In response to "Killing Me Softly": I'd like to comment on his statement that "some games are lucky to only get an M rating". This statement shows that the current ESRB ratings need reform, because he misunderstands what an M rating is equivalent to. His point may be that the M rating stretches across a large variety of bad things to show in games, but it sounds like he's saying some games could have easily been AO. Given that AO is the same as the old X rating for movies, now NC-17, games don't tend to live up to that. Society won't accept video games yet that include sex scenes or virtual nudity in the United States at this point. So why is there so much extra hysteria about them when parents can buy their kids tickets for R-rated movies with no harassment at all? Critics would tend to cite interactivity as a reason video games are so much more dangerous, but that interactivity theoretically allows for children to avoid doing bad things. Sure, you can't work your way through Grand Theft Auto without committing a few crimes, but kids can definitely avoid generally killing pedestrians if that's what they choose. Movies don't give you a choice, and you have to sit through that sex scene, with kids only getting the choice of keeping their eyes closed. It's silly that video games are the topic of such scrutiny when they're the cleanest medium right now all by themselves.
Back to my original point, the ESRB should switch their ratings around so that M is the current AO and put something new in for M, because non-gamers currently don't seem to understand exactly what Mature means in video game ratings.
- Nathaniel Edwards
In response to "MMOGs Are For Kids" from The Escapist Forum: I've played a few of these games, along with my kids. We all enjoy them. In defense of the game designers, they simply can't show blood & gore or they'll get slapped with an ESRB "T" rating, which kills the product's viability with the kids' market. Disney's "Pirates of the Carribean Online" presents this dilemma in the extreme. The game involves LOTS of swordfights and pistol shooting, but there's never any blood. The action is such that you don't "kill" a British navy soldier with your sword, you simply clang swords with him until he falls down and disappears. And you aren't permitted to use your pistol on human NPCs, only on the undead and on various critters like giant crabs. It's rather funny how closely the game straddles the line between the "E-10" and "T" ratings. Since it's "E-10", they can show TV commercials for it 50 times a day on Cartoon Network. If it were "T", they probably wouldn't be able to do that.
I don't think these designers should feel obligated to show "death" or punish them severely for losing. The game has no moral responsibilty to teach children about winning and losing - believe it or not, even the most sheltered kids get plenty of real-life lessons about that. Kids are mostly casual players - many of them just want something light, not overly difficult, and always fun, nothing heavy.
The article is, of course, a well-written, good one, but my comment is more directed towards the subject, really.
I honestly think the distinct problem is that the MMOs mentioned where children have had a negative experience, aren't really children's games. They're aimed at a target audience older than the children mentioned in this article, and not just because of content.
Like others, I'm concerned about why Seth got into the situation he was in in the first place. There's a certain level of education with regards to knowing what you are purchasing for your children to play. Parents who let their kids run amok in these games without knowledge of what they are doing are only asking for their kids to have a bad experience in them. The Internet is, as they say in Monty Python's Holy Grail, a "silly place".
It's nice to see a children's MMO market, but - call me an old fuddy-duddy (I'm in my late 20's) but I'd rather see this generation's children going outside, having fun with friends face-to-face, and doing the things you normally expect kids to do during the summer. I don't want to perpetuate, more than it already is, the "stay inside" culture of sitting at a computer all day and creating pseudo-social interactions - especially at such an early age.