Tyler White, 13 of Clovis plays “Perfect Dark Zero” on Wednesday at Cyber City. The game is rated mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. White says his parents observe him playing video games. (Staff photo: Andrew Chavez)
By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
The small screen displays a life-like animation of a senior citizen, complete with cane and flowered hat, casually strolling down a street.
The sounds of a booming stereo and squealing tires blast from the speakers. A young man enters the picture and begins pummeling the woman as he screams obscenities.
Columbus, Ohio, sixth-grader James Goodson was sitting in the North Plains Mall last Tuesday afternoon intently hunched over his game. James said he was in Clovis for the holidays visiting his grandparents. The hoodie-clad pre-teen gleefully controlled the simulated violence on the handheld game system with rapid finger movements and excited exclamations.
James said he received the portable game system and several games as Christmas gifts from his grandparents.
“I just made out a list of what I really wanted,” he said, “and they (grandparents) bought it.”
The freckle-faced blonde said one of his favorite games was called “Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas.” He said the goal of the game is to “steal the best cars and get lots of money.”
According to www.esrb.com, the Grand Theft Auto series of games is rated mature by the Entertainment Software Rating Board. This rating means the game is suitable for individuals who are 17 years of age or older due to graphic content including intense violence, blood, sexual content and strong language, according to the ESRB. The Web site also recommends checking the content descriptor located on the back of games, which gives a more detailed description of things included in gameplay, such as alcohol, nudity or illegal drugs.
James Goodson, who will turn 12 on Jan. 14, said he has been playing mature-rated games since he was 8. When asked if he considered the content to be inappropriate for his age group, he frowned and vigorously shook his shaggy head.
“You can pick up girls and make the car shake,” Goodson said. “But that’s no big deal because I’ve seen it in the movies like a thousand times.”
Goodson’s grandmother, Janet Baker, listened casually when her grandson described the games he played on a daily basis. Baker said she was unaware of the images the video games portrayed but was unconcerned her grandson was playing them.
“I don’t know anything about that high-tech stuff,” Baker said. “Plus, I trust my grandson to make the right choices because he is a good boy.” The silver-haired grandmother caressed her grandson’s cheek and said she plans to continue buying the games her grandson requests regardless of the rating.
“How bad can it be?” Baker said. “It’s just a silly game.”
Jared Garcia, assistant manager at Gamestop, said it is company policy to limit the sale of mature-rated games to individuals who are able to produce identification proving they are 17 years or older. “It is actually against the law to sell “M” rated games to minors,” Garcia said.
He said his employees are also trained to advise parents on which games are appropriate for their particular child. The assistant manager said there are many different types of games that carry an “M” rating. He used “Call of Duty” as an example. ‘“Call of Duty’ portrays realistic WWII violence,” Garcia said. “I think people of all ages could enjoy playing it.”
Garcia, who is also the father of two young children, said the ESRB ratings on games are designed to be used as a guide for parents.
“I really think it depends on the individual child,” Garcia said. “Some younger children are mature enough to play ‘M’ rated games.”
Garrett Haynes, 20, of Portales, was shopping Wednesday for new video games at Hastings. The soft-spoken college student said he considers himself a “serious gamer” and enjoys games from every genre.
“I really prefer games where I can blow things up,” Haynes said. “I think it is a great stress reliever.”
Haynes said he has been playing video games since elementary school; many of his favorite games as a child included those with ratings meant for older individuals.
“I think video games are getting a bad rap,” Haynes said. “Kids are smart these days. They know the difference between reality and fantasy.”
Haynes said parents should look at video games from a positive point of view. “Gaming develops great hand-eye coordination,” he said, “and parents could use it as an opportunity to discuss right and wrong.”
Garcia said one way parents can alleviate worries over inappropriate content is to play the games themselves.
“Without a doubt, if a game seems questionable then I always play it first before giving it to my kids,” Garcia said.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings are as follows:
EC — Titles rated Early Childhood have content suitable for ages 3 and up and contain no material parents would find inappropriate.
E — Titles rated Everyone are suitable for ages 6 and up. Titles may contain minimal cartoon fantasy violence and infrequent use of mild language.
E 10+ — Titles rated Everyone 10 and older may contain cartoon fantasy or mild violence, mild language and minimal suggestive themes.
T — Titles rated Teen are suitable for ages 13 and up. This category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood and infrequent use of strong language.
M — Titles rated Mature are suitable for ages 17 and up. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood, gore, sexual content and strong language.
AO — Titles rated Adults Only should only be played by people 18 and over. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and nudity.