David Garfield was a programmer for a video game software company in Seattle when two students entered Columbine High School in Colorado with shotguns and a semi-automatic TEC-9. In a matter of minutes the heavily armed pair shot and killed a dozen schoolmates and injured another 12.
Since the blood bath that occurred on April 20, 1999, many theories have, and still are circulating about what prompted those teens to commit the worst school shooting in history. Some people said the violence in the video game “Doom,” which gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold allegedly played, may have pushed the boys to the brutal shooting spree.
As a response to the violence, Mr. Garfield, 35, of Main Street, became an advocate for ratings on video games so that minors would not be able to purchase extremely violent games, and so parents would be aware of what types of mature materials some games contain.
In 2001, he launched a website called wonderdogsoftware.com, for parents find out more about certain video games and video game walkthroughs. On the site, Mr. Garfield explains his mission, which is to create a greater awareness of the need for parents to monitor the sometimes violent content in children’s video games, and supervise the youngsters if they play them. Software companies were mandated to rate games about a year ago, but Mr. Garfield believes the industry could do much more.
And he has dedicated himself full-time as an advocate for better video game ratings and as a resource for gamers and parents to learn more.
Mr. Garfield moved to Warren about three years ago and his website’s success prompted him to open Wonderdog at the corner of Main and Church streets so he could have face-to-face interaction with both parents and gamers, and be able to answer their questions while they shop.
“It’s my ‘what can I do?’ attitude,” said Mr. Garfield.
“Ratings are too relaxed,” he said.
His store carries all sorts of games, from non-violent adventures to mature-rated games. But he keeps the mature games on the top shelf, out of the line of vision for most children, the teen-rated games on the middle shelves, and E (for everyone) games at eye level. Games are rated as A for adult, M for mature, T for teen, or E for everyone. Also listed under the ratings are the reasons for those classifications. But Mr. Garfield thinks the ratings are too relaxed, and he said many software companies don’t label games as adult, but tend to call them “mature” instead.
Some of the games merit a little more explanation, he said. One example is a game rated Mature that he has in stock. He grabbed it off the top shelf and displayed the label, which said the game contained blood and gore, sexual content, drug use and intense violence.
?Keeping M Rated games above the eye level of kids not old enough to play them is a good practice that should be adopted by all retail video game stores,? he said.
Another “mature” game, called “The Suffering,” depicts the use of hypodermic needles for drug injection. Parents might not know that about the game unless they have someone to ask, he said.
Dave Garfield is also a well respected film and television producer and director. On top of that he has an accomplished career as an actor. His resume is located at: www.davegarfield.com />
By Michele K. Corcoran
Jamie Coachella does PR for film industry and video game professionals.