First off, thanks to Noctua over at Gamers Decrypted (one of my new favorite blogs) for reaching out to me on this topic. It’s always flattering when someone expresses the desire to collaborate, and especially so when the source is someone of such high quality. Gamers Decrypted is a fairly new site, so be sure to add it to whatever tracking mechanism you currently use!
The topic of discussion today is the effects of gaming. Or, more accurately, the effects of the media we consume, gaming included. When Noctua first approached me, she floated the idea of censorship as a topic, and I notice that while her post hints at the need for some kind of control (be it internal or external), it never uses the word ‘censorship’ at all. There’s a good reason for that. The word is so heavy with negative political and social connotations that it can no longer be used in a positive support role. That is, unless you’re talking about self-censorship, which seems to be much more acceptable. In our western culture, the idea of someone else telling us what we can and can’t do or say is so abhorrent that the very language surrounding it has been fallen victim to, well, self-censorship!
Noctua cites some interesting research (any experiments that involve chocolate as a reward are OK by me!) that seem to draw a correlation between the media we consume and our actions immediately following. Personally, I’m not even sure the research was necessary. Nature and Nurture is a well-documented and understood psychological debate that assumes at least a little influence from both sides. The fact that the “nurture” side even exists as a part of the equation indicates an environmental influence on the way we behave, think, and even who we become.
My attitude about censorship has changed slightly over the years. While I’m not old enough to remember when the rating system for films was created, I do remember Tipper Gore lobbying for a similar system for music. I also remember when MPAA ratings started showing up on television shows. During the music debate, many artists and media distribution companies cried “censorship!” as they felt the weight of oppression bearing down on their art. Art suppression is one thing, but let’s also admit that there is a financial implication to having your product placed in the “wrong” bracket. At the time, I felt it was unnecessary to label media based on a perceived level of age appropriateness. I may have even mocked Mrs. Gore once or twice for her matronly over-protectiveness of the children of the world. Of course, this was before I had kids of my own.
Did you ever wonder why that friend from high school changed into the most boring person imaginable once he/she had kids? Facebook posts of concerts and nights on the town were replaced by an endless stream of toddler photos, kids sporting events and crawling progress updates. His/her environment (nurture!) has changed, and thus so has his/her behavior. I was not an exception to this. Having four kids over the last fourteen years has shaped my attitudes and the way I perceive and react to the world. It’s one of the reasons that I decided to blog in the first place, because I felt like I had a unique perspective among gamers. For the first 25 years of my life, I was able to make one person a priority in my day-to-day existence. For the last 14, I’ve learned to happily eschew my own desires and goals in favor of those that benefit a house full of other people. My environment has shaped me into a different, and probably better, person.
I no longer think of media rating systems as a punchline, but as a useful tool for parents. In fact, I wish some of the newer methods of content distribution (I’m looking at you, YouTube) would catch up. It’s not that I want to shelter my kids from the world, but I would like to have some control over when they are fully exposed to it. The bottom line is that it’s not possible for me to screen every YouTube video prior to my kids stumbling upon them, and community policing doesn’t work well enough for my liking. Appropriateness of media depends greatly on the person consuming it. Films and books that are appropriate for my 14 year old are sometimes not appropriate for my 8 year old. While I support the freedom of the creator to produce the content they see fit, as a parent in the 21’st century I need a little help determining what that content includes prior to exposing it to young, developing minds. I don’t see this as censorship. It takes a village to raise a child. It would be nice if the global village pitched in and did its part.
On the specific game referenced on Gamers Decrypted, Hatrid, let’s just say that I’m skeptical of the artfulness of such titles. The exact number of the intended demographic who actually pondered the moral and ethical questions claimed by the studio is impossible to pinpoint, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of zero. Arguing that Hateful is designed to enhance our respect for life is a little like 2 Live Crew (going back to the Tipper Gore days) claiming that their song “Me So Horny” enhances our respect for women. Let’s call it what it is, guys: an ultra-violent and senseless game that appeals to testosterone infused pubescents in need of a rage outlet. Or, exactly the kind of game that validates our need for a rating system.
Tipper Gore, you have my honest and sincere apologies.
Truth by Victoria Landon at Flickr Creative commons
Baby Faith by Cary and Kacey Jordan on flickr Creative Commons