Title: We card because we care.
Posted: October 09, 2007 (01:02 PM)
Every time I go to the convenience store down the block, the same little sign catches my eye. "We card everyone who appears under 30." If video game retailers used similar cautions, I wonder what age they would use. 18? 30? 60? In some cases, the age can't go high enough.
Checking IDs when selling mature-rated games has become commonplace for most game retailers, as the unemployment checks of some careless clerks have proven. All but the smallest retailers have iron-clad policies on the matter, but GameStop has its wrapped in titanium. Absolutely every person, regardless of age, has to be checked for ID. It doesn't matter if you are a WWII vet with an oxygen tank slung on the back of your scooter. No ID, no sale.
I suppose we have to weed out the youngsters and their tricky disguises, but does grandma need to suffer for it? The other day, I witnessed a startling transaction, or lack thereof. A woman, maybe 55, was doing a little shopping. The cashier had Halo 3 bagged up and the woman was signing for the purchase when she made a grave mistake. She let it slip that the game was a present for her grandson. The cashier retracted the bag and dutifully stated that only a direct parent could buy a mature-rated game for a minor.
Outrageous, but completely true. In fact, you can expect to get carded for nearly anything with the faintest relation to Halo 3 at GameStop - strategy guides, controllers, and even the Halo-edition headset, which is painted a disturbingly violent shade of green. The precautions have stretched so far you can't even see the borders anymore. As one anyonymous employee said:
"They're taking this thing too far. They're telling us to be the parents, even when the parents are standing right f--king there. And if mommy and daddy don't like the game grandma bought for Christmas, they can just return it anyway. I don't get what they're trying to prove."
What ARE they trying to prove?
Ask upper-management at any retailer why they check ID and the response can always be summarized with, "Because we care." It is hard for me to believe that a retail-mega-giant like Wal-Mart is suddenly making a run for a humanitarian award. This is the company with a history of carrying sweatshop products and economically destroying entire communities. Brotherly love has nothing to do with the furor for ratings. It all boils down to the bottom line.
Authorities have long kept a suspicious eye on video games, and after the tragedy at Columbine in 1999, the spotlights have been turned to full brightness. Nevermind that no psychologist, sociologist, anthropologist, or any other gist has yet to prove the link between video games and violence. What matters to retailers is making sure that they don't sell the game that "inspires" the next school shooting.
If retailers truly cared about the well-being of our youth, similar restrictions would be placed on all products. A few months ago, a 14-year-old could have walked in to Best Buy and purchased the horrendously violent film, The Devil's Rejects, and Shortbus, featuring numerous scenes of real, explicit sex, and no one would have batted an eye. The reason he he can't do it now is because Shortbus has been discontinued. Best Buy's standards have not.
I stand by the ESRB ratings, but their implementation in retail settings, and their relation to other mediums, needs to be standardized. At this pace, the ratings are quickly going to become more of a burden than an aid.
Posted: October 09, 2007 (01:31 PM)
It's really stupid. A while back, I bought Elfen Lied at Best Buy... An anime filled with titties, violence, blood and gore. I didn't get carded. Resident Evil 4? That got me carded. Let's disregard the fact that in Elfen Lied people get dismembered and left for dead on a regular basis and a lady with horns tears off someone's head with her mind. RE4 is much more violent because you have to push buttons to kill monsters. Oh noes!
Posted: October 09, 2007 (01:43 PM)
Grandparents are typically clueless. Kids ask for gifts they know their parents won't like because they know there's a chance the grandparents won't check, and that a whiny hissy fit will rule the day when the gifts are opened. Kids are scheming little bastards who know how to work things to their advantage and don't care a bit about the resulting stress it can cause other family members.
I agree that the process should be standardized. I think that buying violent games should be handled approximately the same way pornography is handled. After all, how is violence any less harmful than the sight of an attractive woman minus her shirt?
If I want to go into a store and buy porn, I can. A 13-year-old cannot. If a parent goes in and buys his child porn right now, he knows just what he's doing. All of that is good. If a parent goes in and buys Halo 3 right now, there's a good chance he doesn't have a clue what he's really buying. He might not even care that he's buying a violent game, but at least he should know. The ESRB needs to continue expanding its efforts to educate parents on the meaning and value of ratings, and retail needs to continue enforcing the ratings.
If 10 years from now they find conclusively that violent games inspire violent behavior (though I don't believe they do) and we have streets filled with kids acting out Halo 3 and Grand Theft Auto with real weapons, I'll feel a lot better if parents can say "Well, at least we knew what we were buying them."
In conclusion, I agree that retail isn't enforcing the ratings for the right reasons. If they're keeping 13-year-olds from picking up Grand Theft Auto and Halo, though, at least the parents are more actively involved. Parents that don't care what their kids play will just buy the games for them, while the ones that do have another safety net. That's good.
Posted: October 09, 2007 (03:16 PM)
<3 Elfen Lied
<3 that this overkill is limited only to the 'states. Here people are free to buy what they please (within limits: whereas age certificates on agmes were once widley ignored, ID checks to happen now and younger kids are tunred away from the gorier games. Halo 3, however, is rightly sold to anyone with the funds) and if a child is subjected to something they shouldn't be, the blame is placed where it belongs. The parents.
The only way this costs us is with a see-saw classification system. In some aspects, we have a omre forgiving board than over the pond and in others, much stricter. Manhunt 2 being on it's third 'tone down' to try and get classifies over here is a great example.
I don;t buy this crap on video games prompting copy-cat behaviour, anyway. I play the hell out of the Hawks games and have no desire at all to hop on a skateboard. Why should this be any different to the Res Evils and the Quake 4s?
Posted: October 09, 2007 (04:20 PM)
I can't imagine why anyone would announce who they're buying a game for. I doubt the clerks really care personally.
"I'm buying this copy of Oblivion for my JAPANESE GIRLFRIEND!"
Posted: October 09, 2007 (04:51 PM)
I know that violent shade of green you speak of, it haunts my dreams.
Posted: October 09, 2007 (11:20 PM)
Genjuro has a Japanese girlfried, and her name is Cheeto Crunch.
Posted: October 10, 2007 (02:23 AM)
My Japanese girlfriend is hotter than your Japanese girlfriend.