Games consoles need a big red panic button

13th Feb 2009 | 10:11

Games consoles need a big red panic button

Opinion: The ultimate expression of parental authority

The European Parliament has actually suggested that a "red button" should be fitted to consoles, computers and other game devices so that parents can disable games that they feel are inappropriate for their children.

It's fairly obvious that this is a ridiculous idea, dreamed up by people who have never seen an Xbox, much less played GTA IV. These devices already have off buttons, what difference does it make what colour they are?

But in trying to construct a properly scathing rebuttal, I have started to wonder if there might not be some merit in this. Consoles normally have soft-off buttons that need to be held in for five seconds before they turn off and the consoles themselves are stuck on the floor, under the satellite decoder or hidden under a tangle of controller cables and dirty socks in the bedroom.

Reaching down to turn these things off is hard on your back and frankly a lot more trouble than just yelling up the stairs and hoping someone pays some attention. PCs are even worse; storm in on your 12-year-old and try and yank the plug on the pornographic vampire slash-em-up he's playing and you'll be responsible for a damaged file system. Do you really want to spend the rest of your weekend running Scandisk? Didn't think so.

In any typical household with two or three kids, all hell-bent on exposing themselves to inappropriate material, you are going to spend all your time running from room to room hitting different off-buttons. How much more convenient would be a single, red, plunger-style, button mounted on the wall in the kitchen that allowed you to wirelessly and gracefully shut down every games device in the house?

Sure, they will eventually figure out how to block the signal or cut the wires to the sensor, but this will require them to show initiative and possibly learn to solder - both important life skills. And in the time it takes them to do that, there is every chance that some of them will have turned 18 anyway. The red button is the ultimate expression of authority and when displayed with sufficient prominence (perhaps under a hinged plastic cover protected by an arming key worn around your neck), it's mere existence will be enough to keep your kids on the path of moral rectitude.

GTA IV
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