Should video games be given 'R' ratings?
The real question is 'should video games be given 'R' ratings even if it means sales of the game would tank?' According to an interesting tidbit from News-Record.com, a North Carolina on-line newspaper, Rock Star Games, who seem to court controversy as much as Marilyn Manson, are in trouble again, this time with the release of the game "Manhunt 2."
Manhunt 2 (what a clever, adorable name!) is a game where a deranged mental patient escapes his confines and goes on a killing spree. The player uses a Wii to hack his or her way through the game, which has been banned in the UK and Ireland. Needless to say, and as you might imagine, the game is ultra-violent and filled with lots of blood. Well, to be fair, I haven't played the game so I can't really say whether or not it's all that bloody.
I hate to judge a book by its cover, especially one I'm not really planning on reading. I am not at all a fan of video games, especially the shoot 'em up, or, more recently, the cut 'em up/blow 'em up/run 'em down/jack 'em up variety. (Please see my article on how I just can't deal with violence now that I'm a mommy.) What I hate even more is how I am sounding like the very person I detested back when I was a teenager. You know, the kind of person who judges a book by its cover?
I remember how I HATED Tipper Gore when she launched all that PMRC business back in the 80's. I was a devoted Metal fan (still am, yeah!) and didn't care for the warning labels being placed on records with songs containing lyrics deemed 'inappropriate' by someone named Tipper. Seriously, it's not like Tipper actually listened to Appetite for Destruction. But anyway....
So, let's just take what the article says as truth for a moment, that this Manhunt 2 is full of ultra-violence. First of all, it scares me that anyone would be interested in such a thing. I mean, I was at a party last week where we played tennis on Wii. And it was fun. It killed, so to speak. What's wrong with that???
Second of all we all know that video games aren't really marketed towards adults (except perhaps those of us who love to play tennis on Wii. It's fun--really, you should try it) but rather towards children. We want to protect our kids from violence and violent images either because it will give them nightmares, will desensitize them to violence (debate this all you want--I don't think it does but the controversy rages on still), or will be just one more thing that will keep them from getting outside already and playing in the great outdoors like kids are supposed to do.
Also, keep in mind whose money is being spent on these games. I would guess that many kids have jobs and can buy their own video games, and if so they can buy what they want. And they will, regardless of what you tell them they can and can't have, like porn and drugs and alcohol and cigarettes and god knows what else. It's going to happen.
But, if it's your money you can definitely put your foot down and say no. No you're not going to buy a violent video game and no you're not going to allow your kid to play violent video games at home. They may just go to a friend's house and play it there, but at least you've made your point.
Rating video games would allow the parent to know what it is their kids are buying and playing. Rating them would give the parent at least some clue as to the content of a game. I'm not so sure it's a bad thing, on the surface. Movies are rated, as are television programs, and that seems to be working out pretty well. Why not video games too?
And for that matter, why not books? Look, I read American Psycho while house sitting ALONE during winter and I had no idea it was going to scare me as much as it did. Just kidding about the books, although it would be funny to see the rating scales for romance novels (I love them, BTW): R for racy, S for Sexy--or perhaps just Steamy--and so on.
The article I read today noted that by giving a video game an R rating it would effectively kill the sales of the game. Having not seen the game I wouldn't know if it deserves an R rating or not. I would imagine those aren't handed out too haphazardly so I am going to assume that game deserves an R. And if it deserves an R it should be given an R, and parents have a right to know about it.
If the creators of violent games don't want R ratings because it will mean parents won't be buying the games for their kids who are the ones playing the games then perhaps those companies shouldn't be making such violent video games in the first place. Perhaps, instead, they should check out a game of tennis on the Wii.