Tougher Laws On Mature Games

The New Zealand chief censor, Bill Hastings, has said that parents who give their underage children access to mature video games should be prosecuted says stuff.co.nz. Offenders should expect a maximum of three months in jail or a fine of $10,000 (£3,582). That’s ‘access’, so even if you play GTA IV in your own time, if you child gets hold of it, that is an offense.

Whilst this holds “shock value” I’m sure many of you will be surprised by the harshness of the sentence. I’d say expect to hear about an example case soon enough. This new change will elevate the laws surrounding video games to be stricter than alcohol. Bizarre, I know. Too far? Maybe. But how effective are our own laws when it comes to mature video games and is making them tougher the right move?

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I’ve had an issue with parents buying their children mature game sever since I saw a mother with her 8 year old son buying Manhunt. I’m not one to tell parents how to raise their kids, but that’s just wrong. These ratings are there for a purpose. Whether parents know it or not, they still hold the same weight as film ratings. Growing up I remember how strict these laws were taken, but as the video games industry was still in it’s early stages the knowledge on how effective or damaging games could be was lacking and the association with the word ‘game’ was (and still is to some degree) linked in the minds of parents to children.

Ever since the PS1 developers have had the tools to create an experience that can rival film in it’s intensity, atmosphere and emotional involvement. As with film this can be used for any genre including the more gruesome and scary sides of entertainment. How effective these games are depends on the skill of the developer. I’ve played many mature games in my life. Some handle the nasty elements with humor, character and even nonchalance like the GTA series, whilst others go the more serious and even sinister route like Silent Hill.

The damage these games produce is a debate that has been going back and forth for a long time but there are plenty of mature games I wouldn’t want my (hypothetical) kids to be exposed to. Times have changed with access to all sorts of mature content just a click away, but without better education for parents on how effective some of these games can be they will only be left in the dark as to what their kids are really playing.

I’m pretty sure that most parents haven’t a clue as to how far the games industry has come in terms of cinematic and graphical advancements. Would helping them understand this go some way to make them realise the potential of how scary something like Dead Space is? I think it would have a more positive effect than throwing the book at them. We all know that a lot of parents spend that £40 on Kill Dead: Drugz Warz just to occupy their kids and get some peace and quiet, but if handed the controller what would they think?

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