Forbidden Fruit Theory 101: Game Content Warnings Make Kids Want to Play

Content warning labels placed on video games actually increase children’s desire to play, according to a new study published in the March issue of Pediatrics.

As reported by the Chicago Tribune:

Researchers tested 310 Dutch children ranging in age from 7 to 17. Participants read fictitious game descriptions and rated how much or how little they wanted to play each game. In every group, the more objectionable the content, the more kids clamored for the controller—"forbidden fruit," the researchers called the games…


Authors, Brad Bushman of the University of Michigan and Elly Konijn of VU University Amsterdam… suggest that youth should not be allowed to buy their own games, that parents and physicians be aware of risk factors… and that policy-makers rethink the classifications…

Interestingly, the study began with the hypothesis that mature content ratings issued by the Pan-European Game Information system (PEGI) enticed younger players. With regard to PEGI the authors conclude:

Although [PEGI] was developed to protect youth from objectionable content, this system actually makes such games forbidden fruits. Pediatricians should be aware of this forbidden-fruit effect, because video games with objectionable content can have harmful effects on children and adolescents.

As GamePolitics readers know, PEGI, which enjoys video game industry support, is locked in a bitter struggle with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for ratings dominance in the U.K.

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  1. achet says:

    Most of these kids go to school and brag about how they have GTA IV making other kids want it more. That is the nature of these kids to brag about having something that most of the time they shouldn’t. Removing the label won’t affect that.
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  2. FlakAttack says:

    What a colossal waste of money; a study that simply prooves common knowledge: young people always want to test the limits and always want what they can’t have. They smoke, drink, fight, steal, watch movies/read things/play games they’re not allowed to play and they get a thrill out of it because they’re not allowed to do it! None of us can say there weren’t points we purposely broke the rules to have fun.

    Am I saying kids wanting to do these things is good and safe? No, in most cases. But we have yet to see any truly consistant proof in a REAL experimental study that proves video games have adverse affects on people. There is NO evidence to support these claims. At this point, it’s up to the parents, and I’m fine with that.

    Some of you may argue "BUT THE PARENTS ARE IRRESPONSIBLE IDIOTS" and to that I respond "So is the government".  I don’t trust anyone anymore, so I’d rather have that power in my own hands than in the government’s. Where as other parents will just screw it up, the government will outright take things away from us, and there is no way in hell I am letting them get away with censorship.

  3. Spartan says:

    As if this is news to anyone. WTF? 


    "The most difficult pain a man can suffer is to have knowledge of much and power over little" – Herodotus

  4. Wolvenmoon says:

    Okay…and this is a problem to the game industry how? Their responsibility ends at preventing these kids from getting the games. It’s their decision to offer a ‘reduced gore/violence’ mode, though I really appreciate it when they do.

    After that, it’s the parent’s responsibility. Like booze and cigarettes, even if it’s not really a societally good thing that kids are tempted to illegally acquire and use them. Of course, booze and cigarettes are often viewed as ‘forbidden fruits’…

  5. cppcrusader says:

    They actually had to conduct a study for this?

    How do I get the job of accepting money for restating common knowledge/sense?

  6. Bigman-K says:

     "Pediatricians should be aware of this forbidden-fruit effect, because video games with objectionable content can have harmful effects on children and adolescents."

    They can? Show me some strong, consistant, direct evidence that they are harmful to children and teenagers. Do they put children in an altered or trance like state causing them to commit acts of violence towards other. So far all the evidence claiming they are so-called harmful is extremely weak, inconsistant, flawed and incredibly biased. It’s nothing more then psuedoscientific bullshit in an attempt to allow the government to come in and control (through censorship, restricitions and regulations on Free Speech) the thoughts and feelings of minors. Are they inappropriate and unsuitable, maybe for young children but that is the determination and decision of the individual child’s parents.

     "No law means no law" – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black on the First Amendment

  7. PushDustIn says:

    You see this all the time. Like what other people have said; it’s the same with R rated movies and music labels. It’s also similar to alcohol and cigarettes; when young people get access to it they consume more because 1. It’s illegal and 2. It allows them to act more mature than they really are and thus glorifying themselves. The whole idea that something is ‘off limits’ makes it much more tempting and that’s just really psychology.

