Pornography and Gaming: The New “Twofer”

Everyone loves a good deal.  Just last week, I was trying to do a better job of sticking to my grocery list while in Whole Foods when I passed one of the store’s lovely sample stations—this one offered chips and dip.  The dip was good, but I wasn’t planning on adding it to my cart until I saw the sign: ‘Friday deal: two-for-one!’  Two containers of dip and a bag of chips suddenly made their way into my basket.  Most of the time, getting two-for-one is a good thing, but when it comes to the content your children encounter through their gaming device, it can be harmful.

Internet Safety 101 featured expert and licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Jill Manning shared with us that “parents need to understand how intricately linked the gaming industry and pornography industry are.  More and more games have pornography embedded in them.  If kids play online, that is a pornographer’s heyday for marketing, grooming and hooking young consumers.”

A screen shot from 2K's upcoming Mafia II--this game is rated M for a reason!

A key concern about the popularity of video games is that so much of the content is hypersexualized. Pornography is often embedded in these games, allowing kids to engage in virtual or simulated sex acts to accumulate more points. The images of males and females depicted in these games are also often overtly sexual, and many games glorify violence and sexual exploitation.  Just yesterday, 2K games announced a new partnership between Playboy and Mafia II, due out later this year.  As they have advertised, you can play a “Playboy collecting mobster in Mafia II”.

Additionally, some games exist for the sole purpose of simulating sex—virtual sex games are often free and easy to access for kids; these games allow kids to create an online identity to explore sexuality in any place and in any way, including group sex, bestiality, and other fetishes.

A review out last week of 130 studies strongly suggests playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and behavior and decreases empathy.  If we extrapolate a bit, it’s not difficult to imagine the impact simulated sexual exchanges in these games can have on a young, developing brain.

Not all games that contain pornographic or sexual images are as forward as Mafia II about the content in their games, and unfortunately, many parents are unaware of just how graphic the games are their children play.  As I mentioned in my last post, a recent survey found that only 30% of children have rules about what games they play—do you?

See my last post for some helpful gaming resources including information on the Entertainment Software Review Board.

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