An 11 year old kid in Britain recently got caught selling adult DVDs on school grounds (at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/south_west/4678869.stm). When I first read this, three thoughts immediately went through my mind, in quick succession. The first thought was, although what the kid did was wrong, did they have to make a federal case out of it? I did some big, regrettable things as an adolescent in school. But I would have been mortified if those things had made the neighborhood gossip ring, much less received national media attention from the likes of the BBC.
My second, and gut-level response was a somewhat typical male, “Boys will be boys.” Then I started wondering: what is this situation trying to tell us? If there ever was a sign that porn was too accessible, especially as far as kids were concerned, this was it.
The reason I say this is because this story (about the kid selling DVDs) somewhat coincided with two other announcements. The first was the revelation – at least on a grander level anyway, I’m sure a select few people had known for a while – that the video game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas contained hidden elements and mini-games of a pornographic nature which could be accessed by obtaining certain modifications on the net (http://www.katu.com/entertainment/story.asp?ID=78361). (I’d tell you the website for the modifications, but I’d actually like you to finish reading this article…:)) This game was hip among teenage boys to begin with. The discovery of hidden porn might push it over the top, even if it’s just by kids who want to know and confirm that the rumors of porn are true.
The second announcement was that adult movie houses in Japan have released or are soon to release porn movies for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) (http://www.digitmag.co.uk/news/index.cfm?NewsID=4984). It seems that the production of adult movies in the PSP-exclusive Universal Media Disc (UMD) format has not started in the US – yet.
Now I’m not saying that if/when the widespread availability of adult UMDs becomes a reality, these discs will by and large be sold side-by-side with the more mainstream video games. Not even alongside those rated M and above. But there will be acceptions: such as video games being sold in an otherwise adult-themed boutique or shop. And also, you know there will be the occasional unscrupulous store owner who attempts to make the adult discs available to underage gamers who shop in his mainstream gaming store.
Teenagers, by their very nature, are an inquisitive lot and they will do what you allow them to get away with. They often try to grow up way too fast and they are quite curious to know about sex. They’re prone to peer pressure, and for better or worse, they try to fit in or impress their friends or both. They will try to get their hands on the coolest items.
The fact that these items (both the game and the gaming system) are somewhat connected to porn, which at that stage in a teen’s life is a somewhat taboo (read hip and desirable) subject, is only going to make that item more wanted. (I guess in a way then that the producers of such software are marketing geniuses. Although I’d like to think that none of those producers were targeting minors from the start.)
Did the folks over at Rockstar Games honestly think they could make a mainstream video game, M-rated (for mature) though it is (so the producers could claim that they’ve covered their asses), and not have kids get there hands on the game in addition to seeking out codes for that game? My brother, while in his mid-teens, received a copy of Max Payne as a gift (another Rockstar Games production, by the way) – this is a notoriously M-rated game also, but at least it didn’t contain adult material.
Also, I’m an avid video game player in my spare time so I troll gaming boards all the time looking for cheating codes and special “Easter eggs” (gaming extras); and believe me, I’m not the only one looking. I have to question why the security for the gaming code is so lax and hack-prone in the first place.
Listen, we all know that if a kid is determined enough, he will find porn on his own. But we don’t have to make it so accessible and portable. It’s bad enough that porn is now accessible on cell phones. As prevalent and affordable as cell phones are, the average age of kids getting cells now is getting lower and lower. Parents can afford to outfit the entire family (kids included) with cells so everyone can keep in touch.
At least, if you were to whip out a portable dvd player or laptop to view a porn dvd in public, that would arouse some interest (perhaps even from potential thieves…). But viewing porn on your cell, without anyone looking directly over your shoulder (and assuming no one can hear the moans), is no more conspicuous than reading the newspaper.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently illegal in putting out porn discs in game software format or producing adult material in adult games that are explicitly slated for adults only. But software producers should take it under advisement not to make it any easier than it has to be for kids to obtain porn. Especially if said porn is contained in such boast-worthy items as a high-tech cell-phone, the latest hip video game, and a popular gaming console.
If these items were gasoline (and they just might cost less than the latter nowadays), the average underage teen fascination with sex is just the spark that’s needed to make the situation blowup in a content developer’s face.