Since becoming a mom, I’ve become all too familiar with popular attitudes toward video games. Since I’ve worked in the industry for 10 years, most of my friends and acquaintances were people who played games as well. Unfortunately, very few of those people have kids, and more specifically babies. Because of this and the desperate need for social interaction that involves more than high-pitched baby talk and being vomited on, I’ve entered the world of the Moms’ Groups.
When meeting these other moms the inevitable question of what I do for work always comes up. “I’m a writer,” I say. “Oh, what do you write about?” they continue. “Video games.” Most of the moms I’ve met think this is totally cool, even if they don’t play games themselves. But then there are the others – the ones who lift their eyebrows and casually decide to talk to someone else, or worse the ones who feel the need to tell you that games are the root of all evil, and that you’re a terrible person and mother for fueling violence into our kids.
These debates don’t rattle me because I’ve built an arsenal of knowledge to counteract the common misconceptions about games. So, if you ever find yourself needing to defend your hobby, try these myths and facts on for size.
Myth #1: Games are all violent murder simulators.
Fact: Despite all of the attention they get, Mature games make up a very small amount of the entire library of games. According to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, in 2010, only 5 percent of all games made were rated M for Mature. The majority of the games made – 55 percent- were rated E for Everyone. Violent games that involve killing other humans are ALWAYS rated M, meaning they’re intended for games aged 17 or older, just like R-rated movies. While E-rated games may contain a little bit of violence, it’s always of the cartoon variety and is no worse than anything you would see in kids programming on television.
Myth #2: Games make kids violent.
Fact: While it’s true that excessive exposure to violence in any form can change the brain in subtle ways, no one is going to suddenly become violent from only playing a game. Other factors play a bigger part, such as psychological disorders and social problems. You can also point back to the first myth. Violent games are not intended to be played by kids. The rating system is in place to make sure parents know what their kids are playing.
Myth #3: Kids can buy M-rated games despite the rating.
Fact: According to the Federal Trade Commission, from 2006 to the present, game retailers have a done a better job checking for ID than movie theaters, DVD retailers, and music retailers. It’s much easier for kids to get into an R-rated film, or buy an R-rated DVD or Parental Advisory-labeled CD than it is for them to buy an M-rated game.
Myth #4: Games have no educational value.
Fact: First of all, there are tons of games out there whose sole purpose is to educate. Games based on popular kids’ franchises like Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street always have an educational component. But even games that aren’t designed to be educational can help kids in a number of ways. They encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, and can help to develop hand-eye coordination. They can even help your speed and accuracy when making decisions. Check out this Wall Street Journal article for more.
Myth #5: Playing games makes kids overweight.
Fact: Obviously, sitting on the couch all day whether you’re playing games, watching TV, or reading a book will have a detrimental effect on your health if you don’t get enough exercise to balance it out. But now, game makers are now actively making an effort to produce games that promote movement. The Wii started the trend, but Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have followed suit with their Kinect and Move add-ons respectively. Even games that aren’t solely designed to be fitness games can help you get a work out. The Dance Central series is a good example. Games don’t make kids gain weight on their own – a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are the real culprits.
Armed with these facts, you can educate other moms about the truth about games. Most of them have simply only believed what they hear on the news, which is often very one-sided. As gamers, we can help the industry get the respect it deserves.