The other day, my son and I went to the mall to get dinner. As I headed toward our favorite gyro place (which probably also happens to be the slowest), he asked if he could go to the gaming store and look around. He'd earned twelve dollars the previous weekend and it was burning a hole in his pocket.
He returned just as the gyros came up with a used game (the best deals are used) called Ghost Recon. As we made our way back to the car, I looked at the cover of the game and its rating - T for Teen. Apparently it used to have an M (mature) rating, but no one was buying it, so they reworked it a little to get the T rating. Besides, says my boy, he wouldn't be able to buy an M-rated game without a parent with him to okay it. Which is a good thing. You don't know what might be in one of those M-rated games...
Back at Christmastime, I bought the family a used XBox360 and some games to go with it. I spent quite a bit of time looking at games and quizzing the knowledgeable young man behind the counter about them. I explained that I was looking for games for an 11-year old who was both savvy and naive, as 11-year olds are wont to be. This line of inquiry opened up a whole new world to me. I discover that the M-rating is kind of overkill - like how the FCC makes you flag or edit certain words or scenes to get a rating. Words like "F**k", "S**t", and "God" (when combined with certain other words) all have equal ranking in the world of FCC rating requirements. Apparently the same can be said of video games.
I did wind up buying my boy an M-rated game - one that everyone is playing. Halo. My husband and son played the heck out of that game and now we have Halo II and other variations (except the newest one, which is still too expensive). The game depicts shooting and alien creatures and a little blood, but isn't overly gory.
Which leads us to my son's current favorite game, Fable II. It also is rated M for Mature: Blood, Language, Sexual Content, Use of Alcohol, Violence. Again, I asked the knowledgeable young man behind the counter about the rating - especially in light of the Sexual Content aspect. I was already familiar with the type of Blood, Language and Violence I could expect, but the sex thing was new.
It isn't graphic, but sex is indicated in several ways. Skimpy costumes (but no one gets naked). The ability to "have" sex, which also has repercussions, like babies or disease (there is also the option to have "protected" sex with a condom you find in treasure chests scattered through out). Because it's a role-play game that starts in youth and the character grows up throughout the game, it's natural that some of this stuff be included.
My son cracked me up when he told me that after having sex with his "wife", her happy meter went up.
We talked a lot about this game and the sexual aspect of it. What prostitues were and what they did and why that was different from having a wife. Who knew that video games would be the new launching point for the birds-and-bees discussion?
Being 11, though, the sex part is interesting - but not as much fun as having your own dog that is your constant companion throughout the game.
(Note: My son informs me that there are games with A-Ratings for "Adult". You don't see them in the game stores - unless they keep them behind the counter like dirty magazines of olden days - but could probably get them online or at an "adult" bookstore. Thankfully, he doesn't seem at all interested in those so I am spared that inquiry for the time being.)