Parents, Read the ESRB Label Before Buying Your Kid a Game

Dearest Parents,

I believe I speak for the majority of gamers out there who are tired of seeing video games being used as scapegoats and blamed for your child’s misguided actions because you were to lazy, ignorant or just plain stupid to check the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) Ratings label of the game before you bought it for them. I know that this is really the minority of parents out there; many parents take the extra time to check the box and then decide if Halo 4, GTA IV or Call of Duty: Black Ops II is an appropriate game for their child to play. But there are some of you out there, and I know there are because I saw it just this past weekend, who give in to Little Jimmie’s temper tantrums and buy him Painkiller: Hell and Damnation to make him stop his whining and crying in the hopes that video games will be an appropriate babysitter in lieu of you taking time from your oh-so-busy day of drinking and watching soaps and reality TV to give a damn what the kid does. Just because you were too lazy to check a damn information box put there for you and your child’s benefit and gave in to the bitching and rant of a 10 year old doesn’t mean that you later can blame video games and gamers for the psychotic nature of your juvenile delinquent.

Day after day, I see parents come in and do their due diligence in purchasing a game for their child. They check the ESRB Rating, read the little blurbs of what to expect in the game and then make a responsible decision on whether or not to but the game. And guess what: sometimes these parents will actually buy an M rated game for their teen. But this same parent is also the kind that would take the time to both take the time and play the game with Little Alex and then explain to them the difference between what is real and fake, right and wrong. Yeah, it sounds lame, but guess what; that kid is going to grow up knowing that he shouldn’t go around cussing people out for no reason, race down the streets running down hookers or go shoot up some innocent people screaming “GTA motherfucker! 10 points!” That kid will grow up to be just like the majority of gamers out there and know that what happens in a game stays in a game. In that way, it’s kind of like Vegas, you know. Sure, we might be a bit conceited, self-entitled or have minor anger issues, but we don’t go around blasting at people for fun – we kill each other in a round of Battlefield 3.

ESRB Ratings

The ratings as noted by the ESRB.

The same round of Battlefield 3 in which we hear BtchN4Lyf, aka Little Suzy, screaming out racial slurs and cussing like street junkie in the oh-so-noticeable voice of someone yet to hit puberty. Yeah, she is killing with the best of them, but what is she doing in a game intended for “Mature” gamers? And where the hell did she learn this stuff she’s spewing? I am not kidding you, people, I one time heard a kid, a KID, scream out something at someone that had me go to the interwebs looking up what it meant! There is no reason some kid should know about something my wife and I would probably try out alone and with some hot wax and handcuffs. Just where the hell are the parents here? And then they have the nerve to blame video games and TV and movies and music for their child turning out the way they do. I don’t think so. Lazy parents raise rotten kids and it certainly shows later in life. That doesn’t give you the reason to blame games for being lousy babysitters because you passed the buck on your parental responsibilities.

From here, you can see the suggestions set forth by the ESRB.

Parents, sometimes you have to make the hard choice and say “no” to your kids when it comes to certain things. Yeah, Little Buddy will throw a tantrum and shout “You never buy me nothing!” or something to that effect, but your responsibility as a parent is to teach them responsibility and maturity. It is not always the easiest way to do things, but it is the most beneficial for everyone that you do. Besides, who is the parent in the relationship, you or them? If you answered you, pony up and act like a parent then. If you answered them, well, I would get on the line with DCS and say that you may need to give up your parental rights. Ouch, that sounded a bit harsh, didn’t it? Well guess what; life is harsh. It’s full of tough decisions and choosing whether the easy way or the hard way will win out in the end. When I was about to become a parent for the first time, my mom took me aside and said “No one is saying that it’s going to be easy, only that it will be worth it.” Being a parent is not easy, and if anyone tells you any differently they are a fool and a liar. Only a fool taking the lazy path would make such a comment. Otherwise they would be checking those ESRB labels or making sure that the child knows right from wrong or talking with them as the watch a mature movie. Sometimes, they even do the hardest thing in the world that a parent could do to a child and tell them “No.

