Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Hey, It's Only A Game: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

Oh. In an addendum to the 'Bulletstorm' texting post, I went into EB Games one night the week after his birthday to see if I could find the game. Not that he hadn't been delighted by his 'Rango' dvd (he was actually, I was pleased to note), but I still suffering from that thing I told you about before where I hate to disappoint them (over little things...no problem disappointing him over a laptop).

Inside the store I was confronted with an obscene array of 'on sale' games of every colour and persuasion. Want to crochet on your computer? There's probably a game for it. Unfortunately, there's much more likely to be a game which allows you to steal cars and mug old ladies, for points.

After sifting gingerly through the morass of 'Kill or B Killed 4' (I made that up, but it is probably a title) style bargains, I came upon 'Bulletstorm', reduced from $98.00 to $69.00. $98.00??????? Huh. Just as well it was on special.

With distaste, I picked it up between my first finger and thumb and carried it over to the checkout like something the cats had recently dismembered on the back porch. The young, male assisitant smiled at me quizzically,
"Do you want that?"
"Do I look like I want it?" I grimaced. "Apparently however, I am going to buy it."
The young man, bearing the pallid dermis and probably negative vitamin D rating of a seasoned game player, looked dubious.
"Do you know what it's about?" he queried."What age are you buying it for?"
"Well a) I assume its about shooting, with bullets, and b) for a 13 year old." I growled, my disapproval running from my pores and forming a large puddle about my feet. He looked thoughtful again.
"This is a pretty full on game you know," he informed me."It's mainly about killing people in the most spectacular way possible and also there's LOTs of swearing."
His off-sider sauntered across with a collection of boxed excreta for pricing and shelving.
"Which one are you talking about?" (yes, I guess it's hard to know...there's so much choice)
"Bulletstorm dude. Have you ever played it?" My assistant's face grew rosy and cheerful. "It's awesome! You spray this guy with bullets and it takes off the top of his skull and the brains like fly out in a spray and splatter across the screen!!!!!"
"AWESOME!!!!" his mate nodded and grinned.
And then he turned back to face me. "It's a pretty full-on game for a 13 year old."

I had been prepared for it to be about death and killing, most of Small Boy's games are >:-(
I hesitated.
His mate's face changed.
"Oh wait, I do know that one. It really IS full on for a kid." (what? and how old are you?)

I left the store a richer and somewhat bemused woman. I really had not expected the consumers and salespeople of the industry to talk me out of 'Bulletstorm'. It inspired a small, but brilliant, gleam of hope in my heart. And anyway, I now had major justification for failing to buy the thing for Small Boy!

This episode raised a whole lot of issues for me: firstly, shame that I was willing to buy the thing in the first place; secondly, relief that even seasoned gamers a) recognise when something is over the top and b) care about kids enough to dissuade a customer; minor fear at the feverish excitement in the young man's eye as he described the game to his friend; disbelief that people sit around using their brain power to create these things and finally, the ubiquitous discussion over the classification of games.

Here in Australia the most severe rating classification has been the M15+ label. Many games which did not fit into that category were basically not sold here and some that did were squeezed in under the lesser classification. Many of the games on the 'sale' table were there because, as the classification system changes, they will soon be rated R18+. Retailers are emptying their shelves of the MA15+ versions. This prompted me to wonder why. Are we too lazy in this day and age to stick a new classification label on a case? Are they too easily peeled off? Might this open retailers to prosecution for illegal sales of games to minors?

But then there's the bigger issue: has the lower classification ceiling kept a lot of unsavoury games out of Australia? (clearly not, thinking of 'Bulletstorm') Will the new legislation, meant to improve the standard of viewing available to our younger audiences, actually encourage the import (and thus availability) of even worse material? What do you think?

Oh and in an addendum to this addendum, to our absolute horror, the Small Boy's mother bought him the game this week, after also being advised against it by the shop assistant.
"She just said 'it's only a game'," Small Boy reported.


Anonymous said...

I think this whole Blog should be sent to the various Ausralian newspapers and see what response follows from members of the public people who have strong oppinions on the classification subject.It really is a worry and I am surprised that anyone would ignore the advice of the assistants relating to the suitability of the subject matter for the 13 year old.!

Arizaphale said...

Thank you Anonymous. There has been heated debate in the media on this issue. What frustrates me is the stupidity of parents who dismiss the impact these games have on young minds.Especially when that mind belongs to my stepson >:-(!!!