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What they play (isn’t up to them)

Grand Theft Auto

Marijuana worse than videogames?

By videogames I do mean, of course, Grand Theft Auto. I just thought I’d clarify that point since this blog post on whattheyplay.com decided to gloss over that little detail. Yes, shock horror, the estimated audience of whattheyplay.com (parents) unanimously (19%) voted to be more concerned about their children (unlucky devils) playing videogames (note: Grand Theft Auto) than watching sex or drinking alcohol. No mention that marijuana topped the list with a whacking great 49% of the votes from 3,000 users, a startling majority of the planet’s 6 billion inhabitants. Of course, I’m old enough to know now that you can’t let facts get in the way of opinion and propaganda, because that doesn’t make for interesting reading.

What absorbed me about this blog post is that only 49% of parents didn’t want their 17 year old kid smoking weed. I’m a Bill Hicks fan, but I don’t share his “philosophy” on drugs; I’ve done everything there is, barring injection, mainly because I was drunk but also because I wanted to know what the craze was about. We’re all different, our needs and aspirations contrast with one another and maybe some like smoking illegal substances but I sure as hell don’t, and I wouldn’t want my kids doing it either. The buzz was nice and I felt like a million Dollars, it changed the way I acted but it didn’t alter the way I looked and so I still went home alone after the rave and woke up in a field somewhere coming down from the high.

My point is, we should be grown up about this. Drugs don’t let you escape from society, you’re still there acting out of order, urinating on people’s property and generally being a pain in the arse. Videogames keep you isolated, alone in a room, out of harms way. They’re still a drug – addictive, expensive and anti-social, but let’s be honest, do you want to see little Timmy in a liquor store, high as a kite pointing a 6-shooter at the till assistant? Or waving a plastic blue light gun at a TV screen? Even if he does get frustrated by Time Crisis, the worst he can do is throw the controller 4 feet until the cable reels it back in again.

Jack Thompson – a guy with the right theory but lacking the braincells to develop the action. I’m fully behind his decision to make retailers actively uphold game ratings, because there are kids stupid enough out there to copy things they see on the big screen. And sadly, there are parents lazy enough to not bother supervising them. As long as they’re quiet and out of the way, it’s assumed that the kids aren’t up to mischief.

My own brother is addicted to Call of Duty 4 (rated 15 here in the UK) and spends all day online shooting people. He’d become agitated when away from the game and act like the stereotypical teenager, arms swinging, grunting and incredibly ignorant. My parents decided he was playing it too much and took the console away for a few days, let him calm down, and now he’s allowed on it a few hours a day. His mood swings have cleared up and he’s back to the brother I recognise, and all it took was a few minutes of parenting. Funny how mine can do it but Bubba and his sister-come-wife from “the internet” can’t.

I don’t understand the evils surrounding videogames. Grand Theft Auto IV is a violent game, but rated 18 for adults. People always seem to disregard how their children got hold of the game in question (they usually bought it for them) and blame the publisher and developer directly, rather than the retailer for not checking their children’s ID or for themselves to research exactly what their offspring are buying into. If your little one asked you for a lift to town so he could give money to a suspicious looking individual in exchange for a bag containing white powder, would you dismiss it as buying cooking ingredients?

I’m calling for a review of videogame ratings and stronger marketing, advertising and enforcement of the law. Retailers and parents are directly responsible for what children play, but I really don’t think ratings boards nor retailers do enough to alert us to what we’re buying. As an avid videogamer I already know the content of the title that I’m buying, but in my recent shopping trip I didn’t see any indication other than ratings on boxes and a small sticker in a shop window detailing what each icon meant. As a parent with no interest in the hobby, there’s no clear indication as to what is on sale, clerks are being told to try and get you to sign up to pre-orders, and warnings in the game manual are in small print. Of course, not every videogame release is ultra violent, but I’d at least like to see on 15 and 18 rated titles a big seal detailing what’s on offer within, like a slip case. And use common language – “guns making **** dead” as opposed to “strong violence”, or “cor blimey, they’re shagging like rabbits” than “scenes of a sexual nature”. Make it clear and concise, tell us what we want to know and let us ourselves make the informed decision.

Because the current climate of Fox News filler-featurettes, Daily Mail centre folds and blog posts is getting us nowhere.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in June 2002.

Gentle persuasion

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