Letters to the Editor



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.

– Vandelay

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.

– fsanch

In response to “Monkey Play, Monkey Do” from The Escapist Forum: Good read.

As long as the law is getting paraded around so much, the extreme difficulty of legally proving a video game made someone commit a violent act cannot be understated. There’s a great quote from the 8th Circuit case where they shot down the Mass. law banning the sale of games to minors:

“Whatever our intuitive (dare we say commonsense) feelings regarding the effect that extreme violence portrayed in the above-described video games may well have upon the psychological well-being of minors, [we still need] incontrovertible proof of a causal relationship between the exposure to such violence and subsequent psychological dysfunction…The requirement of such a high level of proof may reflect a refined estrangement from reality, but apply it we must.”

– L.B. Jeffries


In response to “The Anatomy of Violence” from The Escapist Forum: Unfortunately, S.L.A. Marshall’s conclusions and methods have been brought into strong doubt of late. Evidence has been put forth that seems to indicate that Marshall did not actually do any systematic research into the subject of fire ratios, and that he was just stating an opinion and presenting it as research instead. A bit of basic searching on the web will show that his conclusions are being strongly disputed today.

To bring a bit of personal information to the subject, my grandfather served in the European theater as part of a recon company. His unit was not part of the Normandy landing, they arrived about a month later. They saw very heavy combat in the push to Berlin, however, and his people were no strangers to the sound of gunfire and the hammer of artillery. His opinion of Marshall’s writings would be summed up with the word “Bullshit!”. If Marshall was correct and the number of soldiers who actually fired was 15% or so, then there were at least 4-6 companies of men who never fired a shot, because according to my grandfather, every man in his unit shot themselves dry on a couple of occasions, a statement borne out by the unit’s official history. Frankly, I have a hard time believing that WWII could have been won with so few guns firing on the lines. The death tolls in some of the battles were a little high for a bunch of guys shooting to miss.

It’s interesting that the author makes no mention of the controversy that currently surrounds Marshall’s and therefore Grossman’s works. It would be one thing if it was mentioned and then argued against, but here it isn’t even mentioned. Almost as if he knows the current discussion would weaken his position, and that he can’t successfully argue against it. Not the most convincing article I’ve read.

– Royas

Very good writing. Bravo.

It’s so rare that actual science is brought into the video games violence equation. And it isn’t that people aren’t trying; a lot of it is just conflicting reports. Just as Royas says his grandfather’s company shot themselves empty, I can say my grandfather went through World War 2 without firing a shot. And he was infantry, a sargent maybe, but infantry nonetheless. So who is right?

My belief is not so much that games desensitize; that argument is outdated and there is plenty of other media that is equal to the level of violence in games. It’s that games reward, points, experience, items, money, for commiting acts of violence. It teaches kids that violence is an acceptable means to resolve a problem instead of working through it logically and keeping emotions in check instead of just exploding. In games, you can just shoot the person who is frustrating you and they go away, and there is no consequense for it, and in fact, you are generally rewarded for it. That is my beef with game violence.

And it’s true that first-person games suck people in and make them feel involved, but I’ve yet to find or be pointed to any meaningful scientific conclusions regarding it.

– SamuraiAndPig

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