Following up with our last post regarding how kids may soon have easy access to free porn through their Xbox 360 gaming consoles, I wanted to highlight a topic I just brushed on before: the sexualization of games.  Likely, if you’re at least my age, then when you think of playing a game as a child, you think of running outside, riding your bike, building a fort, playing tag, and perhaps, at most, playing the original Tetris or Super Mario.

When kids today play games, they play their games primarily through gaming consoles (and many act as though playing outside is punishment instead of freedom).  While some parents may recognize the health risks associated with limited physical activity, few are thinking through the psychological consequences and risks associated with access and exposure to mature content and themes through gaming.  Take the extremely popular game, Dead or Alive (DOA).  Just last week, I overheard some teenage boys at the mall talking about how excited they were for DOA’s new release.  Interestingly, DOA fans have been demanding bigger breasts on the games main action figures (virtual beauties that move like ninjas but look like sex toys).

If you just spend a few hours familiarizing yourself with the game, you will encounter barely-dressed women with insanely large, wobbling/bouncing boobs, and virtual cleavage and butt shots.  As the gamer promotes, the game is so realistic, that as the players perspire, their clothing becomes more translucent.  The game is an excellent fighting game, but it’s coupled with such blatant and exploitive sexuality, that no child should be allowed anywhere close to it.

In response to it’s fan base, DOA creator said that, although International bodies had asked them to tone down the sexualization of its characters, it had ignored that request and chosen to listen to the fans, and, if in the future, fans want even larger breasts, then they will do what is needed to keep the fans happy.

Sadly, this game is not alone in its desire to push the limits sexually via multiplayer/console games.  Time and time again, I find that the most exciting games to the teens I work with are those games rated “M” for mature, and, like DOA, they are filled with sexual innuendo, exhibitionism, violence against women and even sexual exploitation (like in Grand Theft Auto, which has repeatedly been one of the top-rated gams amongst teens).  I wonder, where are the parents?  I have worked with so many adults and teens whose pornography addition began, or was closely linked to, their involvement with gaming.  Games like Grand Theft Auto and DOA are gateway drugs to pornography, and, in some cases, they even serve as a replacement for porn.

In our last blog, I highlighted our Gaming Safety Guide for parents—in it, we talk about the importance of understanding game rating.   As a parent, take the responsibility of establishing what is and what isn’t appropriate for your son or daughter to play.  Check out the content and rating of any game your child wants to play—establish a rule that they are only allowed to play and purchase parent-approved games.  Use parental controls to set game rating limits for your kids.  Sit with your son or daughter as they play, and if you encounter content that makes you uncomfortable, pull the plug on that game.  It’s just not worth it to let your kids dive into the murky world of highly sexualized games.