If you haven't read Wednesday's post about the BBC breakfast response to Call of Duty: Black Ops, you might want to.
Come to think of it, if you haven't had anything to eat yet today, you might want to do that, and if you haven't visited mainland Europe, you might also want to do that at some point. There's a whole wealth of things you might want to do in your life, but in relation to today's blog post, reading Wednesday's post is about the only requirement.
I haven't played the game yet, although I'll be interested to do so because (at the risk of sounding like the kind of person you'd feign illness to avoid at a party) I wrote my dissertation on fictional representations of the Vietnam war. You'll be happy to know I won't be discussing that today.
I've been thinking instead about some comments made by Mimsy McFretful (I will honestly write a blog post about any topic requested by the person who can tell me her real name) with regards to the traumatising effect on video game violence on children. Unlike the Cooper Lawrences of this world, McFretful didn't say anything preposterously ill-informed, although her approach was perhaps a little more sensationalist than the usual BBC Breakfast fare.*
What interested me in a wider sense were her ideas about whether or not children and young people should be exposed to disturbing content at all.
My official stance on this issue regarding video games is that they are provided with age-ratings for a reason. It is the responsibility of parents and retailers to ensure that a game clearly rated "18" should not be played by someone younger than that.
My personal stance is somewhat different. Not that I don't think we should take personal responsibility rather than blaming games companies, just that I'm not sure video game violence is as damaging to young minds as it seems sensible (at the moment) to assume it is.
That's a fairly complex statement, allow me to unpick. Before I do, you might like to read this interview with Cliff Bleszinski, lead designer for big dumb gore-fest Gears of War. Bleszinski compares the silly violence of Gears of War (in which players can bisect the heads of aliens with a chainsaw) to the cartoon violence of Bugs Bunny cartoons. I think he has a very valid point, although it's one which Mimsy McFretful might find it a hard one to swallow.
Not that I blame her (and I'm beginning to feel bad about giving her that nickname). Out of context, the bloody violence of a Call of Duty Game or Gears of War is pretty unpleasant.
I just remember that the freedom I had to choose my own video games as a young teenager was as valuable to me as the games themselves. Like a lot of 13 year old girls, I looked a few years older than I was, and video game vendors and charity shops are generally less concerned with age restrictions than (say) alcohol vendors. In general, no-one turned a hair when I rocked up to the counter brandishing a ten-pound note and a second-hand copy of Dino Crisis or Silent Hill.
Dark, unpleasant and violent though these games were, I remember being involved with them on their own terms. Not because they were taboo, not because they were violent, not because they stirred something base and animal within me, but because they were immersive, engaging and mine. They were a completely solitary experience that absorbed me absolutely.
Not that I wasn't also absorbed by less violent games, but the storytelling in the aforementioned survival horror games was infinitely more sophisticated than the episodic simplicity of the games that were designed for someone my age. (Sorry, Crash Bandicoot).
Again, that's not an absolute distinction, there are plenty of rubbish adult games and plenty of brilliant children's games, but my gaming experience would have been poorer without exposure to more sophisticated material that my ability to saunter into "The Th3rd Pl@ce" second-hand gaming exchange on Gosport High Street wearing a trench coat and eyeliner afforded me.
How sordid am I making my teenage years sound? Don't worry, I also baked a lot of cupcakes.
National Blog Posting Month doesn't really bring out the careful editor in me. This post is poorly presented. I might re-visit it at some other point.
*That is, less sensationalist than The Daily Mail (Fox News if you're in the U.S.) and more so than Radio 4's Today Programme. It is fairly disgraceful that I am not well-educated enough to namecheck the most reputable nationwide source of news in the U.S.. Can anyone from the U.S. help me out here? I realise it's all subjective.