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Friday, October 31, 2014

This Parent's Perspective: Response to Nerdist On Retailers Selling M-Rated Games



Right off the bat, I am going to say this.  Your Mileage May Vary.   I am not your kid’s parent, and you are not my kid’s parent.  What I am about to say is going to totally misalign with your views and that’s OK.  This is merely the perspective, and really an opinion, on how I am raising my child who happens to love playing video games.

Last week, Nerdist: Play published a story about retailers’ selling M-Rated games to underage kids.  It talked about how the author watched a kid buy The Evil Within and how to deal with that occurrence.   The question asked was “Was there anybody in the wrong for what happened?” 

The response?

No. 

Why? 

Because parenting.

While I agree in the hypocrisy of saying a kid, today, shouldn’t be sold a game for which I clearly would have bought and played at a young age as well (circa 1987), I also have to say with complete awareness of how clich├ęd it sounds, “It was different in my day.”

Let’s flashback to the 80s when Atari and NES were the big names in video game consoles and look at this further.

As a young kid, I had a vivid imagination.  I knew there were no such things as monster under the bed or vampires or zombies, but my mind could certainly conjure up something more viscerally disturbing than anything Stephen King, Clive Barker, or even David Lynch could put on paper or screen.  Quite frankly, what you couldn’t see scared me more than what was actually shown.  I saw Poltergeist and Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, and Evil Dead 2 at a young age and those films scared the piss out of me.    Hell, the scenes in E.T. where the government scientists descend upon Elliot’s house were the stuff of mindmares when I returned home from the theater to a darkened house.   But, I survived.  I watched Die Hard in the theater and I was only 14 at the time.    So, while my imagination was overactive when it came to coming up with scare worthy thoughts, it didn’t spill out into the real world with me stringing up and torturing neighborhood animals or other children.  I did not become Ed Gein or Buffalo Bill.  Why?  Because my parents still had a grasp of what I was out doing and even though I did watch those scary movies… and *blush* I did sneak a Playboy or Hustler from another friend as well as rent low budget R Rated movies like Galactic Gigolo from my local video store when I couldn’t find something salacious on HBO at 2 in the morning.   I think I turned out fairly normal as an adult.   And, I have a 7 year old daughter who clearly shows signs of evil genius which means my parents failed me.   I was most likely going to follow their lead raising her.

Here’s the thing, though.   The amount of material available to me in the 80s is a far cry from what there is now.  Yeah, I did see my fair share of nudity, violence, and drug use on film and television and other media, but the level of “depravity”, as some would call it, were ridiculously tame compared to stuff today like The Human Centipede and The Evil Within.   Now, that’s not to say that the same genre of movies or video games were available in the 80s.   After all, I Spit Upon Your Grave was made in 1978.  Custer’s Revenge, an adult themed Atari 2600 game, was made in 1982.   The difference was that there was no real easy way for a child like me to get ahold of those items when I was a kid.  Furthermore, Custer’s Revenge, while a depiction of nudity and sex between a man and a woman was still rendered in all the glory of Atari graphics, so it’s laughable if not even recognizable.    

It was just a different time when we were preteens in the 80s.   It was a time when Married With Children, The Simpsons, and Beavis and Butthead were deemed too hot for TV.  The amount of jaw dropping luridness seen in those shows was about as shocking as an exposed ankle would be to someone in the 1970s.  This was only 30 years ago, people.  We now have Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead on television.   

That’s the difference.  Today’s level of realized creativity has exponentially multiplied as has the manner in which to depict it.   It would be no different than reading H.P. Lovecraft in the 60s.  So, I ask, which is worse, the imagined horror that had to be filled in with your brain reading Lovecraft, or seeing a depiction of his work on screen today?   The availability of that work is also mainstreamed.  The Internet has a wildfire mentality that has yet to be controlled and parents are still catching up to and combatting the circumnavigation of such restrictions over what their kids shouldn’t see.    My own daughter has accidentally rented movies OnDemand, albeit nothing bad.  Yet, I give a decent amount of leeway like my parents did.

When she was two years old, she faced the mortality of humankind when we lost her grandmother to a brain hemorrhage.   There was such a close bond and we didn’t sugarcoat the information.  She saw her in the hospital, hooked up to life support.  She watched her go through chemotherapy the past year.  She was well aware of the world of doctors and illness and what can and may very well happen to others she loves.    Shortly after that ordeal she became very interested in fact that her grandfather and I would play video games to pass the time (Keep him busy).  And, because it was such an easy controller, we played the Wii.  Titles ranged from Call of Duty to Big Game Hunter to, yes, House of the Dead 2 and 3.  And my own kid sat there and watched us play it.   She was fascinated by it, not scared.   One day, I had flipped to Comedy Central and Ghostbusters came on.  She immediately latched onto it and enjoyed it.   She became a huge fan and I decided to use it as a teaching moment about the difference between reality and fiction.  I grabbed my DVDs and we watched the behind the scenes stuff as well.  She watched how they made the ghosts.    I simultaneously demystified the movie magic I so adored as a child in the hopes that she could understand that these things were entertainment and not scary.    She enjoyed a lot of my movies from childhood.  She loved dinosaurs, so we watched Jurassic Park and The Lost World.   Clearly the child could differentiate between movies and real life.  She had an understanding of what was going on and it neither scared her nor scarred her.  She saw me playing Minecraft and loved the creativity.  She just started playing Fallout 3.   She keeps bugging me to get Skyrim.  She has joined me in creating videos on YouTube and solo played.   She has a knack for entertainment and humor that I never had at her age.   She’s hilarious.   Like I said, my parents ruined me. 

