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January 2017 Retro Gaming Article

January 12, 2017 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

Are Retail clerks the new "bar tenders" in the fight against underage game purchases?

M-rated video games
I'm not sure underage gaming can be equated to the perils of underage drinking, but my town is trying it out.
During the purchase of an M-rated game the clerk asked to see my ID. I had to stop and think for a second as I've never been carded for buying video games. I couldn't figure out why he needed my ID. Regrettably, my days of being mistaken as a teen are long gone, so it's been a while since I've been carded anywhere - let alone at a GameStop.

I've had several clerks alert me to the M-rating of a game, but always as a cautionary acknowledgement - no ID required. There have been a few times when I've seen the same warning given to a parent buying an M-rated game for a small child. It astounds me when the parent shrugs and buys a renown violent game for a 10-year-old. To each their own...

So, I remarked that I'd never been asked to verify my age over a video game purchase and asked if there had been a recent change in the law. He said no - the change took place about a year ago! Apparently, my town has equated underage game sales with underage drinking. In other words, a GameStop employee caught selling GTA to a fourteen-year-old could lose his job among other things.

The area's bars and restaurants are wary of underage drinking because the police often send decoys into these establishments to ensure IDs are being checked. I used to object to that sort of sting operation, but seeing the accidents caused by drunks kind of necessitates doing something to keep it in check.

Having said that, I have to do a lot of introspection to see how I feel about a similar categorization for video games. We live in a society where people will get drunk and drive down the highway texting friends from their phone. With that level of stupid in the general populace, I guess there needs to be some accountability. But games seem different.

Custer's Revenge for Atari 2600 The ramifications of a young teen playing a violent video game speaks more to an evolving issue than an immediate one. A drunk driver can easily kill someone as soon as they get behind the wheel. A kid playing an M-rated game isn't susceptible to causing harm in the same manner or likelihood.

The media likes to perpetuate a link between violent video games and actual violence without any proven connection. Reporting on heinous crimes seems to involve mention of the perpetrator's passion for gaming - as if that explains their criminal behavior.

Many have fought hard to advocate for video games and showcase the positive effects of video games. But such arguments entangle many more issues than gaming should have to defend.

I've always viewed the ESRB's ratings guide as just that - a guide. Similar to movies, I know my son can see most PG-13 movies, but I need to be very selective for R-rated flicks. The same is true for video games. I know games and have a pretty good idea of what is appropriate for my son.

Some parents know nothing about games and it may be helpful for them to get a high-level overview of a game's content. That sounds reasonable to me. When a store clerk is fearful an undercover cop might try to bust him for selling a video game to a kid... Well, that's not right. It's a guide. Be a responsible parent. Cops should be arresting murderers, not clerks.

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