Gaming

Study: Mature-Rated Games Worry Parents More Than Beer, Porn

Studies announced this week by What They Play, a parents’ guide to the video games their kids play, suggest that many parents are more concerned about kids being exposed to adult-themed video games than they are about kids viewing pornography or experimenting with alcohol.

Anxiety about video games superseded parental concerns about their children drinking beer or viewing pornography. As for the content of video games, sex appears to be more distasteful to parents than violence. Asked what they’d be most offended to find depicted in a video game, more parents responded “a man and a woman having sex” than “a graphically severed head,” according to the researchers.

“Although these findings seem surprising at first, they hint at fears parents have about video games,” said Cheryl K. Olson, co-author of the book Grand Theft Childhood.

“To some parents, video games are full of unknowable dangers. While researching for Grand Theft Childhood, parents we spoke with in focus groups often bemoaned the fact that they didn’t know how to use game controls and felt unequipped to supervise or limit video game play. Of course, parents don’t want their children drinking alcohol, but that’s a more familiar risk,” she continued

Video Games or Beer?

The initial online poll was conducted the week of April 4 and asked 1,266 respondents what they found the most offensive in video games. Of the four choices, depictions of a man and woman having sex were most offensive to 37 percent of poll participants. A little more than a quarter of respondents said two men kissing would be most distasteful. Twenty-five percent of poll takers chose a severed head as the most repugnant image in a video game. About 9 percent said multiple uses of the F-word was most offensive.

A second poll questioned parents about what activity they would be most concerned about their child engaging in during a sleepover. More than 1,600 people responded. While about half of those said they were most concerned about their children smoking marijuana, of the remaining 816 respondents, 19 percent said playing Rockstar’s “Grand Theft Auto IV” (“GTA IV”) was their main concern. Watching pornography and drinking beer came in at 16 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

“The deleterious effect of video games gets more press coverage than beer, so it makes sense to me. Also, most parents haven’t played ‘GTA,’ but most have had a beer. So they are less concerned about the devil they know than about the devil they don’t know,” Michael Pachter, a Wedbush Morgan analyst told TechNewsWorld.

Sparking a Conversation

The survey’s results appear to have received a somewhat hostile reaction from the gaming community. Several gaming and technology sites, as well as commenters on What They Play’s site, have questioned the poll’s use of “GTA IV” as an example, given the overblown and uninformed coverage they say the game has received in the media.

“Sounds like a lot of parents believing what they’re told by the media about these games, rather than having a look for themselves and realizing the sex-and-violence elements are blown out of all proportion,” wrote a commenter using the handle “wasteofspace.”

The decision to use “GTA IV” in the polling was a conscious effort to start a conversation about parents and the video games their children play, said Tom Sarris, director of corporate communications for What They Like, the organization that created What They Play. To have phrased the question about video games in general would have been “massively misleading” because video games as a whole range from family-friendly titles to mature and adults-only games, he told TechNewsWorld.

“We specifically chose the game [because] it has emerged over the history of games as the most controversial of games out there. It is a game clearly marked ‘mature,’ but there are still parents out there who don’t understand that and their kids are playing it,” he explained.

“It’s been interesting, the conversation that the press release has sparked. It’s certainly one of the intentions. For us, we want to create dialog amongst parents. We certainly didn’t set out to be hyperbolic about it. We just simply wanted to report some of the findings we had in our community,” Sarris said.

What They Play conducts regular polls, frequently in response to real world-events, said Tom Byron, What They Like’s vice president of marketing. The first poll in early April was inspired by the controversy surrounding “GTA IV.”

“Instead of asking the question in the most basic terms, we put a little bit of twist to it. We asked our question in a more interesting way. In the case of the second , it was done the same way,” he told TechNewsWorld

Parents who are concerned about the games their children play should “get to know about the game so that they can draw their own conclusions,” Sarris said.

2 Comments

  • I can’t believe this topic keeps being brought up. I am 33 years old and have been playing video games for at least 20 years. These video games are designed for MATURE adults. Thats why they have an M rating. If more parents would lock down their kids game systems, the kids would not be able to play these games. I think that parents are the ones to blame. I have a sister-in-law that lets my nephew (11 years old) play GTA IV and I don’t agree. When my nephews come over to my house, I put away any game that I don’t think is appropriate. He says that he plays at his house but I don’t care. Its my house, my rules. Its bad parenting that is hurting the gaming industry, not the games……

  • I am a PC gamer, so I know alot about games and their themes. GTA IV is nasty and horrible for any one to play. I am 19, and I support all the parents in this article, and I say, "No more sex related stuff in our games." Keep sex for marriage only. Thanks

    Biothrawn

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