Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Grand Theft Innocence

Yesterday, I took my boys to Blockbuster to rent a couple of video games.

Pubescent One has a new game system, which he bought with his birthday money. Unfortunately, he has only one game, with which they have all grown weary. Lacking a relieable source of income, he is unable to buy new ones, which cost anywhere from $40 to $60.

I do not buy him games. I refuse to spend that kind of money on a game that, once mastered, is basically worthless. I also find it absurd to pay such a princely sum for a small plastic disk. So he has little choice but wait for gift giving holidays or financial windfalls, both of which are lamentably rare.

I also don't spend money on video game rentals, because it too is expensive and because I prefer not to support or enable the video game habit. If I had my way, he wouldn't have a game system at all.

So this was a rare treat for both boys.

Pubescent One chose Grand Theft Auto; Diminutive One, Need For Speed. I didn't think much of either choice until we got to the counter. The clerk looked at Pubescent One, asessing. His expression became apologetic, and then his gaze turned to me.

"Ummmm, Ma'am, I should probably warn you that the content of this game is extreme."

I had no idea. And shame on me for not thinking to check the game rating. But this is kind of a new-ish thing. Until recently, he was content with sports games, Pokemon, and that one with the flute...Ocarina something. Checking warning labels just hasn't been necessary.

But Middle School, changes things.

"Really? How extreme?"

"Very. Extreme. Basically, everything that would be considered immoral and indecent is featured in this game."

I turned to Pubescent One and this time it was my face that bore the apologetic expression.

"Sounds like a big fat "no" to me Dude."

He was incensed.

"MOM! ALL my friends play it! It's not that bad!"

"Really? So this man is lying to me?"

He had the good sense to look sheepish.

"No. I mean, it's bad, but it's not that bad. Besides, I know right from wrong. It's not like a game is going to turn me into a criminal. PLEASE Mom?"

I debated for a moment.

"Tell you what...we'll go ahead and get it. But before you play it, either Dad or I have to preview it. If we decide it's inappropriate, it goes back, understood?"

He jumped at that, willing to do whatever it took to get that game into his hands.

"Deal" he said triumphantly.

At home, several things commanded my attention and I told him he would have to wait for his father to preview it. He grudgingly waited for Husband to come home. When he did, he was beseiged at the door by both boys, begging him to prove that my silly objections were unfounded.

To their utter dismay, he wouldn't and couldn't do so.

"Baby, I don't need to preview that game. I've read about it and I've talked to other parents about it. It's BAD."

"Like, how bad?"

" can pick up a hooker, make her give you a blow job, and then shoot her in the face."

I was horrified.


"Yep. And that's in addition to the buying and taking drugs, car jacking (hence the name), rape, murder, and extreme objectification of women."

"Why would they even make a game like that?"

Husband said wryly, "That's entertainment."

How thoroughly dismaying and disheartening.

First, that our society deems such violent, misongynist behavior entertaining, and second, that impressionable young men are being exposed to these ideals. Yes, I know it's just a game...but play is how our children learn. It's how they form the basis for their future identities. It's how they choose what to be and do.

If this game is glorifying such truly horrible and destructive life choices, how are they to understand that those choices come at a price? If this game is perpetuating the belief that women are objects; that they are expendable, disposable, worthless, how will they ever learn to value their mothers, wives and daughters? How will they ever learn to relate to them as equals?

They won't. They just won't.

I was well and truly disgusted.

Pubescent One knew that he was beat, but he tried to plead his case anyway. He promised that he wouldn't go to the clubs where the hookers are, he wouldn't go to the places where the drug dealers hang out...he would just carjack and shoot people.

He would just steal cars and lives. Just.

Husband and tried to explain our reasons for making him return the game.

"Look, Dude, it's not that Dad and I want to deny you the things you want. But we have a responsibility. I can't feel good about myself as a parent, if I allow you to be exposed to things that I feel are harmful. And this game is. Very harmful. I know you know right from wrong, but sometimes, that doesn't matter. It's hard to make the right choices under the best of circumstance, and stuff like this just makes everything more confusing."