I know it is hard to say no to a child. I want to give my three kids everything they want in the world. I want to give them everything that I didn’t have. But I am not going to give in to my sons’ request to play Mortal Kombat, at least not just yet. They are smart boy and way beyond their years in maturity, but that is the kind of game that is better suited for them when they reach their teens; not quite grade school appropriate. They can cry and throw a tantrum if they want, I am the adult, I draw the line and what I say is acceptable for them to play and what isn’t is the law in my household. In time, we can play Mortal Kombat together, but for right now the answer is no. And that is what the majority of gamer parents do – we make the tough choices in the best interest of our children. We study the Rating and decide from there. We do not give in to the cries of a child because they are not getting the game they want. We do not pick up Gear of War III for Little Joey just because “every other kid has it” or “it is the coolest game out there.” Next thing you know, your kid is a playing a game you don’t approve of and you start to blame the industry for making a mature game and marketing it towards kids when you yourself didn’t do your job as a parent and ensure that what you bought your child was appropriate for them. If some parents would only step up to the plate and take responsibility for not making the right decisions for their children, how quickly would we see the end of scapegoating video games for society’s ills.

Richard Cardenas

Created in a lab in Tijuana, Mexico, or cloned in a test tube in Torrance, CA, depending on which story you think is a better origin story, Richard is, if such a thing exist, a second generation nerd. The son of a man who loved sci-fi, comic books and horror, and a woman who loved making costumes, reading sci-fi novels and watching cartoons, Richard was exposed to all this and more since a very young age.

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4 Responses

  1. John says:

    I agree, on a thematic level, with the opinion you have expressed in your column. However, as a writer, more importantly as a copy editor and most importantly as a parent, I am repulsed by the completeness of your arrogance. You speak from a position wholly uninformed by experience, knowledge and any valid standpoint whatsoever. An “oh-so-busy day of drinking and watching soaps and reality TV” is what childless people such as yourself have. I along with millions of other parents keep tabs on what our children consume, be it media, food, information, etc., and we do those things along with working a full-time job (perhaps two), working another full-time job (that would be the parenting; you know, that thing you casually dismiss as being simply watching soaps, reality TV and drinking — basically being you, but with a small person to ignore), and spending every waking hour thinking about the well being of their children. In your (cute and uninformed) column, you refer to a minority of parents, and ones who, at this point in time, don’t have the young children about which you write (people age, you see, and the problem you spend so much time bitching about isn’t much of a problem any longer; that’s why you aren’t inundated with stories about it like you might have been in the 90s, had you been literate at the time). But I would like to return to the core point: While your idea is sound, parents have a responsibility to actively determine what their children do and do not (metaphorically and physically) consume, your lack of consideration renders your particular opinion moot. In the meantime, talk about issues for which you have a basis of opinion — save your post-adolescent bullshit rage for discussions that don’t matter. Let your mommy and daddy field issues like this.

    • I am glad that you agree with my opinion on a themathic level, but further reading of your comment proves that you didn’t finish reading my whole little rant here. Or else you would have read that I am not childless and am indeed a parent of three beautiful young children who I spend the majority of my time caring for. I do my due diligence when it comes to what they read, watch, play,eat, etc. And that is in between shifts at my two jobs. One job is here at PopCults where I like using my personal column to vent such ideas. The other is as a full-time member of the Los Angeles Police Department, of which I have been a member of for the past 12 years. Of which is where I formed my opinion of the minority of parents out there who spend their days “drinking and watching soaps and reality TV” because I have consistently come across cases like this over the years and have witnessed first hand the after effects of their laziness as I process their juvenile delinquent children through the system. It is there, on the street and in the courts where I hear these same parents then ask the system for leniency because their child was affected by outside factors such as video games, music and TV. Which brings me back around to wondering how you managed to confuse my rant of a minority group of parents with parents as a whole. I know that the majority of parents out there take the time to do their responsibilities with no pause or break, the same as my wife and I do and how you describe yourself to do as well; but to say that just because we are not inundated with news stories as we were back in the 1990s, is also just as arrogant. Spend a day in my shoes and witness the callousness of some parents or watch as they ignore the basic physical, mental and emotional needs of a child and tell me that it still doesn’t happen then. Just because it is not in the news anymore doesn’t mean that it has stopped. So while I respect your comment here and understand your point, please finish reading the column before posting your comment. And please do not assume things of people. You assumed me to be childless, uniformed and arrogant – and while I will admit to be arrogant, if you would have read the column all the way through, you would have seen how wrong you were about the other two assumptions. But still, thank you for the comment nonetheless. Oh, just one more question: why take an obvious rant so serious that you would take offense by it?

    • And, because even if it is not the case, you still have organizations like Fox News ready and willing to blame video games for violent crimes like we just saw in CT today.

  1. Feb 4, 2013

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