Dear Common Sense Media,
My thirteen-year-old says that Halo 3 isn’t as violent as other M-rated games—is that true?
Common Sense Media: Let’s be clear: The game is all about killing, and it’s a first-person shooter. The fuzz factor comes in when you’re killing aliens, not people. There’s something a bit less impactful about killing creatures that don’t really exist.
Parents need to know that even kids who don’t play video games know about this adult game, thanks to a massive advertising campaign that extends to normally kid-friendly establishments like Burger King and 7-Eleven. (Mountain Dew has even created a new soda for the game called “Game Fuel.”) But while it might be marketed to kids, the ESRB gave this first-person shooter game a “Mature” rating for violence for very good reason. Throughout the game, players shoot aliens (and humans in multiplayer mode) using a wide variety of weaponry: shotguns, machine guns, bombs, grenades, and special alien weaponry that includes laser blasters. In the mayhem, they’ll see vivid images with blood shooting out. Regarding the mild language warning, there isn’t anything to really raise an eyebrow, but know that when the Halo games are played online, players can communicate—and curse—via headsets. Parents also have to know that this game is a major time-suck and can be so appealing that kids would rather play it than interact with their friends in real life.
Families can talk about what makes the Halo games the kind of experience that mature gamers gush about. How is it different from other sci-fi shooters? For kids who want to play but have parents who put their foot down: What made you want to play this game? Why do you think Burger King and Mountain Dew helped tell kids about the game when the rating isn’t T for “Teen” or E for “Everyone”? What other made-for-adults media titles do you see marketed to teens? Why do you think this happens? And ask your kids how many hours a week they think is appropriate for game play.
Reviewed by Marc Saltzman