"But you don't even see boobs or anything."

Though compelled to protest, his objection lacked conviction.

Husband interjected.

"Son, it's not nudity that Mom and I object to. There's nothing wrong with looking at the human body. And boobs are not a big deal. What is a big deal, is the objectification of women and they way they are treated in this game."

Pubescent One was silent.

"Do you know what "objectification means", son?" he asked.

Pubescent One shook his head.

I gave Husband the "I'll take this one" look.

"It means, using women for pleasure without considering their needs, their feelings or their safety. It means complete and utter disregard for their rights. It means treating them like animals or worse. It means not recognizing their value as human beings.

I paused for a moment for dramatic effect, and then I asked,

"How would you feel if someone treated me that way?"

"Pretty awful." he admitted.

"Do you think it would be fun to shoot someone in real life?"

"What? No! Not at all."

To my relief, he looked suitably horrified.

"So you understand, then...why we have to say no to this game?"

He sighed heavily and hung his head. "YES."

As he walked away, he muttered to himself, "Everybody else's parents let them play it."

And that, is exactly what worries me. I can shelter my children from harmful influences and warped ideals, but I can't parent the rest of the world. I can't keep the seeds of evil and hatred from germinating in somebody else's backyard.

With media and it's many mediums becoming ever more pervasive and ever less conscientious, I sometimes feel that I need to erect a barrier of morality around my children. But I can't. I can't shut them away from the world, as much as I would like to sometimes.

All I can do is give them the tools to recognize that which threatens to undermine our basic goodness as human beings and hopefully, reject it.

Do I feel that I scored a victory today? Sadly, I really don't. The battle may be won, but the war wages on. And only time will tell if my strategy has been effective.

Will you take up the cause with me? This kind of "entertainment" does nothing to help our children lead healthy, produtive, enriching lives. And really I want to feel good about the people that are sharing the world with my boys.

Don't shrug your shoulders or turn you head or tell yourself it doesn't matter if your children watch something, play something, sing something...sexual or violent or hateful.

Innocence matters. Goodness matters.


Don't let it be stolen from them.


Also, if you don't know about the Just Post Roundtable, please visit Jen or Mad to see the wonderful list of participating bloggers and their posts.

This is empowerment, this is activism, this is women making a difference. Blogging can change the world, and these ladies are why.

I feel privileged to be included in such an amazing group of women, writers, movers and shakers.


  • At 7:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Seriously? Holy crap. And good for you. Not just keeping him from playing that, but making him understand WHY. It makes me so sad to think about having to go through this with mine someday.

    In reference to your last post - I tried the Mineral Essentials you recommended a while ago and LOVE IT.

  • At 8:10 AM, Blogger SUEB0B said…

    You are hereby awarded the Suebobian Parent of the Year Award.

  • At 8:20 AM, Blogger mamatulip said…

    I remember when this game came out; Dave and I were quite excited to play it.

    Then we played it.

  • At 8:31 AM, Blogger Karen Bodkin said…

    I love love love the way you handled that. LOVE. If only every parent was as diligent.

  • At 8:41 AM, Blogger Middle Girl said…

    All I can do is give them the tools to recognize that which threatens to undermine our basic goodness as human beings and hopefully, reject it.

    I remember these battles with my own son & daughter. In fact, my daughter (22) and I had a similar discussion on the way to the train this morning.

    Yay to all efforts to stem the tide.

  • At 8:49 AM, Blogger Jackie said…

    It matters. Good for you, B.A.

  • At 9:01 AM, Blogger Kim said…

    I banned my son from playing this game anywhere - I told him if I found he had, he would be grounded for life or worse.

    I don't understand why this game is even allowed to be made and the really sad part? It sold more copies than even Halo 3 (VERY popular game) on it's release. Lots of sickos out there.

  • At 9:30 AM, Blogger Mysit said…

    Thank God. (or the deity of your choice) I was beginning to think I was the only mama out there refusing to let her teens and preteens play this game. My 15 yr old really wants to buy it and there's no way it will ever enter my home. EVER.

    Good for you BA.

