Jayson (14) from New Zealand Writes: “I’m a 14yo guy who live in NZ and my dad is being rather unfair. I’ve played a very wide range of games rating from “G” to “R18″. While at home however I’m only allowed to play games rated “T”. I’ve let it go many times before but there is this one game called “Team Fortress 2″ and it is rated “M” for cartoon violence. . . .
I have showed my dad videos and screen-shots of the game but he still believes it will be bad for my to play. I get annoyed because he has never played it before and knows nothing about it yet he says I’m not allowed to play it. On that note, he has never played a modern game let alone anything to do with shooters. I was just wondering if you could dig up some information or give your professional opinion on my situation. This is a special case for me because I’m very bored at home with nothing to do and also because the in-game chat for this game will enable me to talk to friends and even some family that i haven’t talked to in years. I would really appreciate something to back ME up so he will let me play it.
Hi Jayson, first of all, sorry, I have a policy where I don’t openly question or contradict parents – so I can’t tell your Dad to let you play a game that he’s at least done a little home work on. Screenshots/videos/etc., I can correct misconceptions, I can tell him that I would allow my own 14 year old to play this game with friends and that, as shooters go, Team Fortress 2 is cartoonish, silly, very well made, and tasteful for what it is – a game about two teams competing to blow each other up.
It is also less violent than Rugby.
What I CAN do is just explain the game and why it’s so fun. Mr. Jayson’s Dad, remember when you were young and you and your mates would run around with fake guns or with sticks meant to be guns playing war? Remember what was going on in your head? That was bloodier than this game. The game simply gives graphics and rules to the kind of social competitive fantasy play that pretty much all men – and some women – in all cultures engage in.
In TF2 you have the Red team and the Blue team (any inaccuracies from this point on are due to my not playing this game for a few years). Each team features different classes (positions, like in sports) that have specific roles. There’s a sneaky guy, a sniper, a flamethrower, a big heavy machine gunner, a trap setting engineer, and a soldier type. Oh, there’s also a Medic who’s role is to follow teammates around HEALING them. Anyway, the two teams fight over territory to get the flag of the other team and score points to win the game. That’s the basics right there.
It’s paintball, in virtual space. When I blast a character played by my best friend in the world I’m not killing him. I’m doing the equivalent of pinning him in wresting or slam dunking him on a basketball court. That’s the kind of competition these games represent. The violence and gunplay are just window dressing, adding to the comic book appeal.
In TF2 a person who is “dead” is punished by having to wait a while to come back into the game – respawn. No one gets hurt, nobody can get hurt, and the thrill the game provides isn’t not KILLING, it’s SURVIVING. The background might be violent, but most team sports are violent as a subtext, and at least this one de-emphasizes the blood in favor of cartoon visuals. The positions, characters that are playable all require skill and practice, like any game. There’s also a fair amount of strategy involved.
My point is, if this game offends you, then any violent sport or activity – like, again, paintball, for lack of a better example – should also offend you. If it’s just the virtual blood that bothers you, well, that’s a legitimate concern. One I think is nonsense but an opinion you have a right to hold.
The social aspect shouldn’t be ignored and while there are jerks online if you play randomly (most can be avoided or muted) the game is meant to be played co-operatively. Each player playing their position and playing it well, working together to win the match. If your son has friends and family he can play this game with – so much the better!
If you fear the game will make your son more aggressive or violent – I say don’t worry about it. The studies that indicate games like this cause aggression also show that futbol or rugby or wrestling or boxing – cause similar aggression. My main point sir, is that Team Fortress 2 is all about good old fashioned traditional fake violent boy play.
And when you were a lad —- you would have loved it!
You can check my credentials on this site – the basics are I’m a 39 year-old father of two with 11 years as a professional game critic, 7 years as an expert in games and media violence, and the experience of playing hundreds and hundreds of violent video games without a dent in my empathy or compassion for real living beings.
The call is always up to you, but this is as good a bending point as any. There are far, far more violent and anti-social games your son could be playing.
Hope that helps Jayson and Jayson’s Dad!