Last week, you may have seen that there was a bit of a kerfuffle after an alliance of teachers were reportedly cracking down on children playing mature rated games. In a bid to get their stance across, they pointed out that they could potentially contact the police or child social care specialists, and many saw this as a rather rash approach.
"The letter was more of a blunt tool to get a message across. Communicating on games is very difficult," a teacher told Eurogamer.net in a lengthy message to the site and its community. "Parents are ignorant or apathetic about what games actually are," he began, adding: "They'll be busy people and not want to talk about it, but getting the message across has proved difficult for teachers. We're seeing the impact in the classrooms."
The teacher, who wishes to remain anonymous, apparently plays plenty of games himself, and is a regular Eurogamer reader. It's worth noting, however, that he isn't part of the Nantwich Education Partnership – the group who began the aforementioned campaign, and released the controversial letter.
"So the letter was just a way of saying, 'look, this is an issue'. It is something schools would be obliged to report. It's part of a bigger picture of general neglect. I don't think it would just be, 'if a child had been heard to be playing Call of Duty', that would be reported. This is one of many things," the teacher clarified.
Going on to talk about the actual impact of games on young minds, he said: "I've personally not seen children acting more violently because of games. The impact is more them being frightened of things they've seen or things they've played." Expanding on that point, he commented: "I had two children in particular who'd been nodding off at their desks. When you speak to them separately they all say, 'oh I couldn't sleep because I was scared of this game' they'd either been playing, or their friends had coerced them into playing. I think that's a problem."
Moving on to how age ratings are perceived, he pointed out that, in his experience, some parents wrongly view the ratings as an indicator of the title's difficulty. "There is a perception among a lot of parents that the age rating reflects difficulty," he stated, and goes on to outline the general way in which games are viewed: "The nature of the name 'games' suggests a playful thing, not necessarily something with a narrative, or something that could potentially be upsetting or violent."
Back to the letter originally sent out by the Nantwich Education Partnership, the teacher's quick to point out that it was perceived in an overly negative light by many, saying: "I don't think teachers at large or the writers of the letter have a problem with the game industry. It is parents." He continued: "It was a letter to parents who may be naive about how brilliant games can be, but also how there needs to be a considered approach to children playing games. This letter was an effort at influencing parents and making parents more aware of their responsibilities."
Perhaps most eye-opening is the teacher's account of one of his very own pupils, who was clearly influenced by mature games. "I taught a child two years ago who had been a high achiever for a long time. Then, when he got to year five he suddenly became incredibly sullen, very angry, frustrated, and exhausted," he began. "We brought in a therapist to speak to him. Eventually it came out that he was watching lots of Let's Plays of Resident Evil and other horror games," he added, before mentioning that the boy in question was just ten years old. The teacher then concluded his message by asking for understanding and help from the gaming community.
As for our own take on this, we reckon that he puts across a logical and very reasonable argument. Clearly, his own experience in relative situations is valuable, and his message is certainly one to ponder over. At the end of the day, a child's mind is far easier to influence, and if they're partaking in titles that are clearly intended for a more mature audience, then surely it's down to parents to step in and assess what's going on.
What do you make of all this? Do you agree with the teacher's message? Talk of future generations and their giant, powerfully evolved thumbs in the comments section below.