teacher walked him out to the truck like she always did, but instead of just helping him into his seat and walking back for the next kid, she made her way around the truck to my window. At this point, I'm thinking, "Oh shit, he bit another kid or stabbed somebody in the neck with one of those giant pencils or something", so she looks at me and says "I overheard Jacob telling a story to several of the other children this morning, and amongst other things he mentioned something about chainsawing somebody's face off". I of course immediately knew where he had gotten it from, and I sank down in my seat in shame just a little. If you've never had to explain what a chainsaw bayonet is to a woman in her mid-forties who spends most of her days in charge of a large group of small children, let me tell you, it's not a good time. The look she was giving me by the end made me feel like I was in her class right along with my kid. I'm just thankful he didn't say anything about the curb stomping, because as awkward as the "chainsaw bayonet" explanation was, I don't even want to think about attempting to tell this woman about a curb stomp and why I thought that was ok for my kid to see.

Clearly, I'm by no means a perfect parent, but I do learn from my mistakes and at least make an attempt not to repeat them. Case in point, and the reason for this particular post, lately these "M" rated games are really earning their rating! I had once again become a bit lax as to what I was playing when the kids were around, as mostly I was going through some actioners from Gamefly that I never deemed purchase worthy, some movie tie-in crap and the like, nothing that I thought they shouldn't watch, and then Red Dead Redemption found it's way into my PS3. Now, I know it was rated mature, and I know it was a Rock Star game and there's no way in hell I would ever let my kids see or play a Grand Theft Auto game, but I thought maybe RDR wouldn't be too much, especially if I kept the subtitles turned on, and the mute button handy for cut scenes. In all honesty, save for a couple of scenes that thankfully they weren't around for, it wasn't too bad. My daughter is only 2, so she was way more interested in the "woah-woahs" than anything else anyway (woah-woah's being what she calls horses, and she got that from the fact that when people on television who are riding horses want said horses to stop, they say "woah"). Jacob on the other hand, fell in love with the game, wanted to be a cowboy, would wear his cowboy had and put his iron on his hip and the whole nine whenever I would play. I thought it was cute, and didn't see any harm in it. But then I got to the end of the game, and I'm being perfectly honest when I tell you that I NEVER saw what happens coming. In retrospect I guess I should have, but for whatever reason I didn't. And when it happened, I was on the couch, with my son standing next to me with his mouth hanging wide open. I lunged for the remote and turned the tv off as fast as I could, but it was too late. Needless to say I haven't played it in front of them since.

Since then I've bought several other mature rated games, because of course everything that's awesome is full of blood, gore, and foul language, even hockey but thankfully they leave that part out of the video games. Now instead of rushing home to play right away, I'm putting them down and waiting until 9 o'clock before I can turn on the Xbox or Playstation. I want to play Dead Rising 2, Dead Rising Case West, Dead Space 2, Killzone 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Bulletstorm, but instead I'm watching a heavy rotation of Santa Paws, Because of Winn Dixie, iCarly, Spongebob, and Go Diego, Go on most days. This is obviously what the life of a gaming parent is like, especially one who enjoys the kind of games that I like, and I'm in no way complaining. My kids are my number one priority, and are basically the reason that I keep on keeping on. I suppose I wrote all of this as a little reminder to myself, and maybe even a little head's up to anyone who might stumble upon this rant who might be a parent themselves on day, that the little rating down in the corner on the cover of your game is probably there for a reason. And while you may think it's awesome that your kid can quote every line of dialogue in Silent Hill 2 (and if so,  I totally agree he or she is AWESOME), the forty year old woman who has to deal with an entire room full of other awesome children on a daily basis probably doesn't think so, and will totally walk over to your car and make you feel stupid.


Drake Sigar said...

Good story, with an important message. I believe parents should be allowed to dictate what is and isn’t appropriate for their own kids, but there are just so many parents out there who immediately buckle under one of little timmy’s public crying sessions, or still think video games are all for kids. My own parents are still clueless, buying GTA: Vice City for my 9 year old brother a few years back. I don’t know what happened, they used to screen everything, check out a game or TV show for themselves before exposing it to kids. You can’t rely on schools or the government to do this stuff.

Brandon Cackowski-Schnell said...

Awesome post.