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Game Ratings: A Lesson from A. O. Scott

I was looking at the NYTimes the other day and ran across a piece by A. O. Scott on movies for kids. Scott made some nice observations and drew some common sense conclusions about the movie rating system when it comes to judging whether a movie is appropriate for a specific child.

These are complicated questions, and it is not surprising that the ratings by the Motion Picture Association of America, which vaguely suggest guidance and offer strong caution, are not much help. They can give some clues about language, violence, sexual themes and on-screen drug use, but the ratings cannot possibly predict how words, scenes and images will interact with the tastes and sensitivities of young viewers.

Scott grasps the core of the problem inherent on being over reliant on ratings when picking entertainment for your child. Ratings are vague and don’t take into account each child’s maturity or a given parent’s willingness to help the child process the harder parts of the film.

And of course the ratings contain no warnings about stupidity, cynicism or reliance on cliché, attributes that many parents – this one, at least – find as offensive as naughty words, “intense action sequences” or “thematic elements,” whatever those are.

Scott’s ultimate solution is to be an active participant in your child’s life (and sometimes even in the lives of other people’s children). Discuss the movies with them. Help them appreciate the finer moments, and talk them through the scary or confusing parts. Basically, be involved in your child’s life and be involved in their consumption of entertainment (and even Art).

Why can’t people be this sensible about videogames?

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