Which Online Games Attract Pedophiles?

It’s difficult to bring up video games, especially online multiplayers, without hearing comments about pedophiles.  It has become as expected as hearing about living on mom’s basement and living on Twinkies.  Pedophilia is now considered part of the gamer culture by those who aren’t gamers.

Pretty sad since it’s a black mark on games that we really don’t need.  Although it’s become part of urban legend and a generally accepted fact, the question has to be asked:

How many pedophiles are there in online gaming?  Really?

A fair question since the media doesn’t seem interested in giving any sort of fair, balanced, or even handed view of the phenomenon (however big it may or may not be).  Hell, one of the top shows recently was To Catch a Predator on NBC’s Dateline where Chris Hansen baits and traps supposed pedophiles from online to real life.  That’s spawned underground vigilantes who use YouTube to “expose” supposed predators with screen captures of their chats (which may or may not be doctored) and then showing up to meetings they’ve set up to put the perp on tape.  Often while wearing ridiculous costumes themselves (one wears Batman).  Nobody bothers to ask why these “justice seekers” are posing at 15 year old girls online, of course.

In real terms, the number of active pedophiles seeking to really take advantage of underrage kids is statistically likely very, very small.  Less than half of one percent of gamers are likely predators.  This is using the colloquial definition of a pedophile, which is anyone seeking underrage (in the U.S. that’s generally 16 or under) sex partners, though pedophilia is technically defined as sexual acts against those under puberty.  The broader term is the more accepted by western society, so it is the one we’re using here.

Judging by media coverage (not to mention the FBI), by contrast, every male over the age of 20 who plays video games online is probably a pedophile.  That, of course, is patently ridiculous, but we can’t really blame the stereotype much.  Game companies and gamers themselves often enhance this profiling with their own actions.

Games Are To Blame?

Not really, but many of them don’t help the situation much.  TERA Online, for instance, released to great fanfare.  Then, amid complaints of gore and blood in the European Union, the game was modified in April 2012 to match EU standards for 12+ ratings.  Quietly, another change was made to the Elin race in order to prevent “unsavory users” from being attracted to the game.  Those changes were only made on the EU and North American servers.  They involved toning down the blatant sexuality of the underrage-appearing Elins to deter their use as sex objects in the game.  For western audiences.  Great detail was given by Raging Monkeys on this.

See, therein lies a big problem.  Cultures are different around the world.  In most of Asia, cartoonish characters that look very underrage to Western eyes are perfectly acceptable as sex objects.  In fact, it’s expected.  Given that many games are made by or for the Asian market, this creates a sort of culture clash.

These sorts of portrayals, in Manga and traditional fantasy role playing games (RPG) and comics, are popular world wide.  When someone who isn’t familiar with the genres or their nuances sees them, however, they often get a little quirky about it.  This can be understood, given Western culture and our perceptions of age and sexuality.

Add to that the questionable sexuality of some gamers themselves (as they are perceived by the “real world”), and you have a culture that is only stoking the fires of the gamer-as-pedophile stereotype.

Wait? Gamers Are To Blame?

Sort of.  Gamers exacerbate the issue by acting like, well, gamers.  While the vast majority of gamers are what most would call “normal,” there is a subculture of gamers who are, well, strange.  These are the ones who don’t just dress up in costume for cons and events, but who dress up all the time.  Everyday is Halloween for them.

There’s nothing wrong with that, on its face, but it creates an image that easily becomes (and generally is) an object of ridicule by those who are “normal.”  Add to this the fact that most gamers, by virtue of their obsession, generally not the best physical specimens and examples of health and to that the fact that the ratio of male to female gamers is very tilted towards the male side..  you can start to see the picture.

Stereotypically, the average gamer is a 25-ish male who’s overweight (likely obese), pasty-skinned, usually sports the “Goth” look in general, talks in a mixture of everyday and Old English, and has trouble socially equating with others – especially women.

Given that stereotype and an objective look at it as it is, we can see that most of the “normal” world would see gamers as odd.  That oddity can quickly become, in many minds, the worst of things. That might be a Democrat, a homosexual, or a pedophile.  Depending on who you ask. Maybe all three.

Although it’s great to be yourself and do what you love, gamers should realize that the way they portray themselves to the world affects their lives as well as the lives of other professed gamers.  A lot of gamers, who are otherwise “normal,” often hide their love of gaming in order to avoid being added to the stereotype.  This actually makes things worse, for obvious reasons.

To Catch a Pedophile

Despite their small numbers statistically, pedophiles lurking in the online game world are a concern – and should be.  These “active offenders” are men and women who attempt to locate, communicate with, and ultimately physically assault the most innocent amongst us.  So we should be concerned about them.

