The gaming community is getting younger. Should we be striving to make our community more child-friendly? 

The gaming industry has always been condemned for the negatives. Too often have we heard that our beloved gaming community is too violent, too exploitative of women, too offensive. The gaming industry it too much, some would say. More and more we’re seeing games become subdued for an increasingly young audience, but should this be the case? Should the gaming community continue to cater for children?

Yesterday, The Australian published an article claiming that the gaming industry should be taking more proactive steps to protect children. There is an implication here that the gaming community is, to an extent, unsafe or inappropriate for children.

Admittedly, great portions of the gaming industry centre on adult content. From violence, shooters, horrors or general adult themes, much of the gaming industry relies on an older audience for the game to work. For example, Call of Duty was not intended to pull in a young audience, but young teenage boys constitute a significant portion of player demographics. A game like Fortnite has even began to direct their game towards the appeal to the young audience.

However, these games are still rich with content that are not considered ‘child friendly’. Shooters, violence and the MMOG’s were never intended to be a child’s playground, yet more and more we are seeing this become a reality.

Statista reported that nearly a third of all video game players in the United States were under 18. This is not necessarily a surprising statistic to those familiar with the gaming industry. While these figures are from 2018, many have seen a shift as the gaming industry becomes more inclusive of younger players.

Recent years continue to see a growth of family friendly games

There is plenty of room for children in the broader gaming industry. From gamification as a form of education, child-friendly and family-friendly games and much more. However, there has to be limits of reason in what is being asked.

Shooters cannot be made child-friendly. More importantly, massive multiplayer online games cannot be monitored and cannot be a guaranteed safe place for children. While no one, irrespective of their age, wants to be stuck in a lobby with trolls and provocative players, it’s a part of the deal. We cannot monitor the behaviour of players for the sake of protecting younger players – Particularly when the game is not meant for them.

So, it is not the responsibility of developers, publishers, marketing teams or fellow players to protect children in the gaming industry. It is the responsibility of parents to decide what is appropriate for their children. As Kotaku reported, two-thirds of parents don’t bother to check the ratings of the games that they’re children are playing.

So, should we be striving to be more proactive in making the gaming community safe for children? It’s easy to contend that this is an unreasonable expectation. The modern gaming industry is heavy in featuring adult content. It is not the responsibility of the community to safeguard it from children where parents fail to do so.