Some things are better unrealistic
Posted by aogTuesday, 28 December 2004 at 14:20 TrackBack Ping URL

As a parent, I am confronting the issue of what computer games are appropriate for my children to play. One of the things that’s become clearer to me is why so many other parents worry far more about sexual content than violent content. I haven’t really changed my opinion, I have just become aware of why I have always been more restrictive of the former than the latter.

It is a standard liberal position that it is wrong to be biased against sex more than violence. After all, wouldn’t you rather your children be out having sex with other people instead of killing them? Even those who are very prudish still think it is OK for a husband and wife to have sex, but not for them to be violent with each other, so why be more restrictive with sexual imagery than violent imagery? Don’t I think it’s normal and healthy for my children to have sex once they’re old enough (and married)?

I realize now that these reasons, rather that mitigating against my bias are actually the reasons I have it. I hope and expect my children to grow up and be intimate with their (future) spouses. I do not, however, expect them to find high powered rocket launchers laying on the ground with which they need to defend the Earth against invading hordes of armed and hostile aliens. Giving them unrealistic expectations or distorted views of how to defend themselves against such hordes will have no effect on their actions in the real world because it’s not a situation they’ll ever encounter. Distorted or unrealistic expectations of sex, however, are far more likely to have a negative impact on their ability to deal with the real world precisely because they are going to be engaging in such activity in the future. While I don’t have much respect for the “children can’t tell the difference between games and real life” (if a child can’t, then that child has much bigger problems that the particular games the child is playing), I would still prefer to err on the side of caution.

Therefore I am far more concerned about my children learning from video games how to pay off hookers than how to hit an opponent around a corner with a shock rifle combo. I am certainly not going to give game violence a complete pass, but on the scale of things that would cause me to forbid a game, overt sexual content is always going to be a much bigger factor than violence.