Editorial – Video game violence and the parental imperative

Mac Olsen

As a video game player, I am aware of – and appreciate the need for – a video game rating system, especially when it comes to children playing certain types of video games.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board is the go-to source for video game classification. For some of the videogames I play, there is no doubt that the ratings are accurate and appropriate.

But for others, even though the ESRB may recommend that they’re appropriate for younger children, I have my doubts because I see certain content that is similar to the more violent, graphic video games.

Moreover, this draws us into the debate about whether video games cause some people to become violent.

I recently came across an opinion piece by Rob Breakenridge, a radio host for Global News, in which he makes the pronouncement to ‘stop scapegoating video games’.

‘There is an abundance of evidence pointing us to the conclusion that violent video games are not causing actual violence,’ as he writes on the Global News website.

Breakenridge also highlighted a Tweet that President Donald Trump issued on Dec. 17, 2012: ‘Video game violence & glorification must be stopped – it is creating monsters!’

Now in office, Trump is taking the video game industry to task and he is holding meetings with officials to discuss the issue.

I don’t believe that government regulation of the video game industry in Canada or the U.S. is the answer. If Trump tries to legislate the video game industry in the U.S., then it will be another example of the ‘nanny state’ imposing its will on the citizenry.

At the same time, I don’t agree with Breakenridge either. I am concerned that violent and graphic video games desensitize people, especially children, and can lead them to become violent from prolonged exposure to such games.

I remember the arcades and video game counsels of the early 1980’s and, while the sophistication and level of graphics was primitive compared to today, the intensity and aggressiveness with which some players engaged in bordered on violent.

At an arcade in Kamloops, B.C. in the summer of 1981, I remember seeing one arcade player become so obsessed about the game that he took out his frustation by punching the machine and using profanity.

And don’t tell me that that doesn’t happen with video game playing today, especially with the T for Teen- and M-rated games.

No, the answer isn’t the ‘nanny state’ approach, but it isn’t with a hands-off approach either.

The parental imperative is the best tool for children’s video gaming habits. Limiting children’s time on video games is certainly appropriate, as is utilizing the ESRB to determine age-appropriate content. This also applies to movies – the online streaming service I use has a child parameter tool, to ensure children access only certain content appropriate to them.

In the end, video game violence is a subject that parents must deal with, and there are tools for them to use, to ensure they reduce the risk of their children becoming aggressive and violent.


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