Are free online games too violent for kids these days?

Joel Bakan wrote an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times yesterday titled “Games People Play” about violent games kids are playing online for free.

As pointed out by Mr. Bakan, for all the hubbub surrounding the Supreme Court’s recent decision that strike down California’s law banning the sale of violent games to minors, the fact of the matter is that people can play violent games online for free, with no age limitation on free online game sites.

A lot of these sites have the look and feel of casual game sites, but when you actually look at the games being offered, a lot of games would not be considered appropriate for children of all ages.

How inappropriate? Game examples he cites on Nickelodeon’s AddictingGames web site include Beat Me Up, Bloody Day, and Boneless Girl.

Mr. Bakan is clever to focus on AddictingGames because it’s a web site owned and run by Nick Games/Viacom, is quite ironic. However, violent games are only a small part of the site’s catalogue and AddictingGames is not alone in offering such games. Go to any flash games web site where anyone can play for free and with no age limit and you will see the exact same style of questionable games.

Even if the California law had not been struck down, Mr. Bakan points out, it would not have applied to violent free flash games online because the law was only tied to games sold and bought.

In making the decision striking down the California Law banning the sale of violent games to minors, the Supreme Court traded a strict reading of the First Amendment right for hypocrisy. Why is free speech not protected when it comes to an adult-oriented video that has violence toward women, but free speech is protected when you can sell and produce games where you can act out violent crimes against women? (Note: that is not an exaggeration, some of these hard-core games allow you to act out crimes so gruesome and anti-women and anti-man, it’s shocking). Not that I am against free speech, I am just saying, it’s very hypocritical.

By pointing out the violence within supposed casual game sites targeting minors, Mr. Bakan is rightly bringing up a very important issue that many parents may not know exists.

Ironically, this New York Times article could have a greater impact in the long run on changing our attitudes towards violence in casual and flash games than any Supreme Court or legislation could. In some public relations office in Viacom’s headquarters right now (as well as in Turner’s in regards to theAdultSwim’s violent game site), someone is wondering why there is a game called Boneless Girl on a site aimed at providing free online entertainment for kids.

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