The Next Level

From the February 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

When it was revealed last year that Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has hidden pornographic content, politicians went on the attack. Normally, that sort of major error would result in a small period of restraint by the people under the hot light, but not this time. Two of 2005’s new games feature graphic scenes of human cannibalism.

F.E.A.R. and Rebel Without a Pulse, because of their graphic cannibalism scenes, were listed by the National Institute on Media and the Family among 12 games to avoid when it released a report on the video game industry last November.

But it isn’t just a few isolated games; game makers are trying to plumb new depths. The president of the institute cited Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as an example of how vile games are becoming: “In this game—the top seller of 2004—kids can hack prostitutes to death with chain saws. Today we’re seeing things we never saw in the late 1990s, like cannibalism. The f-word is now common in video games. Profanity is up 3,000 percent. Sexual content is up 800 percent” (Star Tribune, Nov. 30, 2005).

At the same time, the games—regardless of rating—are more accessible to children than ever. In 2004, girls as young as 9 were able to buy games with a Mature rating only 8 percent of the time; in 2005, the percentage skyrocketed to 46 percent.

Legislation is under way that would make it more difficult to sell games with a Mature rating to minors; however, courts have previously struck down exactly this sort of legislation. In 2000, an attempt to ban minors from playing violent games in public arcades was struck down by an appeals court. The following year, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the appeals court ruling to stand.

The president of the Entertainment Software Association says parents have the tools they need to protect their children: All game systems currently being designed incorporate parental locks, and games provide a rating system. “Now, parents have to do their part in using these tools,” he said. “That is their role, not the government’s or industry’s” (Indianapolis Star, Dec. 2, 2005).

One parent responded by saying his children purchased games without his permission: “There’s only so much we can do as parents” (ibid.).

Really? A Mature rating is the equivalent of an R-rated movie. It allows blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, and use of drugs. Should we really feel obligated to allow that sort of influence in our homes? Can we not provide our 9-year-olds with better than “there’s only so much we can do”? What good will government intervention do on this one issue if we cannot properly rear our own children?

As a parent, you can and must take an active interest in protecting your children’s minds—as well as your own. For practical tips on regulating your family’s media usage and keeping negative influences out of your home, read our July 2005 article “Protect Your Child’s Mind.”