Won’t Somebody (Other Than Their Parents) Think of the Children?

Alan Wake [360]Bulletstorm  The AbductionSpider BonesThe Enemy (Jack Reacher Novel)The RegulatorsThe FirmChristmas in Wellsworth

This post is part of the regular column Sam Stephens: On Reading and Writing Fiction.

***

The government isn’t raising our children right, and I, for one, am sick of it!

Let me give you some background. I get the same enjoyment from playing computer games as I do from reading (and writing): it’s about exploring fictional worlds for the purpose of entertainment. And when you look at games like Alan Wake, the line between games and fiction tends to blur.

So while this column is about reading and writing, I don’t think a quick foray into a different entertainment medium is too much of a stretch.

As I count down the days towards my thirty-second birthday it’s becoming more and more obvious that I’m not a kid or a teenager anymore (though the maturity level is debatable). I love reading horror and dark thrillers; I love action, guns, and blowing stuff up; and I love psychological twists and intricate plots that keep your brain ticking over long after you close the book.

My little boy turned three this year. He likes Thomas The Tank Engine.

And that’s fair enough – as we grow our tastes in entertainment change. Kids like kids stuff, adults like adult stuff.

This includes games – I really enjoy playing adult rated games, however this electronic medium is one that seems to consistently confuse a small, yet vocal section of our society.

Case in point: Fox News just recently published an article on a new, violent video game that is coming out. It contains gore, and coarse language. Yes, we’ve been warned.

If you want to be appalled, read about it in vivid detail here: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2011/02/08/bulletstorm-worst-game-kids

Doctors are arguably the smartest people on earth (dare I say the universe), and so when a news article quotes a doctor saying that nine year olds will be playing games similar to this, we all have to take a step back and gasp in horror.

But it gets worse: another scientist went on to say that sexual content in games is directly related to real-world rape and assaults. And yet another scientist said that violent video games are causing increased violent behaviour in real life.

Forget about the fact that there is no scientific evidence or links between games and real world behaviour, forget about the fact that while video game usage is increasing, real world violence (and rape) in countries such as the US is decreasing. And let’s not even consider the fact that the average computer gamer’s age is 34.

Actual evidence is superfluous; it simply muddies the waters of indignant rage.

But that’s not even the issue. It’s not about whether or not adult-rated video games should exist. What the doctors are saying is that our children will play adult-rated video games, be permanently psychologically damaged, re-enact what they see in the real world, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it. The government refuses to ban adult-rated entertainment.

I shudder to think of the day when my little boy sits down to play gory video games and as a parent I just have to stand idly by as the government refuses to act.

And it doesn’t just stop at entertainment. Not once have I seen the government create and enforce a law to stop my little boy from splashing water outside the bath. My bathroom floor is soaked, and the men and women in power do nothing to stop it.

What about the solar fountain in my front yard? My boy keeps tipping it to the side, making all the water run into the garden instead of back into the pond, and the government doesn’t blink an eye. There’s a break in the cycle of water in my front yard, caused time and again by my child, and our elected officials are doing nothing to stop it.

No wonder our world is in such a terrible state when the government refuses to raise our children properly. After all, if we can’t rely on the government to raise our children, then who CAN we count on?

— Sam Stephens   www.samstephens.com

Sam Stephens is the winner of a number of short story awards, including James Patterson’s Airborne project, and two AusLit short story awards. You can read a number of his short stories for free on his website, and follow him on Twitter.

Alan Wake [360]Bulletstorm  The AbductionSpider BonesThe Enemy (Jack Reacher Novel)The RegulatorsThe FirmChristmas in Wellsworth

The Australian Literature Review
www.auslit.net

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4 Responses to Won’t Somebody (Other Than Their Parents) Think of the Children?

  1. Michael says:

    An excellent point, Sam. I was an assistant manager in a GAME store in the UK and had to constantly point out to parents that the age restrictions were not on the cases to add colour.

    “Ah, but it’s just a game,” most (not all, to be fair) would say.

    Well, yes it is. And American Psycho is just a book, but I wouldn’t suggest they swap it for Possum Magic at story time.

    On a side note; narrative in video games. You touched on it slightly, but it’s a subject that really deserves an in depth discussion. Those who aren’t familiar with games would be surprised at, when done right, games can deliver a story that will by turns have the player laughing, screaming or crying. Can do this like novels, but can be hamstrung by technology. Not in terms of graphics but in emergent game play narrative. But as I said, that’s a whole different topic.

    Great article.

    • Sam Stephens says:

      Wow, that’s really interesting about some parents ignoring game ratings. That was one of the reasons raised by a lot of people in the recent government survey about whether or not Australia should have R 18+ ratings on games.

      The idea raised was that if some games that only just slid in to the MA15+ rating were actually labelled as R 18+, then parents would talk it more seriously.

      I’m a bit believer in allowing adults to enjoy adult entertainment, but I’m certainly not going to expose my child to it. Like you said, the ratings aren’t just there to add colour!

      And at the same time, I don’t believe governmetns should ban adult entertainment under the assumption that parents can’t control their own kids.

      Great point about game narrative, too. Maybe I’ll do a column on it some time under the banner of digital art. Not only can beautiful stories be told, but add other forms of art such as music, and you’re experiencing a collision of various art forms than combine to produce absolute beauty.

      We’ve come a long way since Space Invaders!

  2. Sam Stephens says:

    Just a quick clarification, if I may: As my close friends know, a lot of what I say is interwoven with irony and flippancy.

    I don’t actually believe the government should be raising our children. I’m a strong believer in parents actually parenting. It’s our job to look after our kids, it’s our responsibility.

    It’s our job as parents to make sure our kids don’t play on the road, it’s not the job of the government to build a fence in our front yard so our kids can’t get out.

    The same goes for what our kids are exposed to. It’s not up to the government to ban adult media, it’s up to us as parents to control what our kids are exposed to.

    Studies such as the ones mentioned in the above article I referenced talk like children have unrestricted access to adult entertainment, whether it be books, games, or movies, which downplays and even comes close to insulting those parents in the world who do take an interest in raising their own children.

    As parents it’s our job to raise our kids. Why this small, vocal, group of scientists believe it’s the government’s job, I’ll never understand.

  3. Sam Stephens says:

    For those interested in further reading on this topic, Nicholaus Noles, a researcher at the University of Michigan and who holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University discusses this same article:

    http://au.pc.ign.com/articles/114/1149103p1.html

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