I Support a Rating System
Now, if you're a teenager, and you're reading this article,
you might be offended by this concept. You know what? Tough
luck, kid. You're a minor. You have to wait a couple more
years before you get to do whatever you want. For now, you
are under the control of your parents. I know, some parents
suck. Even if you have great parents, you might be at a
stage where your beliefs differ significantly from theirs.
But if your parents have done their job well, you will at
least share their basic values of right and wrong. In a few
years, you'll get the chance to try out those things in the
real world. Yes, being a teenager sucks. Trust me, I've been
there. I have emotional scars from my teenage years that may
never heal. But despite our differences, at least my parents
knew what I was up to most of the time. And although there
were times in my life that I felt angry and hateful, I never
resorted to violence. The fact that my parents were directly
involved with my life is the reason I never considered
violence as an option. It's simply how I was raised.
So if a parent gets more involved in the life of their teenage
children, it can only be a good thing. We should encourage this
Problems With Ratings
Yes, there will be problems with any proposed video game
rating system. But I don't think that means we shouldn't use
The first problem is that you can't easily block a minor
from downloading a video game demo (or a pirated full copy,
for that matter) from the internet. Okay, it's a serious
problem, but one that's the same for any adult-oriented
internet content. An enforced rating system is therefore
only useful in retail outlets.
The second main problem boils down to money. It currently
costs developers money to get their games rated. It would
cost more money to enforce. It would be an expense for video
arcades, if the rating system applies to them, because they
will need to partition off "18 and over" sections and
Another problem will be deciding where to draw the line. I
don't think Senator Wagner is the person who should make
that decision. I don't know who should make it, or how it
should be made. Do we draw the line for video games in the
same way we do for movies? Do video games require stricter
judging than movies because they're interactive? Or should
they be judged less strictly because they're (currently)
less realistic than movies? These questions need to be
Possibly the biggest problem would be the resulting industry
shakeup. It may cost some video game companies a lot of
sales, especially in the console market. But you know what?
These are the same video game companies that hide behind the
phrase "our games are not intended for children". I say make
them walk the talk. The movie industry has been doing it for
Finally, there's the problem that happens to all U.S.
Government legislation: The bill itself isn't as simple as
the concept that started it. It wouldn't surprise me if
Senator Wagner's bill gets bogged down with unrelated riders
and unnecessary complications. I support the concept of a
movie-style rating enforcement system for video games, not
necessarily all the details of a specific bill.
I'm sure there are other problems I haven't thought of yet.
Do these problems mean we shouldn't try? No, we should try
to do our best to work around the problems while keeping the
primary goal in mind: Parents should communicate with their
children about violence and violent entertainment.
Advantages to Ratings
As I said before, the main reason I support an enforced
rating system is because it helps parents communicate with
their children about violence. But there might be some other
advantages to a rating system that I haven't mentioned yet.
First of all, it might help shut up the currently vocal
minority that believe video games are responsible for teen
violence. If we pass laws that say teens can't buy them
without the parent's permission, then they'll have nothing
to say. Even if the games are somehow responsible,
it places the real responsibility right back where it
belongs, with the parents.
Perhaps a rating system will increase the quality of the
games coming out today. If a game publisher wants to make a
gratuitously violent game just because violence sells,
perhaps an enforced rating system will make them think more
carefully about the decision. A better approach to game
design, one that's more focused on gameplay than gore, could
result. Then again, this might actually be a problem if it
handcuffs the game designers' creativity. I don't know, it's
a topic for future discussion, I guess.
So What Can We Do?
I'm convinced that we'll soon see other U.S. states, and
perhaps other countries, following Senator Wagner's lead.
Some countries, as I understand it, already have enforced
rating systems in place. If it's not yet an issue where you
live, it probably will be soon. The video game industry is
just now emerging from its infancy, and this issue is one of
its growing pains.
Gamers, it's time for us to make ourselves heard. Very
shortly, each of us will need to make a choice. It's about
to go beyond the let's-talk-about-it stage and into the
realm of law. Do we support an enforced rating system or
If you agree with this concept, and you live in the United
States, I encourage you to write your senators and
congressmen about it. If you disagree with this concept, I
encourage you to do precisely the same thing. That's what
America is all about. Remember: polite, well-reasoned paper
letters are the best way to get your point of view heard by
your elected officials; e-mails and flames will most likely
be ignored. Then, finally, get out there and vote when the
time comes. The way our government works, you may or may not
end up voting on a specific issue, but at the very least,
you can vote to elect state officials that share your views
on issues like this one.
Ready to write that letter? Great! U.S. Citizens can look up
the addresses of their elected officials by browsing the
"State and Local" section at
One thing I don't encourage you to do is to write
me personally and tell me what a complete idiot I am for
taking this viewpoint (even though such a statement could
very well be true). I know I'm inviting flames by writing
this article, but a private debate wasn't my goal. If you
want to debate this topic, e-mail
Your letter might appear in an upcoming issue of the
PlanetQuake mailbag. This will give you a chance to be heard
by someone other than just me. But above all, if you want
something to actually happen (or not to happen), then a
paper mail addressed to your elected officials, followed by
voting, is the best channel.
Note: The opinions expressed in this article are not
necessarily those of Planetquake, it's staff, the Gamespy network,
that guy who delivers our fedex packages, or the band "Cake". Got
issues? Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to take a stab at writing an article? Write up a rough draft and send it
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