A study published in the U.S. Pediatrics journal this month finds that giving a video game a mature rating makes it "unspeakably desirable" to children.
The study, conducted jointly by Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan and Elly Konijn of VU University Amsterdam, had 310 Dutch schoolchildren aged 7-17 read fictitious game descriptions, rating how much they would want to play each title. The results were the same across the board - the more objectionable the content, the more kids wanted to have it. Girls, boys, younger and older, all of them wanted to play the games they shouldn't be playing.
This surprises no one. Previous studies have shown the same phenomenon in regards to television and movie ratings. Children want what they cannot have. Hell, everybody wants what they cannot have. You put restrictions on anything and people will start wondering what they're missing out on. It's called forbidden-fruit, and it's been around since the dawn of time. For those of you more biblically inclined, think Adam and Eve, who threw away paradise because God had a thing for apples.
So why conduct a study where the conclusion is pretty much foregone? Well getting published in the official U.S. journal of pediatrics is nothing to sneeze at, and perhaps, as the study authors suggest, this will make policy-makers rethink classification systems that only make violent games more desirable to children. For a moment, at least, until they realise the only alternative to ratings that accurately warn of violence, gore, and sexual situations is to lie, and we all know that lying to children is a parent's job.