This past week, I submitted the following message to Illinois Governor Blagojavich’s Safe Games Illinois comment form:
I note that safegamesillinois.org cites studies regarding mature game content, but it overwhelmingly suggests that children are buying M-rated games in mass quantities and that such games are a major problem. There seems to be a lack of balance. There are studies such as the recent one conducted by Modulum that found that parents ignore game ratings:
If the above get mangled through your site’s form again, please search for “Parents ignore game ratings” in your favorite search engine.
While the study was conducted in the UK, I can see that a similar problem would be occurring here in the US and Illinois in particular.
It seems that the studies listed on safegamesillinois.org are quite biased and would indicate to someone not familiar with the industry that there are no studies that contradict them. The Useful Links page does not provide any links to the IGDA or any other representative body for the video game industry. The “Summary of Video Game Studies” does not list studies that indicate that most minors either have permission from their parents or have their parents present when they purchase M-rated games. Rather than fostering an Us against Them mentality, the site could be much more useful.
Some studies indicate that the problem isn’t enforcing ratings. They indicate that parents are buying games that they otherwise consider bad for their children because they assume the ratings don’t apply to their children. Once again, I ask in light of this information how the new laws are supposed to help protect children when the children aren’t the ones doing the purchasing and the parents are the ones who are providing access to the games in the first place? I still believe the new laws will not be effective at protecting children or preventing “seemingly arbitrary” violence in society at large.
I think parents should be better educated about game ratings and content, but I would prefer that safegamesillinois.org be a bit less biased and sensational and a bit more informative. Frightening parents away from video games isn’t the way to protect children. Not all video games are like Manhunt or Grant Theft Auto, and safegamesillinois.org does not do a good job of informing parents that there are other options.
Please pass this letter to the Senior Advisor Sheila Nix. I look forward to hearing from you regarding the balance of information provided on safegamesillinois.org. None of the studies on the site indicate that children are actually buying M-rated games, and it seems that the main problem is creating informed purchasers. The site could be an incredibly valuable tool for parents in making the purchasing decisions that they are already making, but I think the site is seriously lacking and misleading in its current state.
I still think that the purpose of the laws doesn’t match with the reality. Children don’t buy the games in general, and citing that X% could buy the game doesn’t imply that they do. 98% of children walking to school could run out in front of cars, but they don’t generally. We don’t see legislation preventing children from taking dangerous walks to school.
These recent studies show that parents don’t think they need to pay attention to the ratings that are put there for them to use. And yet the game industry is painted as creating killers.
Huh? Am I supposed to assume that when a parent buys a game for a child that his/her negligence of the ratings system is now the game industry’s fault? The studies show that parents basically say, “Yes, I know the ratings. Yes, I know what they mean. Yes, I bought the game anyway because even though I don’t like the content, my child can handle it.”
The laws passed the Illinois Congress already. I’m sure we’ll see them overturned like similar legislation. But the Safe Games Illinois website claims to be a resource for parents, but it really isn’t. It seems to be more like a resource for those who are already convinced that the video game industry is out to get the children and have managed to sneak past the hard-working-but-innocent-victim parents.
Yes, video games can teach. Yes, there are games that are incredibly violent. But they aren’t the only games or lessons, and it is apparently the case that parents DO have the means to tell the difference.