I am old enough to have existed in a time where age ratings for games were not a thing; but as they were introduced when I was 4, I haven’t known really know my gaming life without them.
But are they needed, and do they work?
The answer to this (in my opinion) is yes and no. They are don’t work because I have been asked my age exactly once whilst purchasing a game in the last 30 years, and no one seems to give a shit.
They are however, desperately needed.
I’m not just saying this for the obvious reasons about child development and protecting vulnerable children from content best left until adulthood, but I am also talking about protecting the adult players from having kids in what is supposed to be a child free environment.
Take GTA online for example, its rated 18 – but if you open voice comms in any lobby online you have little kids griefing, trying to piss off the adults and ruining the overall gameplay for everyone.
There aren’t many adults that grief in games, why? Because its how we decompress, and the last thing we need is for snot nose little Billy to be coming online thinking he all gangster and fucking up a $1million gun delivery because mummy & daddy bought a Shark card so he’s managed to get an Oppressor MK II without putting in any of the hard work to get one (that said there are some in the 18-21 bracket who behave like they are 12).
How can we be protected against that? Short answer – we can’t. Even if a child’s account is just that, parents just don’t seem to be able to say no to their children anymore. They will buy the games for the kids without making the connection that hey “I wouldn’t let my kid watch this film because its too mature” but yet will be fine with any of the missions they do in GTA (and let’s be honest, Trevor is a bit fucked in the head… not exactly an ideal role model, even if he is my spirit animals).
Its not just GTA either, I think of team games I play. The Fortnite child mentality will absolutely destroy a team if the kid throws it because it isn’t going their way. You can have the most organised 3 out of 4 in something like Dead by Daylight or Left 4 Dead, even RS6 – but you get that one fucking potato child and that’s it, game over.