Thursday, January 18, 2007

Letter to the Editor: "Too Graphic for Kids?"

I sent the following to the editor of the Toronto Star, and I figured 1) I read the Star online so I may never know if it is printed or not, 2) It sounded like something I should put in my blog. I did fact check myself, and it is a pretty short letter (although longer then there requested 300 words,) so while not my largest, nor my best reasoned, post, but its a post, and you haven't got one for a while.

A friend of mine often reminds me of a sign he once saw posted on a beach, the sign read “Parents you are responsible for your children.” In its context it meant that there was no life guard on duty, but neither is there in life.

In this age it seems that we try and place blame and responsibility for our actions, and the actions of our youth, anywhere but where they belong. We see US attorney Jack Thompson sermonizing on the immorality of video games and the violence they sometimes contain. Hilary Clinton beseeching law makers to punish game studio’s for content that they never released (in the case of the Grand Theft Auto ‘Hot Coffee’ modification.) All of this with in the assumption that these games are affecting our youth, all though Statistics Canada (presumably an authoritative source) has reported a drop in both property crime and violent crime every year since 1991 (except 2004.)

As a life long gamer, and a life long non-violent person I have become angry and frustrated (as many of my colleagues and friends) with the brush we are often painted with in the media. Our games have not made us murders, criminal or antisocial; they are just a different form of entertainment, one I personally think to be more engaging and stimulating then passively watching television. I strongly agree that the content in games should be fairly assessed and rated, but only to serve as a tool for parents.

I ask for parents to do for your children what mind did for me, take an active interest in your children’s interest, and you be the judge of what content you feel your children are mature enough to handle. The ratings should act as a guide line for what is in the game, and its up to you to decide if it is appropriate. If you are a parent and you’re just not sure, check online, or ask the staff at a specialty retail store (EB, Microplay etc) they more often then not are passionate gamers who can give you more information, or even show you what the game contains.

In closing to combat all the negative press, two gamers started a charity in 2003 for gamers to give back. They initial goal was to gather toy and cash donations for their local children’s hospital, so that children going through a very difficult time would have something to play with. The response from gamers was so overwhelming that the charity grew each year to more and more Hospitals. This year gamers raise over a million dollars in donations for over 25 children’s hospitals world wide, including our own Sick Kids. For more information about the charity you can look them up at childsplaychairty.org.

Sincerely

Geoffrey Peart

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