By Nicholas Robinson, 14, Central L.A. HS for the Visual and Performing Arts
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One of Nicholas’s favorite games right now is Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii.

I play video games just about every day. I like them because I can do things not possible in real life like shoot fireballs out of my arm, stop terrorists from selling weapons to North Korea or slice a creature in half with a chainsaw!

Some people, thankfully not my parents, say that playing violent video games can make a person violent. I disagree. I’ve played games like Halo, Fallout 3 and Call of Duty, where I get to mow down lines of enemies with powerful guns and spill lots of blood. When I finish playing those games I don’t feel violent urges or go out and kick puppies. I feel good after playing well, just as I would after playing family-friendly games like Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy.

The first video game I played was Turtles in Time on the Super Nintendo when I was around 4, and I was hooked. About two years later, I finally got my own GameCube.

I got my Xbox three years later, when I was 9, and after that my whole gaming world changed. Xbox games looked much more realistic—trees swayed in the wind, people’s bodies fell limp when they died and there was blood. These new details created a darker, grittier world that I could immerse myself in.

The first M-rated (“mature”) game I played on my Xbox was Halo 2. Halo 2 is a first-person shooter (meaning I see all the action from my character’s point of view as I shoot people) that takes place on a gigantic ring-shaped weapon filled with parasites that will turn you into a mindless zombie. My objective was to destroy the ring, killing as many bad guys as I could along the way.

The graphics were so cool and real

The violence depicted in these screenshots from Halo 3 (above) and Fallout 3, is clearly fake, says Nicholas.

Hours later I finally noticed the blood spots on the ground and sheer number of aliens that you kill when I was watching my friend play. But what stood out were the graphics and how realistic it looked when parts flew off of a damaged vehicle. After nearly 10 hours the game hadn’t warped my mind to ignore the violence, it’s just that the point of playing was to have fun. That’s what I like about these games, the fun.

My parents seemed OK with all this. They were more concerned with me getting headaches from staring at the TV all day than how the games might affect my behavior. One of my friends isn’t so lucky. His mom won’t let him buy any violent games. He can play them, though, which he does at my house.

Sadly, I’ve learned that some people aren’t as cool with these types of games as my parents. When reading about video games online a little more than a year ago on (a gaming website), I read about Jack Thompson, who has become famous in the video-gaming world for trying to prevent teens from buying mature-rated games.

After the shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007 that left 32 dead, Thompson blamed the video game Counter-Strike without police having confirmed that the shooter had played the game. He said, “These are real lives. These are real people that are in the ground now because of [Counter-Strike]. I have no doubt about it,” according to an article on He has even called video games “murder simulators.”

My first thought was “what a jerk.” The people who have committed violent acts have serious mental illness. What was wrong with them was way more than a video game or television show or movie could cause. Just because they killed people in video games doesn’t mean that the game caused a person to kill in real life.

The games aren’t “murder simulators” at all. Even though the M-rated game Call of Duty 4 looks very realistic, none of the killing is real. For any game you just press a button and you fire a gun. It’s not like shooting a real gun. As realistic as the Call of Duty series tries to be, it’s still not that realistic.

As I read more about Thompson, I learned that he is on a crusade against video games that he considers too violent or sexual. He threatened to sue the creators of Grand Theft Auto IV, which contains killing, nudity, drinking and sex with prostitutes, to block the release of the game. I’ve played hundreds of hours of M-rated games and I don’t feel like it’s affected me. I’m not violent and I don’t have violent thoughts.

The rating system works

I think games are well regulated with the game rating system. Games that are appropriate for any age (sports games) are rated “E,” games with a little violence and adult language (most fighting games) would be rated “T” for teen, and more graphic games are rated “M.”

Places like GameStop and Best Buy don’t sell M-rated games to teens unless they show ID that proves they’re 17 or older. I tried to buy Halo 2 without my parents but the person at the store told me, “unless you are 17 or older and have an ID to prove it, you can’t buy this game.”

I think parents, who watch what their kids buy and what they buy for their kids, are better than censorship. I was 10 when I told my parents I wanted Call of Duty 2. They asked me “what is the rating?” and “what’s in the game?” I told them that it was rated “T” and it was a World War II first-person shooter. They were OK with it, because I was getting older.

Now that I make my own money walking dogs, I am allowed to buy any game that isn’t rated M. If it is, I have to talk to my parents first. I know my parents wouldn’t let me buy Grand Theft Auto.

But honestly, I wouldn’t let a a kid under the age of 16 play Grand Theft Auto. There is way too much inappropriate content in the game. But Thompson wanted to stop the game from being sold period. That’s ridiculous. I think people are smart enough to tell the difference between reality and a video game.