  • At 10:18 AM, Blogger Cathy Burke said…

    Have you checked with "all his friends'" parents? Do his buddies actually play this? My 8 yr old is not into video games but his friends are starting to get into them and I worry about play dates.

  • At 10:54 AM, Blogger Gross|Photo said…

    Good for you. Right decision! No discussion needed. I think your son is to be commended for displaying common sense. "Would you like me to be treated like that?" No, he says and that shows something about your "fetching him up!" Well done family.

  • At 11:11 AM, Blogger Foofa said…

    As someone who owns GTA 4 and whose boyfriend plays it every chance he gets I have to agree that it is not for children. I also have to say that unless there are some cheats I don't know about you cannot pick up a hooker make her give you a blowjob and then shoot her in the face. (you can do that by using cheats in San Andreas which came out a while ago (not that i ever did it)) Sure you can go to the strip club and get a lap dance but they do stay clothes and there is no sex. Would I let my kid play it? NO WAY. Would I, who would never do any of these things in real like (nor would i do things in most video games) feel fine enjoying the story of course.

    The construction on the game is beautiful. They set cameras up all over NYC and recorded traffic flow to make it as realistic as possible. The work that went into it is outstanding. The main character is often conflicted by what he is asked to do and was dragged into this situation by his cousin and he can't get out. It's all he knows. There are choices in the game and they do make a difference.

    The video game industry is actually geared toward adults. The average age for gamers is 33 and only 31% of all gamers are under 18. There is a reason why systems and games cost so much, they are sophisticated toys for adults. If you have kids get a Wii, Nintendo games are much more cartoonish and better for kids. They are also incredibly fun.

  • At 12:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Bravo to you. This game scares the crap out of me & mine are too young to play it. I am willing to bet that "everyone else's parents" never took the time and effort you did to find out what's in this game. Well done.

  • At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My ex wasn't even allowed to play this game with my daughter at home (even if she was down the road) because of the content. My sister let my 11 year old nephew played it. And then I explained WHAT THE GAME entails and she was like "So what?"

    I know adults will play it and not go out and do the things in the game but somehow this kid ended up throwing tomatoes at cars in the middle of the night and other kinds of things that ended him in court.

    This kind of game is specifically for adults, no kids should even be within a mile of it being played just in case they walk in.

  • At 1:27 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    I am definitely with you, Mama. My 7 year old loves video games and is very limited by time and content. He doesn't like it, but I don't care. When he's 18 and goes out into the world to make his own decisions, I will rest easier if I know I've given him the tools to make the right ones.

    But I definitely feel your frustration where other less involved parents are concerned. Why have kids if you aren't going to parent? I just don't get it.

  • At 1:30 PM, Blogger Amy Y said…

    P.S. a great website for video game owners who don't want to spend tons of $$ on new games: ~ instead of buying new ones, you find someone to trade a game you'd rather have with the one you have to trade. Perhaps that'll be a good alternative for D.O.

    My husband uses it because I'm cheap and won't let him waste perfectly good eating out money on a video game :)

  • At 2:54 PM, Blogger Lara said…

    i was in a room of male 20-somethings all playing this game and i was HORRIFIED. and we're not even talking about children anymore, but grown adults who (theoretically) are responsible for their own lives and choices. i could not believe how cavalier they were being about the things being shown in that game. i was disgusted enough that i eventually had to leave the room.

    i don't think it even needs to be said, but you DEFINITELY did the right thing.

  • At 5:50 PM, Blogger TheMama said…

    I was nervous the second I read your title. I know what those games contain.

    TheHubby and I have lready agreed that he is to preview all video games, and our son is only 15 months old!

    I do not look forward to that conversation, but you handled it better than I can imagine I could.

  • At 7:33 PM, Blogger Green-Eyed Momster said…

    I had no idea. I'm worried about this GAME? It sounds just horrible to me. Who would make light of those serious themes? Yikes! Thanks for the heads up on that one. I will also say no if my kids want to play it!

  • At 7:45 PM, Blogger flutter said…

    seems like they aren't too far from the movies, are they?

