GAMES BAD FOR KIDS
Copyright 2001 www.guardian.co.uk
[ December 16th 2001 ]
will be among the most sought-after presents this
Christmas, but Britain's bestselling video games
have become so violent and sexually graphic that
they are unsuitable for children, according to
new research. A children's rights group says games
such as Tomb Raider , Final Fantasy and Crazy
Taxi should be certified with stricter adult ratings.
Its study reveals most feature scantily clad women
or violent foreigners, which reinforce stereotypes.
by Children Now, the year-long study, called 'Fair
Play? Violence, Gender and Race in Video Games',
examined the 70 bestselling games in Britain and
the US - available on Game Boy Advance, Dreamcast,
Nintendo 64 and Sony's PlayStation2. The report
discovered that 79 per cent of games targeted
at children aged six and up contained some violence.
In all, 48 per cent of video games contained serious
acts of violence. The research reveals that in
none of the games were players punished for killing.
report finds that children as young as six are
at risk from a desensitisation to violence," said
Lois Salisbury, president of Children Now, based
in Oakland, California. "With the greater sophistication
of the newer consoles there is a great realness
to the games themselves. The violence is much
more brutal and com bined with the better quality
of effects, the games have a richness we've never
seen before. I think parents would be surprised
by the levels of violence."
organisation has raised concerns with games manufacturers.
"The games that we looked at seemed fairly consistent
in terms of their violent content. And we found
a short supply of positive images - either male
or female. You have to wonder: how much of this
kind of violence should kids be seeing?"
games and their effects on users have always been
controversial. A recent study found that when
video game use among eight- and nine-year-olds
was reduced to under seven hours a week for 20
weeks, their verbal aggression decreased by half
and their physical aggression decreased by 40
per cent. And amid recent concerns over the stan
dards set by the entertainment industry, September's
scheduled release of Grand Theft Auto 3 , widely
considered one of the most violent games ever,
was delayed in the aftermath of the terror attacks
on New York.
where video games are subject to a ratings system,
psychologists warn of increased levels of graphic
violence and the effects on younger gamers. "There
is a greater degree of involvement because of
the greater capacity of the newer consoles," said
Dr Sandy Wolfson of the University of Northumbria.
Wolfson admitted that research on behavioural
patterns of children was inconclusive. "But there
is available evidence that suggests that the newer
breeds of increasingly sophisticated games encourage
solitary behaviour among children and even tendencies
head and programmer Don Whiteford, of Liverpool-based
Rage Software, said game manufacturers provided
a diverse range of products. "You get all kinds
of simulation games these days, like Sim City
where people can design their own cities and even
run them. Those are simply old-fashioned dolls
house games for girls that have been taken to
the next level."
in games is not the only concern for children's
rights groups. Children Now's research showed
females accounted for only 17 per cent of all
characters and were twice as likely to wear revealing
clothing. Wolfson said: "You need only look at
Lara Croft. While it can be argued that she was
a model of empowerment for many girls, it was
undoubtedly men who fell for her obvious charms."