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At the time of this writing, we are just hours away from the release of "controversial" new video game Bulletstorm in North America.
Recent reports by Fox News have targeted Bulletstorm for it's "over-the-top violence, strong profanity and crude sexual innuendos" and states that it the game release means that Bulletstorm "will be unleashed on an unsuspecting public" as well.
They even quote a psychologist by the name of Carole Lieberman who they brought on to make some pretty harsh claims about Bulletstorm and other Rated M video games.
"Video games have increasingly, and more brazenly, connected sex and violence in images, actions and words," Lieberman stated. "This has the psychological impact of doubling the excitement, stimulation and incitement to copycat acts. The increase in rapes can be attributed, in large part, to the playing out of such scenes in video games.”
Another source used by Fox in these reports, (in which Fox states that they are "exposing" the game), states that these games are marketed toward "young adolescents and children."
Really? Are they now?
Bulletstorm is Rated M for Mature by the ESRB, a voluntary ratings board that has provided content-based ratings on video games for a number of years now. The ESRB ratings are clearly stated on both the front and backs of all video game packaging, not to mention their official websites and advertising materials.
Apparently Fox News decided to overlook the fact that the average age of a video gamer in North America today is 34 to 35 years old, according to studies, and that these types of games make up less than ten percent of the games released.
Apparently the Fox News reporter who has aimed to make a name for themselves by targeting Bulletstorm does read other sources. The latest follow-up article posted about the game on Sunday explains that "the gaming press reacted violently" to the first Fox News report.
Perhaps they did, Fox News. But they did not "react violently" to the fact that you dared question a video game. Nope. They reacted to your complete and total lack of journalistic integrity and failure to offer the "fair and balanced" news coverage that your organization supposedly provides.
As a lifelong video gamer and a parent of two, I am in complete and utter shock that such "journalism" could be published for the general public to consume. Yellow journalism is far more dangerous to an "unsuspecting public" than any video game would be. The fact that this assault is being made on a video game that has yet to be released further causes me to suspect that Fox News is simply attempting to gain ratings and website traffic by releasing this one-sided story. A new release will clearly gain more search engine results than an existing one, such as Call of Duty: Black Ops.
The fact of the matter is not that Bulletstorm's violence might cause children to rape and pillage and go on a shooting spree. Clearly, the game is not made for children. Young kids should not play Bulletstorm any more than they should watch Kill Bill or Pulp Fiction, (which, by the way, are not as clearly marked with a rating as Bulletstorm and other Rated M games).
The responsibility here lies with the parents. It's not up to Fox News to "expose" Bulletstorm. The mere fact that they feel they have to do so shows the biggest problem. If my oldest son, who is beginning to take interest in video games, tells me that they wish to play or purchase a game, I can quickly determine if it's a game he should own and play. The box will tell me in about three seconds.
If Fox News wants to have a shrink come on the air and speak about the ill effects a video game could have on a child's mind, why don't they go into the needed direction?
How about Lieberman shares with us the psychological effects of parents who allow television and video games to act as babysitters? How about the psychological effects of parents who pay so little attention to their kids that they can play a game clearly inappropriate for them without the parents being aware of it or the content of the game?
As a gamer, I see this more often than any of Fox News' supposed experts. After all, I am willing to bet cash that none of the "experts" who have been quoted by Fox News know a thing about video games. Somehow none of them come off to me as anyone who has actually studied the video gaming culture or industry outside of skimming over a statistic sheet.
Go onto XBox Live and play Black Ops at 10pm on a Wednesday night for long enough and you'll come across some 12-year-old kid at some point. This 12 year old, who should not have access to this game as it is, will be screaming profanities and racial slurs across his XBox headset.
Where are the parents of this young child? How does a child that age scream such things while playing a violent video game without a parent being aware of it or supervising it? This is just one example of the lack of responsibility by the parents.
That's not on the video game industry, Fox News. That's not on the retailers who sell these clearly labeled games. That's on the parents who don't bother to do their jobs and keep their children away from products not made for them.
Bulletstorm will be released tomorrow. Parents, it is up to you to keep this game out of the hands of your children. It was not made for them to play and is not appropriate. The package is clearly marked as such. The game consoles that play the game have a history file and parental controls, so you really have no excuse.
I seriously doubt you'll ever hear Fox News put the responsibility of keeping Bulletstorm out the hands of children on the parents. They are naturally going to try to make this game and other games like it the scapegoat in a society that has gone on to contain far too much fear-mongering blame on such things.
Did you get fat? It's the fault of McDonalds. They made you eat there. Did your 15-year-old daughter get pregnant? Oh, that's the fault of these TV shows. You get the picture. It's not hard to see it if you look past the media-driven propaganda created by "news stories" such as these printed by Fox News.
Parents need to do their job to keep such games away from their children. It's not the job of Fox News to "expose" something that is clearly marked, it's the job of those parents to do that work themselves.
I'm confident that at least some parents can and do. Far more confident that I am in the ability of Fox News to actually report where such responsibility actually lies.