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Along with swearing, the other issue that struck close to home with the young teens and preteens in our focus groups was sex—but quite differently from the way that many parents expected or feared. The children’s normal adolescent awkwardness and concerns came out in the way they responded to the sexual content of some of the video games.



Researcher: “Are there any games that you think you shouldn’t be allowed to play at age 13?”

Patrick: “Sort of like…The Sims” [a nonviolent game in which the player creates computer-simulated people and their environment].

Ramon: “Yeah, The Sims. ‘Cause they go to people and, like….” (pause)

Patrick: “They go to, like, people and, like….” (pause)

Ramon: “Kiss.”

Patrick: “Yeah.”

Researcher: “So, because of the kissing, you don’t think you should be able to play that game. How old should you have to be?”

Ramon: “Kissing. Like, 15.”

Patrick: “15, yeah. Maybe 14.”

Josh: “I agree with both of them.”

Randy: “Also, BMX XXX.” [This game combined a BMX bike competition with videos of naked women in a strip club. It was a public relations disaster for the publisher, which soon filed for bankruptcy.]

Researcher: “How old would you have to be to play that game?”

Randy: “20.”

Josh: “I disagree. You could be like 17 or 18. If you’re 18 and you still live with your mom, and your mom comes in the room and you just beat the level and she sees the girl pull up her shirt….”

(There’s nervous laughter from the kids in the room.)

Researcher: “So, obviously you’ve played this.”

Patrick: “See, he’s played it!”

Josh: “No, I haven’t!”

Researcher: “Well, how do you know what she did?”

Josh: “‘Cause in a magazine….”

Researcher: “You read about it.”

Josh: “Yeah.”

Ramon: “There’s this new game coming out called Playboy: The Mansion.” [The player takes on the role of Hugh Hefner in both his business and private lives.]

(Some of the kids in the room gasp.)

Ramon: “That’s not good for 8 year olds.”

Patrick: “That’s for, like, 20 year olds.”

Josh: “That’s for, like, 100!”