About five years ago I bought my son a PlayStation console. He had received some money for his birthday and decided to buy a game. Off we went into town to a well-known music shop, where he and his sister purchased a game with a picture of a car on the front.
"We got home, put the game on. It was all about stealing cars, robbing banks and shooting people. I couldn't believe my eyes. I took the game off them and put it in the bin. I should have done more about it at the time, but I was horrified. My son who was about six and my daughter nine, had queued up and paid for it themselves; I was waiting by the back of the queue. The assistant had sold an ‘18' game (I didn't even know games had ratings on them) to my two children.
"I believe these games should be much harder for kids to get hold of. The Government has a responsibility to our kids to do something about it.”
I have always been strict with my boys PS2 games but many of their friends have games like Grand Theft Auto which is an ‘18' and has violence and I believe rape in it!
"I personally can't see why committing crimes is an enjoyable game. My lads' favourite just now is Need for Speed which is car racing. They do have some superhero games which are ‘12' rated (they're nine and 11), but the fighting in them isn't too graphic. It's like DVDs - some parents allow their kids to watch adult movies... our local Spar where we rent DVDs is strict and won't allow kids to rent a DVD unless accompanied by an adult no matter the certificate.”
I think parents are more aware now of the ages on games and the shops are more aware selling them. The trouble is, parents can give in to children for a quiet life or think ‘it's a game, it can't be that bad'.
"I think there should be more restrictions put on adults buying them and they should not be so readily available. Maybe it should be an offence to let an under 18 year-old knowingly play one of them.”
Some of the games are rated higher and show no real reason why. But that's why I ask the guys in the store what the content is. They are usually the best people to know – I won't allow violence that is ‘realistic'.
"It's a very personal thing - I have certain cut-off points - and with my son I don't mind him hearing certain swear words, as I know he would never use them. But I don't, however, let him play Tekken - as I saw one level where the man was battling a woman, and I couldn't stand it. For me that was too much. So Tekken is banned. There's nothing in it but fighting.”
The problem is the game is only illegal to sell if it has ‘18' in a red circle. There are two different game rating classifications. if it isn't in a red circle then to sell it isn't an offence. The ones with ages in grey boxes are only a guideline age at which the person playing should be able to understand... but it isn't against the law to sell it.
"In my opinon if you don't want you children to buy unsuitable games then go with them when they buy them and say ‘no'.
"There will always be parents that unfortunately buy them because their child throws a tantrum and won't shut up about it. But if parents aren't strong and don't refuse them, then kids will be exposed to awful things that parents don't want them to see.
"I used to work in a video shop. If a child bought a game with a 15 in a grey-shaded box then technically I had to sell it to him. However, I would always explain to his parent that there may be content in it that could be more grown-up than the child could understand. When selling the games with ages in red boxes we would always ask for ID as it was illegal to sell them to underage children.
"And I had plenty of these games when I had a PS2. Doesn't mean I wanted to go out and rape and pillage. It was only a game. But that's just it, isn't it? For a child a game is like real life and that's why they have ‘18' tags on. Hopefully most 18 year-olds click on that it's not real and just for fun. It doesn't mean you'd condone violence and abuse in real life.”