Yes, every child is different and parents’ decisions on whether to buy the most violent, adult-themed games for their children are highly personal. But I can’t help but wonder how many parents snapping up “Modern Warfare 2” ($60 on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or PC) are up-to-date on the game’s content, which features a level where the player can choose whether to gun down unarmed civilians in an airport.
In the interest of arming parents with a little more info, here’s a condensed version of the Electronic Software Rating Board’s summary of potentially objectionable content in “Modern Warfare 2”:
Realistic gunfire, explosions, and cries of pain are heard during the frequent and fast-paced combat. The most intense depiction of violence occurs during a mission where players take on the role of an undercover Ranger: Several civilians are gunned down at an airport as players are given a choice to participate in the killings (e.g., players can shoot a wounded civilian that is crawling on the ground), or walk by and observe without opening fire. In either case, civilians scream and emit pools of blood as they are shot to death. Within the multiplayer portion of the game, players can unlock ‘emblems’ to be used on their player name cards. Some of these emblems contain images that reference drugs (e.g., a cannabis leaf; a name card with a depiction of a joint).
If you’re a parent and you’re unfamiliar with ESRB.org, I strongly urge that you check it out. Because all M ratings are not created equal — “Halo 3” is about as violent as “Star Wars” — the site’s summaries are a great way for nongamers to familiarize themselves with games on their kids’ wish list before making a purchase. That way, there are no surprises the first time you see your 12-year-old frequenting a virtual prostitute or massacring defenseless civilians as they beg for their lives.