I need to apologize to the world for something ignorant I said last week. I declared kids can’t get their hands on “Mature”-rated games, because retailers won’t sell them to kids.
It’s true retailers are generally vigilant. I have never seen a kid buy “M”-rated titles at my local GameStop - but I’ve seen their parents buy them for them.
That’s the reality: Parents buy “M”-rated games for little kids - or for their older siblings, which is often the same thing.
This is not conjecture. Last week, I spoke to elementary school kids on career day - eight different classrooms of fourth- and fifth-graders.
Dozens of kids told me their favorite games are the franchises of “God of War,” “Call of Duty” and that old chestnut “Grand Theft Auto.”
Those “M”-rated games are decorated in blood-splattering brutality and/or murderous debauchery. They are fun games for adults. I love them. But elementary school kids?
Students told me parents bought these games for them or for their siblings. None bought the games themselves at a store.
Let’s play devil’s advocate: I’ve long argued violent games do not make me more violent. Instead, the games that physically upset me are the ones that are technically frustrating due to poor design.
The only time I have taken a disc out of an Xbox and stomped on it was, literally, a Mickey Mouse game that was so horribly designed, I got trapped in a level.
I’m not sure rational laws or retail rules will stop parents from buying “M”-rated games for little kids.
Parents also let kids watch violent TV shows and movies. That’s absolutely no different, in my view. As a former TV critic, I am the expert you are looking for to depart that wisdom.
The only significant difference is 99 percent of games (my estimation) have no sex. But kids see sex on TV, or online for free.
Having said all that, I have spent a decade telling parents to buy “E”-rated games for kids. (“E” is akin to “G”-rated.) I will persist in that regard out of, I guess, some crazy idea about boundaries and desensitization.
So today let me recommend an all-American, “E”-rated game for kids and adults: “Major League Baseball 2K12.”
I don’t typically love baseball games. I’m only average at beating them. But I like this game.
The baseball mechanics and motions are nearly perfect and intuitive to learn. I understood immediately how to effectively pitch, field, bat, run and steal bases.
It’s not too hard. It’s not too easy. Visuals are only above-average. That’s the knock against it.
But you can play in a season-long franchise. You can play virtual versions of real-life games-of-the-day, via your online hookup. You can compete against gamers online. You can hit a home run derby.
And parents can hand “MLB 2K12” to a kid and say, “Try learning the patience of waiting for a good pitch. There are no decapitations in this, my child.”
(“Major League Baseball 2K12” by 2K Sports) retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3; $40 for Wii; $30 for PC; $20 for PS 2, PSP and DS - Plays fun. Looks good. Moderately challenging. Rated “E.” Four out of four stars.)
Doug Elfman is an entertainment writer for the Las Vegas (NV) Review-Journal.