As a parent, I'm very aware of the controversy that surrounds mature content that appears in video games. Does watching violence actually make people violent? This recently news story asks a similar question: "Are violent video games really a problem?"
Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, and a panelist [at Siggraph 2006] claims, "(The idea of violence caused by video games) is hype-based and not based on any actual statistical progression toward violence. It's not supported by real-world data. It's more a soapbox for politicians."
Rocca also addresses the gaming addiction clinic that recently opened in Amsterdam: "If a little girl spent hours reading Nancy Drew books, no one would send her to a book addiction clinic, because people perceive books as nutritional." The article continues, "Any isolated behavior is unhealthy, and parents should be looking into any addiction that could be a symptom of a bigger problem. But rather than focusing on video games, [Rocca] said, people should be focusing on the person with the addictive behavior."
Some audience members at Siggraph 2006 shared their concern about the lack of diversity in gaming. However, perhaps the problem is not as much diversity as it is advertising. "Games like 'Dance Dance Revolution,' which is peaceful and gets kids up off the couch, don't get the press or publicity of more violent games." OMG, I finally was introduced to Dance Dance Revolution last summer at my brother's house. It was his kids' game, but he held the high score. Did I mention that my brother isn't a small man? It wasn't violent, per se, but I don't think many people should ever move like that... (yes, I'm just jealous that he was better than me).
Personally, I think there's a fine line somewhere in the middle, and there's also something to be said about personality types and age-appropriateness. My son would LOVE to play mature video games and watch R-rated movies, and when I was single (read = when I didn't have anyone to answer to but myself), I allowed him to watch quite a few movies that are no longer on his "can watch" list. He's 10 right now, and so I wonder "when" is the magical age that it's ok to watch those movies and play those forbidden games? I'm not sure that I agree with the "not under 17" age guidelines, because some kids are mature way before that... and some adults appear to never reach a very high level of maturity.
Sonja Thompson has worked for TechRepublic since October of 1999. She is currently a Senior Editor and the host of the Smartphones and Tablets blogs.