  • At 9:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree 100% with your stance on this game. Good for you!

    And yet . . . , I thought it somewhat ironic that you let him watch a TV show that objectifies babies and treats them only as a burden.

    The reason teens shouldn't have babies isn't b/c it messes up the parents life, but b/c it messes up the BABY'S life. I know you know this, but that didn't seem to be the message you gave your son in that post.

  • At 10:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    While pursuing one or another graduate degree, I did a paper on violent video games. Research indicates that they are designed to addict children and they do indeed increase aggressive behavior. Good for you!

  • At 10:14 AM, Blogger Fairly Odd Mother said…

    I do worry about what my oldest (she's 7) see when she visits her friends' homes. One has two older brothers and very little supervision. Makes me think that I should host the playdates from here on out. I don't even like her to watch the teen Disney shows for crying out loud.

    And, good for you for not giving in to PO's pleading. It sounds like he is familiar with the game, so perhaps some of his friends' parents aren't quite so diligent. Sad, isn't it?

  • At 9:21 PM, Blogger Unknown said…

    This parent of an older teenage boy does not allow GTA in the house. Ever. Nor would I allow him to own it.

    Yes other kids have it. Most kids. But I don't care. I mean, if most kids jumped off a bridge would I let my kid do it too? No, I wouldn't.

    I've played GTA and I have to say, it IS fun. But it's disgusting. Just absolutely disgusting. Not only does it objectify women, it makes the players so numb to the fact that there are human beings that you just shoot willy nilly. You don't even believe in humanity after a while.

    Good for you for saying now. There are so few of us that do.

  • At 10:43 PM, Blogger said…

    Thank you.

    I swear, as I get older I become more and more of a hardass parent.

    And on top of having to ask "do you have a trampoline, a pool, a gun or a pitbull" I now have to wonder about video games with lapdancers.

    And I haven't seen the research, but intuitively, doesn't it seem that interacting in negative ways in a computer game is a step beyond passively watching on television? I don't know...maybe for some people it's a way to "vent" and actually decreases aggression, but...I don't know.

    However, it's not just the aggressive behaviors and interactions that bother me in lifelike situations, but, yes, the attitudes toward women. Good gravy, I know it's my job to raise strong and resilient young women who can navigate the world of sexisim and misogyny unscathed, but cripes, is it wrong to ask that my job not constantly be made more and more difficult? It is, as Jean Kilbourne said, as if the very air is poisoned and my only recourse is to keep teaching my daughters how to search out the clear air pockets so they can take a breath now and again.

  • At 11:02 AM, Blogger Canuckedup mama said…

    A couple years ago I saw a documentary on one particular video game that focuses on skateboarding. It seemed innocent enough to most parents but in reality it had a fair amount of questionable/suggestive content, especially having to do with women. I mentioned it to someone later that day and she was horrified - her 8 year old son LOVED that particular game but she'd never seen it herself. It's just not something she expected from games she thought were for her kids. Lessons for me for the future - at two, I'm lucky enough not to be there with my daughter quite yet.

    Kudos to you for drawing a strong line between what's appropriate and what's not for your boys. And I have to say, I'm also rather impressed with the Blockbuster employee bringing the issues to your attention.

    Excellent blog by the way...I've been reading for quite a while but am only just de-lurking.

  • At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was wont to leave a comment, as I do "let" my teenaged boys (16 & 18) play this game, which they bought themselves with money they made from their jobs.

    I admire you and your husbands' standards; I am also in awe of the fine way that you presented your case. Your strength of conviction is impressive. I wish that both my husband and I were on the same page with this. But without a united front, we have no power. And, quite frankly, I'm tired of being the bad cop over and over and over.

    So, they play - we discuss. I do not sense any untoward conceptions towards women from them, and believe me, if I heard something with my momma superhero ears, I would call them on it immediately.

    What I've come to learn is true after reading it somewhere, is that after a certain age, teenagers can no longer be directed, merely managed. By and large, I think I'm a pretty good manager, but time will tell as the oldest leaves the fold to attend University in another city this fall. Time will tell...


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