But I do monitor what she does, to a point.   I won’t let her watch me play Grand Theft Auto, at least with the sound up.  Then again, the subtitles don’t help so I am careful.  I won’t play Last of Us in front of her.  I won’t let her watch The Walking Dead or play other games that I feel may be too close to realistic depictions of violence or gore because I know she has that same level of imagination that I had.  I recently played Gone Home, which I realize has no scary imagery in it, but it does unsettle me every time I hear a noise in the game.    So, I pick and choose which level of stimulation she is exposed to.  And, like the video from Nerdist says, even if Target doesn’t sell the kid the game, they can go watch a walk through of The Evil Within on YouTube with full gore and burning children.  How is it any different?  

Should the retailers care about selling M-Rated titles to underage kids?   Yes, they should.  I know.  It’s the parents’ responsibility to police their child’s actions concerning such items.  Well, should a bartender serve a child alcohol simply because it’s not their responsibility to police the child?  Should a 7-11 sell them a Playboy or a pack of cigarettes?  No.   And I’m not cool with retailers selling my kid M-Rated games.    While it’s not their job to police my child, it is their responsibility to not contribute to the delinquency of a minor.    If I so deem it acceptable for my kid to play a game that is M-Rated, then I will buy it for them.  And while I don’t necessarily agree with the rating system for movies and video games, I will make the final call for the time being, because I am the parent.  The Evil Within may be 13+, at best, I don’t know.  Kids today can handle a different amount of that kind of stimulation than in the 80s.   Would I be pissed if Target sold my kid an M-Rated game?  Yes, in theory, but probably not, depending on the game.  I would make sure I found out why it was M-Rate before my kid got deep into it. 

As a parent, I am the first and last line of defense when it comes to my kid’s wellbeing and I am doing what I can to educate and prepare her in that sense.  We have far too many more things out there that can harm.  They are more widespread and more easily attainable than when I was a kid.    This level technology that has exploded in the past 20 years is simply moving faster than we are.  We did not prepare ourselves when it dropped into our laps.  Sometimes I think we opened a Pandora’s Box of issues when the Internet became available but there’s no way to stop it.    However, there does need to be a buffer in place to handle the little things.    Every little bit helps.   To be overly sensitive about it helps no one.   Being a douchebag about censorship is just as bad as being one about freedoms and civil liberties.     In the end, you are the one that has to deal with the Fallout.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ouija, Tetris, and other So Bad Let's Make Them Movies About Games



Battleship was merely the tip of the bad idea iceberg set to run aground and destroy us.   There is a Tetris movie in the works and this Fall, Ouija slides its way into theaters.

So, I thought.  Why not beat the machine to the punch.  Here is my list of the SO BAD LET’S MAKE THEM MOVIES BASED ON GAMES

Christopher Nolan’s Reversi
Hungry Hungry Hippos 2: The Purging
Martin Scorcese’s Monopoly with Daniel Day Lewis playing Rich Uncle Pennybags
Joaquin Phoenix stars in UNO, a film by Spike Jonze
Judd Apatow’s Ants in the Pants
Russell Crowe squares off against Christoph Waltz in Terrence Malick’s RISK
Quentin Tarrantino’s Grindhouse double feature Trivial Pursuit/Scrabble
Rob Zombie’s Candy Land
Liam Nesson in Sorry!
Michael Bay’s Perfection 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How To Remove Unwanted U2 Downloads From iTunes




There, I fixed that for you.


So, there was this thing where Apple automatically downloaded an entire album onto your iTunes.

To be fair, during the Apple event they stated, “We’re giving every user a free album.”  However, what they didn’t say was that they were going to go ahead and just push it into your iTunes account.
Yup, they did it.  They didn’t sugarcoat it.  They didn’t say, “Available for download.”  They just gave it to you whether you had the space or not.  They pushed it to you whether you were roaming or not.  (AT&T has a $19.95 per megabyte download charge if you’re roaming and download it.

Now, is it your fault?  Yes and no.  Did you have your settings set to allow this to happen?  Maybe.  But does that matter?  No.   

The problem we, as consumers, face is we buy something because we want it or think we need it, but do we really have control of it?  It doesn’t matter if we pray at that house of Jobs or go with the other devices, your account is a shared ownership.   You bought or acquired the device.  They provided you with the content.  Who owns what?   Most corporations will tell you that you only license the product, you don’t it, much like people found out from Sony when they wanted to keep Linux on a PS3.   You don’t own your games.  You don’t own your music.  These are the arguments that go on infinitely among nerds and anarchists.  Present company included. 

But, we buy into the hype.  We have to have the new thing.  And because we buy these things or get them or sell our souls to have them, we need to take ownership and really find out what it means to have them in our lives…. EVERY SINGLE FACET OF OUR LIVES.  I know I found that out when I couldn’t carry the games I purchased for $10 on my old LG EnV2  and the couldn’t be transferred over to my LG Cosmos thus rendering my phone into a handheld gaming device.  So, if you are concerned about the reach Google has into your browsing or Facebook has into your private lives or Apple has into your pictures on their cloud… do a little research before you just shut up and give them your money.

By the way, if you want to remove that album… here you go.
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