A week ago, my soon to be three-year-old son was being corrected for doing something wrong. He was upset by it. That’s not really a bad thing to be upset when you are corrected. Making your hand into a gun and yelling “Bang! Bang! Pew! You’re dead, daddy!” is.
Before you raise any preconceived notions, my wife and I are very controlling of our two boys (5 and 2) as to what they watch, hear, and play. I only play violent games after they have been put to bed and I even go so far as to hide the games in a closet. Even then, I don’t play many violent games because, presonally, they affect me. That’s not was this post is about. Also, I don’t want this post to delve into the video game violence debate. I just want to share what we as a family intend to do about it.
Two days ago my wife and I were talking late in the evening. I was lamenting my recent poor parenting skills and the feeling like I had not ever really grown up. It was then she mentioned video games. My wife is not a typical nagging video game spouse. She never pressures me or makes me feel guilty of what I play or purchase. (There was a time where she called them my “second wife” but that was me being stupid early in our marriage.)
She mentioned the idea of getting rid of video games. I was surprised by my initial reaction: agreement. I think it surprised her to. Actually, at first I misunderstood her. Her intention was for us to get rid of mature games. Once again, I was surprised by my answer. Let’s do it.
Starting on Labor Day, I took inventory of all my titles and if they met a certain criteria, they were added to a pile to be traded for credit.
- Any game with blood was out
- Any game that realistically and graphically killed humans was out
- Any game that had strong, pervasive language was out
- Any game with sex was out (which we didn’t have any that I knew of)
Using the ESRB ratings, the pile started to stack up: Halo 3, Mass Effect, Gears of War, Call of Duty 4, Viva Pinata—animal sex! Ok, just kidding there—, Assassin’s Creed, Crackdown, Bioshock, Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid 4, Okami, Metroid Prime 3:Corruption, Ghost Squad, and recently acquired Too Human.
A couple of things I did find interesting is that all the Wii game’s ESRB rating descriptions used the term “Animated Blood” and some of the ESRB ratings were too vague in their descriptions or maybe even a little off base. For instance, Too Human has a description of “Blood”. Either I am blind or I’ve been desensitized, but I don’t remember any blood. (Maybe in a cutscene I’ve skipped?)
My next step was to examine or remember the specifics of the titles. I decided to keep Okami, Metroid Prime 3, Bioshock, and Too Human. Three of the titles I’m still slowly playing through, and the latter title I didn’t see it as being overly violent or meeting the criteria. It’s new, and I’ll probably trade it in when I find it just sitting there. Bioshock is the one title that I’m keeping that certainly falls in the list above. I am so impressed by its atmosphere that I truly want to finish it. Once I do though it’s gone.
This really only applies to consoles and not my handhelds or PC games. The boys don’t even know I have a DS and PSP and they don’t have access to the PC. Of course, I’ve only got the Hal-Life series, Tie Fighter, X-Com, and a bunch of RTS games on my PC—and I hardly play PC games anymore.
The response I’ve received from offline and online friends has been from agreement to indignant, stupid remarks. Jokingly, someone asked me what I would then play. Actually, I don’t think I’ll miss all that much. There are a lot of games out there that are entertaining and are family friendly. In fact, in the list of games above only two did I really struggle with keeping. In the end, I decided to get rid of them. I hadn’t really played anything from that list in a while anyway. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve gotten older, but overly mature or violent games don’t really impress me that much anymore. Most—and I say most—have become formulaic. I’ve had more fun with games such as Geometry Wars, Everyday Shooter, LEGO titles, racing games, and casual games in the last couple of years more than anything.
We don’t know where our son picked up the gun gesture, but I’m not taking any chances. My only guess is that he may have overheard me playing after he was in bed. More likely, he saw it on TV or a movie. Video games aren’t the only thing we are cracking down on. My wife and I are currently working on TV and movies too. We already are restrictive in what they watch. Now, we are taking it a step further in really policing what we watch.
I believe it all to be for the better. There are so many things my family could be doing other than zoning out to a screen: reading together, drawing, walking, bike riding, just talking, fixing meals together, and playing. Of course, this all leads me to when I am going to play the games I own. That actually brings me to another Gamer Responsibility topic: time spent playing games. (I hope to address that soon.)
This also means that you probably won’t see many reviews or posts from me on violent games. If so, they will be rare. But you know what? I believe that to be ok. Life will go on and my family will be better for it. They (and many other things) come before personal entertainment.