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Letting kids play violent games

Ever since I can remember, kids have been getting into video games by the time they were seven or earlier. Back in the day, the eight bit era, the most violent games were not violent at all. The original NES had pixelated, unrealistic graphics, and no blood-spilling to worry about, so parents didn't complain about violence. But then, in the early �90s, there was Mortal Kombat. Parents were outraged at the �extreme� violence. Now, the Mortal Kombat games are nothing compared to the modern first-person shooters like Quake and Unreal, and other incredible games like Grand Theft Auto III. Parents now actually have a legitimate concern in allowing their kids to play games like GTA3.

I've been playing Mortal Kombat since I was nine years old. I was really mature enough to handle it. Many years later I am not screwed up or incredibly violent as a result. I also played Quake at a young age. Now, as an older gamer, GTA3 and The Mark of Kri are my "games of choice." They also happen to be very gory games. No matter what I played as a youngster, I do have a problem�-a five-year-old brother who wants to play the same games as I play. Here comes the worst part-�I usually let him play.

Yep, he's five years old and he plays Unreal Tournament, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 2, and even Grand Theft Auto 3. In fact, he's been playing Unreal Tournament since he was four, and he's really good at it. Once he played in an online game and got first out of five people.

I know you're asking what the heck is wrong with me and why am I letting a toddler play M-rated games? Well, I have a few reasons. For one I want the little guy to be a gamer like his older brother. Video games also keep him occupied when I am busy (which is often). Also, he enjoys playing. He hasn't become an excessively violent person as a result, and he hasn't become stupid from playing games, either. He has actually learned quite a lot from video games. My brother learned how to read numbers 1-6 thanks to Mario Kart 64. He learned 7-100 from Grand Theft Auto III because of the health meter. He just asks me what the number is and I tell him. Now he knows them all.

Now do I think all young children should be playing video games like Unreal Tournament and GTA3? No. Some kids shouldn't play these games at all until they are mature enough to handle them (usually age 10-12). Games like this should only come in moderation for kids who can handle it. First, though, the child playing extremely violent games should be taught well right from wrong and life from death. If the child knows that video games are not real and knows that he should never do any of the acts in real life that are performed in video games, and he truly understands this, then he can handle violent video games. Also, if the child's behavioral patterns change for the worse, then the child should not be allowed to play these video games until he can behave properly, which can take many months, if not years for some children.

So am I telling you to allow your children to play bloody games? No. In fact, I am telling you that it is probably a bad idea. All I can say is if you do let them play, be very cautious about it and make sure they don't carry ideas from violent games to real life.

By Nate Weaver - 08/26/02

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