No, I’m not talking about Star Wars.
The video game industry receives a large amount of bad press about violence and other such issues and politicians in the past have tried to pass bans on such games but have failed, thankfully. That doesn’t mean I condone violence, however. So what is the dark side of the game?
I’ll be going into some of it below, some things to watch out for as both a player and a parent if your children are active in the online world and gaming with others.
Violence within games
Its obvious by now that there are many violent video games out on the market. Probably the most controversial being the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Yet is also one of the highest-grossing franchises in the industry as far as sales go. It goes without saying that games have a rating system much like films or TV programs.
The ESRB is one such group responsible for these and the ratings go from 3+ all the way up to mature only. There were some cases where games were actually banned in certain countries due to the amount or type violence contained within them. Manhunt is a classic example. The game is either banned or has rating refusals in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea and other nations.
However, despite this, there is NO confirmed link between violence in games and people committing violence in real life. Despite some people trying to claim such.
But the ratings are there for a reason and should be taken note of when buying games as presents for your kids. I’m of course not telling folks how to parent, but if you buy little billy an 18+ game and he gets nightmares from the content then you only have yourself to blame.
The online world: be aware who your kids game with.
There are many games that are dedicated or aimed towards a younger audience. Minecraft and Roblox are two major ones. But these are not just harmless kids games they play for entertainment, both games have access to the online world where other people are.
And while in the vast majority of cases this is completely harmless and people can have fun experiences within the game world and make friends online they can play regularly with. There is a darker side where adults use these online interactions as a chance to groom children.
Frightening, isn’t it?
The best way to reduce the risk of this is to monitor the times your child is online and who they are speaking to. Do they act differently when they come away from the game, do they mention things that sound suspicious? Keep an eye out for these and remember, games are meant to be fun and enjoyed. But there are risks to everything in modern times and it’s up to us as responsible adults to look after those younger than us and protect them from people like this and to keep out hobby safe and inviting for others of all others.
Multiplayer lobbies, have a bar of soap handy.
Multiplayer games often have a lobby outside of the game world itself where people gather before an actual match is launched. FPS games have these, where people will join a game lobby as it waits for others before there is enough to start the match depending on the settings of the host.
Why do I say to have a bar of soap handy?.
Because there is A LOT of smack talk within these lobbies. Name-calling, racism and other hateful things to name a few. But why does this happen? Some people hate losing, some people are bad winners. And some people, well, some people are just assholes.
Luckily games have inbuilt features where you can mute other players so you can’t hear them anymore, and if it’s text-based chat then profanity filters are commonplace to block out the words. Is there any other way to control this?
Unfortunately, not really. People are people at the end of the day and unfortunately, you’ll join some lobbies where there is more than one bad egg that runs their mouth. The human brain is conditioned to remember bad experiences more than the positive. However, there are FAR more positive experiences out there to have online and I can say from personal experience that all the bad I’ve mentioned is few and far between. The good does outweigh the bad. And if you’re having a bad time, simply leave and find another lobby to join.
The Elephant in the room: Lockboxes and Micro-transactions
I mentioned these in a previous article and how much I am not a fan of them. I realize that businesses need to make money, but there is a worrying trend among publishers these days to put unrelenting pressure on developers to get the game out of the door with a we’ll fix it after release mentality. But you’ll notice that in the majority of these games that are shoved out of the with lacklustre content and bugs, the cash shop always works perfectly fine. Funny that, isn’t it?
While these might seem harmless, companies have spent millions on research to gear these practices to take advantage of natural human traits. Which is why they are so predatory and are coming under heavy scrutiny by governments. They take advantage of children and those with addictions to gambling.
The triple A gaming industry has become awash with micro-transactions and it’s massively diluting the quality of the games in my view and it’s some that the industry needs to work towards counteracting rather than embracing. Thankfully, there are some lone developers out there that are still making quality content without trying to milk the customer for all they’re worth after the initial purchase.
If there are all these concerns, why bother?
I realize this article makes gaming seem like a minefield, particularly in the online world. And I won’t deny it can be. However, it is also a majorly rewarding experience and you can build an amazing network of friends from all over the world to share the fun with.
As with anything, there are precautions and limits everyone should be aware of, particularly parents with young children. Always be aware of who your kids are talking with and gaming with. Gaming should be a fun and entertaining experience and it is. The good vastly outweighs the bad.
Remember to have fun, stay safe, and happy gaming!