If you've followed my posts here at OpenMarket.org or at my personal site, you're well aware of the fact that I have a soft place in my heart for jumping all over any attempts by government to regulate video game ratings or content. I always emphasize that we already have a great system in place with the ESRB and that it should be up to parents to decide what is appropriate for their children. Parents should take advantage of parental controls on their kids' gaming systems to lock out games that have content unsuitable for children. That being said, I feel obliged to praise the story of an individual who has avoided simply taking a superficial glance at what his child is playing, and has instead taken an honest interest and engaged their child to broaden his horizons on a subject. Such a story is that of Hugh Spencer, a friend of Boing-Boing writer Cory Doctorow. Spencer describes a confrontation with his son's love affair with Call of Duty. Some of us in this very office share this love affair, so we know just where he is coming from. Hugh was a little concerned with the first person shooter-aspect of Call of Duty, and he was a little concerned about the violence. The game was given a T (or Teen) rating, and his son was just thirteen years old. On the other hand, Hugh, as a museum exhibition designer, was familiar with the content and felt it was historically accurate. And even though the shooting and explosions concerned, him he knew that was the reality of World War II. So Hugh set down with his son. He took the opportunity to talk to him about what was going on in the game and made an agreement with his son:
I asked Evan to google the Geneva Convention. Then he had to read it and then we had to discuss it. This we did. So the deal is that Evan has to fight according to the rules of the Geneva Convention. If his team-mates violate the Convention then play stops and Call of Duty goes away for a while.What a fantastic example of using a video game for a teaching opportunity. And this is likely just one of many instances of good parenting that we don't hear enough of. This is also evidence that the ESRB works for parents, who should take note of the ratings system and watch what their kids play. Who knows? This just might open up more learning opportunities outside of video games based on the content of the game. Bravo, Hugh!