Again, Exercise Some Control Over Your Kids

I brought home a Super Nintendo when I graduated from college. It had been in my room at the fraternity house and it followed me to my first apartment. The Super Nintendo had replaced my NES, which had replaced my Commodore 64, which had replaced my Atari 2600, which had replaced my Telstar Pong game. It was when I brought this machine home from college that I told my mom "I don't think I'll ever outgrow video games." And I didn't. Next came PC games, which I still play to this day. Then Playstation, then Dreamcast, then Playstation 2. I'm still dropping in at Best Buy after work to pick up the latest and greatest, and I'm 32.

And at 32, I'm only four years above the median age for PC and console gamers, according to the Interactive Digital Software Association. I personally know people who are over 50 and play The Sims, I regularly discuss gaming with people who are my age and older, and I think it's about time that people stopped thinking of gaming as something that only young kids spend time with. Those of us who grew up with Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision or what have you haven't stopped playing. I don't know of too many guys my age who don't have some sort of gaming device in their home, whether it's a computer or a console.

Yet, there's a huge uproar over the marketing of violent and sexually explicit games to children. The Grand Theft Auto series is taking flak every day, as are many popular titles. And once again, it's the parents who are making a big stink, crying "Won't somebody think of the children?!" and failing to take responsibility for their parenting.

Video games have a rating system, much like movies and music recordings. When a game has an "M" on it, it means the title is intended for a mature audience. And when you buy your kids rated M titles without checking them out first, you run the risk of exposing them to what many might consider inappropriate material. Period. There's no excuse for failing to take interest in the media your children consume or for failing to give them guidance.

But the parents continue to complain, saying -get this- that these mature products are being marketed to their kids and that their kids are asking their parents to buy these titles for them. And they want action - government action, specifically legislation.

I've said it many times and I'll say it again. The government is not a device to be employed to make the entire world safe for your kids. The first line of defense against exposure to questionable material should always be the parent. No one is forcing anyone to buy rated M titles for their kids. And some of us like coming home from a hard day at work and sitting down for a long session of stealing virtual sports cars and spraying virtual lowlives with virtual gunfire to blow off some steam. We appreciate that there are things in this world that adults should enjoy but kids should not. And I don't want my government telling me I can't have these things because if I have them, kids will want them, too. I don't care what your kids do when they come home from school, just as they don't care what I do when I come home from work.

So quit picking on Grand Theft Auto and all the other mature games out there. They're made for mature audiences and if you're uncomfortable with your kid having something that's made for adults, it's your prerogative (and duty) to use the word "no" every once in a while.