Recently during my son’s game time, he asked about some of the games on my XBLA account. He’s played several of them already, but he wanted to find out about a few of the others since he’s a little older now (the ripe old age of 6). I took a moment to show him Marvel vs. Capcom, and he initially thought that it was really cool that he could play as so many of his favorite superheroes. When he saw the gameplay, however, the excitement seemed to fall away.
“Dad,” he said, “I think this game might be too violent for me.”
While I was originally taken aback, I ended up being very proud of this action. Even with the potential fear of disappointing his father, he expressed his concerns about the game very clearly. I also felt that I understood his perspective because my views on games were (and are) very similar. Though I’ve never been much of a fan of horror films/games, I do feel that I was exposed to too much violence in my own childhood. I loved war films as a child, and you couldn’t tear me away from a fighting film. This has desensitized me in ways that I don’t like, and I’m pleased to see my son pushing back against it. I remember taking such a stand once against a friend about a horror film, but I was 14 at the time; my son did it at 6.
I once had a discussion with a younger relative about violent games, and I thought it might be applicable to post it here. Without including the name, here’s what I wrote at that time:
I think it may be best if you wait until you are older. I know you like the ninja themes and the darker material, but games like that can go a long way toward desensitizing you to the violence that they portray. That’s is generally not healthy at this age.
I know it may seem OK now, and it may seem unfair that your friends can view things that you can’t, but there is a reason why your parents don’t want you seeing it: you lose a little bit of your own empathy for people when you are exposed to such violence at an early age. You might not feel the loss, but it occurs (it’s similar to the way you don’t necessarily feel it the moment you catch the flu from someone else. It still happens). You are very good with people, and that rare talent is a byproduct of your empathy. Try to guard that empathy very, very closely, and stay away from those games for now. I was 20 the first time I played Tenchu: Stealth Assassin, and I thought it was one of the gorier games at THAT time.
Now, I’m not posting this to toot my own horn about providing guidance to youth. I’m posting it to show how proud I am that my son’s default position is to guard his own empathy in this way. I don’t think he realizes that is what he is doing, but that doesn’t matter; the fact that he is willing to take a stand for his ideals is what I like.