Parents groups protest release of Wii's violent video game, 'Madworld'

Thursday, March 12th 2009, 4:00 AM

Wii's violent 'MadWorld,' the console's first graphic game aimed at adults that mirrors the black-and-white look of the film 'Sin City.'

Over-the-top violence, gore galore and enough gushing blood to turn your TV screen red. Would you expect to find a game like that for the family-friendly Wii?

Though many believe the Nintendo system and its games are meant for kids, the M-rated "MadWorld" offers such a graphic thrill-kill spree that parents' groups are warning against buying it.

"In the past, the Wii has successfully sold itself as being the gaming console for the entire family and a way to bring family-game nights back into people’s living rooms," says Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family. "Unfortunately, Nintendo opened its doors to the violent video game genre."

But some fear the M-rating - which indicates games designed for a "mature" audience age 17 and up - isn't enough to keep these games out of the hands of children.

"This is enormously problematic for parents and a matter of concern," says Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council. "It's an unacceptable failure rate at keeping these games away from kids."

Nearly 25 percent of the time, a kid can walk into any given store and walk out with one of these games, Isett claims.

"The Wii platform has such a family-friendly reputation, and "MadWorld" is clearly not a family-friendly game," says Walsh. "We think it is important to alert parents that certainly not all Wii games are appropriate for kids."

He urges parents to pay close attention to the ratings for video games, which are put out by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.

Playing violent video games can adversely affect kids, says Dr. Pete Stavinoha, psychologist at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. Kids who play these games become desensitized by the violent imagery over time, so it doesn't seem like such a big deal to them when people on the screen are killed or maimed.

"The concern is that kids will not feel the same empathy or sympathy that someone would who doesn't play a lot of video games," Stavinoha says. "Also, since a lot of the typical violent video game has to do with seeking and destroying, this could become a method of contact for a child."

That doesn't mean a video-game playing kid is destined to become "some aggressive fringe member of society," Stavinoha says. "But there is no positive outcome, and as a parent, why would you want to put your child in a position where there is no upside, only a downside? Also, some kids who don't have the same emotional coping skills as other kids can gravitate toward these games rather than toward more appropriate social outlets."

Warning signs that a child is too heavily invested in video games include an increase in aggressive or irritable behavior, pulling away from friends and family, and an increased emphasis on playing the games as their main method of relaxation, Stavinoha says.

With the average age of a gamer set at 30, it's likely that many parents may play "MadWorld." Parents should also be responsible for ensuring that their kids don't get their hands on the Wii remote when it comes to MadWorld, says Nintendo corporate affairs vice president Denise Kaigler.

"If a game is rated M, then only someone over the age of 17 should play it," she says "Parents must make the decision to control what's played in their household. If parents are concerned about their children having access to age-inappropriate Wii games, we encourage them to use the PIN-operated parental control features built into Wii."

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