The Restricted Audience

Ratings for you, not the game

I think it’s easy to forget how restricted rating systems in games work.  In North America we tend to see the Entertainment Software Rating Board / ESRB ratings.  And in Europe you tend to see Pan-European Game Information / PEGI ratings.  In Japan it’s the Computer Entertainment Rating Organization / CERO.  I’m not going to list all of the audience ratings, but those are the three most common ones around me.

And I did say audience ratings.  I think people misunderstand that the ratings are not necessarily about dangerous content.  It’s about content that is dangerous if handled immaturely.  Nearly every single type of restricted content in video games is dangerous if approached incorrectly.  We’re saying rated M for mature audiences, because if you are playing this content you should be mature about it.  

Foul language is something that most people speak, but it’s a matter of when we say it and when it’s appropriate.  If you stub your toe and swear, alright.  But if you’re in a church or in an interview maybe don’t swear outright.  For this one, it’s about reading the context, but that requires some amount of maturity. 

Every time we move further down the list with things like gambling, violence, nudity, and discrimination, each subject must be approached with maturity.  And the truth is that most people who play mature rated or PEGI 18 games aren’t really that mature.  I’ve gotten the response that it’s about whether or not you can “handle” that amount of violence.  I don’t think it’s about “handling” violence.  It’s about how we approach, treat, and respect the events.  People are not mature for watching ultra violence or looking at sexual content, especially if they give the same immature approach to similar situations in real life.  

One thing I found very interesting is that the PEGI ratings have “Discrimination” as one of the factors and it’s noted as a PEGI 18 rating.  I think ethics are something very important in video games.  I mean, we’ve noted how a lot of character development is literally about growth and ethics, and people are not without them in real life.  Some people say that because it’s just a game you can just ignore everything, but that’s not true.  If that were true, trauma wouldn’t happen to people.  Trauma is when unexpected events shatter paradigms and the securities of someone’s life.  You can’t just undo an experience.  Unless there is some sort of brain damage or memory loss involved, what you experience, watch, and play in video games will affect you.  

This is not to deny the studies that people who play violent video games become violent, but it can still affect you if not taken maturely.  Again, it is whether or not you let that become an enabling factor.  Some people use video games as a way to let off steam.  To yell and have a safe place to trash talk and banter.  And that’s okay, because they’re using it as a way to ameliorate the stress and anger.  But I also know people who, when playing video games, become violent.  Most of the time they already are, but enabling them or enticing this kind of temperament is also not okay.

There are mature ways to approach sexual content, and all of them need to be approached maturely.  I don’t want rated M games to be like some sort of light to attract all the bug people who just want to objectify women.  I mean, unfortunately, there are games with that kind of approach in mind, and honestly I don’t find that for mature audiences at all when the whole set of creation is immature.  Perhaps, and this might be sharp to say but, there are some games that shouldn’t be played because the basis of the whole game is not conducive to proper behavior.  I’m not trying to be some sort of policing writer.  I’m just stating the reality that some things will affect people in a negative way and it’s not about being progressive or being “tough”, it’s about teaching people, not just kids, that some things need to be respected.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the same people who sexually harrassed me at school are the same people who play those games that disrespect women.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the people who say that video games don’t affect them are the same people bullying others.  We as the players are supposed to be mature about this all.  The people who know that the violence stays in the game.  The people who recognize that war and discrimination are real, terrible things.  The people that recognize that a character is a sex worker not because she is a bad person, but because she is having a hard time in life.  To learn this empathy, to learn this understanding, that’s what maturity is about.  

I’m not saying that we’re stiff and not having fun while shooting enemies and slicing baddies.  Rated M for Mature just means that when it gets down to it, we understand that we must treat these subjects with respect and understanding.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again soon.

Elise

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