Violent media has long been a scapegoat for societal ills: from the 1960s through to the 1980s, conservative reactionary Mary Whitehouse waged a one-woman war on social liberalism – essentially, freedom of expression – with a Helen Lovejoy-esque rhetoric of, “Won’t somebody please think of the children!?”, through to the Video Nasty controversy during the Eighties, which saw films like I Spit on Your Grave and Driller Killer banned from home release in the UK for decades.
Even today, the victimisation of adult content continues unabated with the news that Northamptonshire Police in the UK are calling for “Adult Only” video game ratings, and stricter controls on their sale, following an investigation that suggests 42% of children under 5-years-old surveyed have seen violent images that have “affected them”.
Despite PEGI ratings already certifying an 18 rating, which have been legally enforceable since 2012, Police seem to be blaming game makers and retailers rather than parents for children getting their hands on games containing mature content, saying, “Gaming industry needs to play a more proactive role in helping parents protect their children from disturbing content, as new report shows primary school children as young as five deeply affected by graphic images.”
According to the Northants Police site, “The report found that 26% of children had accessed games that they knew they were underage for with over one in 10 children aged 11 saying they had downloaded Call of Duty.”
Northants Police’s solution is that “Video games that ask players to participate in extreme acts of violence such as massacring civilians and torturing people should be labelled ‘AO’ (Adult Only) to warn parents they are not suitable for children,” as though they don’t already know under the current system.
Police accuse game developers of creating controversy to sell games, with Adam Simmonds, Police & Crime Commissioner for Northamptonshire, saying, “Controversy creates cash. However, today’s report shows that children as young as five are being subject to graphic scenes while playing video games that have left them feeling extremely upset. Many parents might not be fully aware that these games contain such disturbing scenes. It is time for the industry to play a more proactive role in protecting young minds.”
But the plan is utterly redundant since games are already tightly rated through the European PEGI system, it seems Northamptonshire Police is itself courting controversy in order to pass the buck.
Thankfully, the investigation does not go so far as to suggest that video game violence provokes real-world violence, so I don’t have to crack out my “playing chess results in regicide” joke.
Source: Northamptonshire Police