June 27, 2011
In Response to the Supreme Court Ruling: A Plea to Big Brother
Today, thsoundman brought us the news that the Supreme Court has ruled that video games are protected by the First Amendment. While I personally feel that this is a landmark achievement for the credibility of video games as an adult hobby, as well as a turn for the positive in the decisions of the United States government, it will put a bit of pressure on the parents to more closely monitor their children’s video game playing. This got me to thinking about the usage of online multiplayer and other social media by those same children, and I came to a conclusion: Social media and mainstream online gaming are such new things that few parents know enough about them to be able to accurately monitor their child’s usage of them. However, in many households across America, there is one key member of the family that knows more about these two things than the rest of the family combined: The older brother.
My parents are fairly young, and in-the-know enough to realize the inherent dangers of unregulated internet usage. Still, with enough pleading and promising to be responsible, at age 12 I was able to get my own email address, begin playing some popular free MMO’s of the time, and have my first taste of online shooters with Halo PC (a game which changed my life, definitely for the better). Fortunately for me, this was before Myspace existed, so I had plenty of time to be introduced to a method of communication known as the online bulletin board, or “forums” as most of you probably know them. Over the years, I became an Internet animal, but in a surprisingly good way; my “friends” (who I only knew by screennames) taught me the value of not giving out crucial pieces of information, and I witnessed firsthand what happened to those who gave out the wrong information and angered the wrong people. Hiding behind a number of different “1337” monikers and a .gif avatar of a recolored Final Fantasy sprite, I had an absolute adventure across the Internet which still continues to this day. I know there are thousands of you out there, about my age, who share a similar story to mine. This is my plea to you.
Many of you have a little brother, little sister, or little cousin. Chances are this child, however young he or she is, has a cell phone, a Facebook page, a gaming console which he or she uses online, or any combination of the three. I charge you with making sure that this child grows up right with games and social media. That child’s parents probably have no idea that your character is able to have sex in the Fable and Mass Effect series. That child’s parents have no idea that with a Facebook album of a preteen pool party and a little Photoshop, people on the internet can and will do horrible things. That child’s parents might not know what “eRP” means, what happens when you delete System32, and that online multiplayer has a tendency to generate cursing. But you do. I leave it to you.
On the other hand, there are some parents (possibly the ones behind the Violent Video Games case in the first place) who believe that every video game is a blood, gore, and sex spree. These are the parents that are convinced that everyone on the internet other than their child is a pedophile. These are the people that actually took Duke Nukem seriously. These parents might not have any idea that there are plenty of other kids that play games online all around the world, and how much cultural value there is in befriending them. These parents might not have any idea how easy it is to learn a foreign language while interacting and playing games with foreigners online. These parents might not even stop to think that the skills their children are learning online whilst playing video games, both soft (teamwork, communication) and hard (server management, scripting), can give them a technological edge in a world where almost every career is increasingly reliant on the Internet. But you know. I leave it to you.
Brothers, Sisters, Cousins, Neighborhood Friends, all of you who are in your teens or early twenties and know one child who is in that awkward phase, hear me. Their parents might be completely ignorant to the dangers or benefits of gaming and the Internet. You are the one who knows. You’re still in your “cool phase.” That kid will drink up everything you say. Talk to them. You damn sure know what you’re talking about.