The trouble is, there is a fine line between entrapment and catching a real criminal.  As the online videos showing the vigilantes who look for “justice” by hunting down “pedophiles” show, most use entrapment to snare their quarry.  For all they know, they could be showing up to confront a police officer or clergy member whose job it is to keep children from becoming victims.  Or perhaps it’s just a lonely guy who didn’t really plan on doing anything more than having a Mcburger with someone he’d met online in a game.  Even with the lame sexual banter often given (usually pushed by the vigilante, by the way), it becomes obvious who the real pervert might be.

On the other hand, the predators need to be sought out and prevented from causing harm.

Just a couple of months ago, over 400 known and convict-able pedophiles were caught on various gaming platforms by a group known as “Samus.”  Operation Samus was conducted by a legal coordinator and four transgender gamers (you heard right, transgender) over a three week period.  These investigators managed to gather evidence against 400 criminals, 124 of which were parole violators and known sex offenders.

They did it with proper investigative technique, proper evidence gathering, and without baiting or entrapping the pedophiles they were after.   You can read about Operation: Samus (named after the bounty hunter in Metroid) at this link.  There are also some great (and realistic) tips for parents who want to keep their children safe online.

In the End, It’s All of Us

When it’s all said and done, it’s all of us who are responsible for keeping children safe from pedophiles.  Most of the time, there’s nothing wrong with playing a game that happens to have an underage person involved in it.  I’ve personally grouped with 11 and 12 year old players in dungeons and instances in many games and wouldn’t have known (or cared about) their ages if we hadn’t been talking in voice chat.  If it’s all about the game and nothing more, then it’s all good.

Although the bad guys are out there, parents shouldn’t use that as an excuse to keep their children from gaming and adults shouldn’t see it as a reason to not be gaming themselves.  Like driving a car knowing that you could be in a serious accident at any time, you don’t just not drive the car anymore.  Instead, you take proper precautions and then try not to let it interfere with your life.

So take proper precautions, but don’t stop gaming.

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2 Responses to “Which Online Games Attract Pedophiles?”

  1. LOlsm says:

    Ok just wont to say Tera is prime example of pedo game, only way we can stop it is by not letting them play MMO’s the parents are at fault no one els , stop buying your kids games stop letting them play MMO games and problem is solve. put age restrictions on MMO’s stop trying cater to mass market so you can milk as much money u can and wack 16+ age on ALLLL MMO’s

  2. IAmNub says:

    Tera Online wasn’t a pedophile game and never was. The entire game design was based in asia and even so the elins were really nothing more than bathing-suit armors in anime moe culture.

    Yet bellies and bottoms were such a big issue for that company but they didn’t mind selling the problematic likeness of the suits in cash-shops at the extra expense of the players and leaving the other npc races like the smaller castanic females uncensored. Hmmm isn’t that weird.

    The same entertainment material can be purchased in the West with no problems. I’m talking about licensed M-rated television shows and books here that have these in it with NO censors released by companies. But games? Oh no! Suddenly it’s a problem. How come no one ever does their research on these things then there’s misconceptions and screw-ups done by a cowardly and often politically butt-farted game industry?

    It’s time for parents to stop shoving their under-age kids or whatever other excuse on M-rated games. It’s M for a the reason and the content of it will be mature. The game-industry needs to stop portraying itself as a giant kid-friendly nintendo place and wrecking games for the sole purpose on catering to the mass market to milk them for as much $$$$ as possible.

    Some games are for kids, others are not. Publishers need to stop being so greedy and lame and just label the games that were made for adults to began with FOR adults. The entire internet or game communities are not just for kids or the easily offended about stupid things like skirts in a game. There’s a lot of ignorant feminist groups running around in games now thanks to journalist and most of them cry about Tera JUST for the clothes and how it ill-represents females and such. Many based on looks before the game even came out and not on the entirety of the game itself.

    People need to grow a pair and learn not every game is going to cater to their whirl and whim. Just like every movie or book doesn’t cater to children nor to the faint of heart.

    In fact I would be more concern at tightening and patrolling games that are FOR kids to began with. Online games with E or T ratings and not censoring the M and AO ones since they involve older audiences as the players. No one forces anyone to buy, endorse, or play these games and there’s always a report system in any MMO. It’s like gaming has become a giant and convenient tv-replacement tool for parents just to shove their kids on. Which sucks for those who like gaming get to see the games wrecked in the process.

    Would be nice to be able to play that mature game or two from Korea without it getting farted on in the process by the paranoid patrol.

    Just rate games like Tera or others with an AO, a verification process for age confirmation, and put on the forums no material outside from what’s in the game is allowed. Would that have been much more easier? Kabold Online did it and they have full naked models in it.

    Why can’t others. 18+ games are getting torched and dumbed down for 12 year old kids to play on.