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Violent video games: Who cares?

Opinion: If Iain Duncan Smith doesn't respect age ratings, why should parents, asks Tim Ingham...

Last night, I took a serrated knife to a dog's throat.

I'm not embarrassed by it, nor ashamed - and I didn't allow myself to get angry as metal kissed windpipe. I'm just that kind of guy, I guess.

Indeed, there was only one occurrence this weekend that made me feel at all confrontational: When a leading politician told us that 'nobody' gives a flying expense claim about video games age ratings.

If Iain Duncan Smith MP would have been in my living room to behold poor Rover's demise - and he's always welcome - he would have witnessed an adult male engrossed in one of the most thrilling, captivating, remarkably ridiculous stories in modern entertainment. A story we pay him to help ensure a child's eye will never see.

Okay, I've been a little flippant; this particular canine was infected by Resident Evil 5's fictional Uroboros virus. And a fleshy, human-munching growth that would make Bear Grylls defecate (in the woods) had just burst through his skull.

But as Iain's obviously keen on omitting enlightening facts, I thought I'd fall in line.

For those who haven't seen yesterday's story, Duncan Smith put RE5 and kin centre stage in what he perceives as the destruction of UK children's innocence.

"[Violent video games] are meant to be 18 [rated] but nobody cares what it says on the label," he said, presumably straight-faced.

Is anyone else a little confused? Because I certainly 'care' - as do the hordes of gaming parents who commented under CVG's report of the ex-Tory leader's outburst.

I'd wager that Duncan Smith's colleague Ed Vaizey MP also 'cares' - as one of the few politicians who understands how hard the games industry has worked to protect kids from adult software.

On the 'we care' pile, let's also chuck EA, trade body ELSPA, GAME, SEGA, HMV, Codemasters, Ubisoft, Activision... organisations who understand that selling an 18-rated game to kids is one of the dirtiest, most counter-productive ways to make a buck - and who have fully supported a legal framework to prevent them from doing so.

With these firms' full blessing, Parliament last year passed a new, statutory games age ratings system for the UK - which cross-party politicians agreed best protected our youth.

The PEGI model was voted for by MPs from all sides. I'd like to think they 'cared', too - wouldn't you?

Now, let's be fair: Whether it's born from electioneering or genuine concern, Duncan Smith's ultimate wish - for kids to stop being corrupted by adult video games (and, no doubt, other media he conveniently forgot to mention) is something on which we surely can all agree.

Despite the PEGI system's best efforts, children are still getting access to violent entertainment, and it needs to stop - video games included.

But we won't get there whilst MPs like Duncan Smith are lashing out at an industry which wants to achieve exactly the same as him. (An industry which is making this recession-hit country a bundle of cash while it's at it, by the way. There is some black irony in the fact that it was GTA - one of the most lucrative and intelligent entertainment offerings in UK history - with which Duncan Smith took particular umbrage).

At least in irresponsibly condemning the creators of adult games, Duncan Smith has actually highlighted the root of the problem. And guess what? It's not the odd bit of claret on the Xbox.

Kids will always have their head turned by violent entertainment. It's cool, it's exciting, it's unknown.

But unless our politicians make sure parents 'care' enough to say "no" - by backing Parliament's own legislation - we're fighting a losing battle.

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