  8. Kincyr says:

    anyone remember when Bart and Milhouse imitated Jackass?

    Milhouse: The warning made me want to do it more.

    岩「…Where do masochists go when they die?」

  9. HarmlessBunny says:

    To this I say: "OF COURSE!"

    I mean to Captain Obvious and the Legions of Gullible of that particular study…when you had games like Mortal Kombat that had a hidden blood code, and Lethal Enforcers way way back in the day. I wasn’t even 18 at the time, I snuck out and managed to snag rental time on them (back then my dad was quite oblivious how games were rated and what was/was not violent) Those games…even then were…"..ehh…just okay" but it was the idea I was playing something I shouldn’t! Slaughterhouse and Phantasmagoria, all more examples of forbidden fruit, I had to taste. Now that I am 25, there isn’t that much excitement when playing those games. In fact most of them are pretty terrible…o.o

    Eh back to point…of course slapping R or 18+ ratings will make certain kids covet these little items. Human nature to want what we can’t have 🙂

  10. Michael Chandra says:

    Today was the first time I noticed the rating on my newly-bought DS game was PEGI. Cute. I don’t give a damn.

  11. chadachada321 says:

    *sigh* And I want to go to U of M…I’m just waiting for my acceptance letter (or letter saying no). Every big stupid and sensationilist study always has some idiot from U of M. If those are the types of people that get let into there…maybe it’s not such a great school after all.

    -If an apple a day keeps the doctor away….what happens when a doctor eats an apple?-

  12. Kincyr says:

    isn’t that the button that sends out a guy to kick you?

    岩「…Where do masochists go when they die?」

  13. JB says:

    It’s like when you see a button and a huge warning saying, "Do not press this button." I wanna push the button.

  14. shady8x says:

    You do realize that maturity has NOTHING to do with the ability to have sex and children right? Does your statement apply to 13 year old kids that had sex and a child!?!?!?

    If you meant of legal age rather than physically capability (which also varies between nations) then you should be aware that 30 year old parents or older could be about as mentally mature as the 13 year olds…


    Also about slapping, don’t know how easy it is in other nations but in crazy town USA that is considered abuse… you could have your kid taken away or maybe face battery charges should you slap their hand away…


    By the way, a new trend in USA is that 4 year olds get put on sexual predator list for things like hugging each other or their teachers in schools(or similar horrible things)… if this would apply to the parents as well then should your FOUR year old hug anyone in school, YOU WILL PLACED ON THE SEXUAL PREDOTOR LIST AND NEVER BE ALLOWED TO BE NEAR CHILDREN AGAIN…

    In other words perhaps you should re-think the things you support…


  15. Lazier Than Thou says:

    That’s a great idea, let’s give children a legal way that they can black mail their parents!  Then children can live out their criminal fantasies and someone else is then blamed for it.  It’s perfect!  I mean, it’s already practically illegal for parents to properly punish their children, what with it being labled as "physical abuse" and all, so we might as well start throwing people in jail for having spoiled children.  Maybe then when the world is seeing its last generation of humans because people have stopped having children because of the enourmous hassle it brings, we can look back on this conversation and have a good chuckle at it.

  16. State says:

    Eh? Where does it talk about the BBFC? I couldn’t find any reference to it in either of the articles, especially as it has already been said this is a Dutch project so why would they be interested in the BBFC?

  17. Vake Xeacons says:

    We’re not dimissing the study; it’s the solution that’s the problem. Yes, it makes perfect sense that objectionable content is more enticing. But they’re also saying that PEGI shouldn’t do a +18 rating. It needs to be left to the BBFC. Ridiculous.

  18. JustChris says:

    You got that right, esp. if it’s dealing with alcohol. I knew someone that brews homemade beer with his dad as a get-together hobby. Since his early teenage days, making alcoholic drinks was like an art to them. So when he started going to college he didn’t see the point of almost everyone making a big deal out of getting wasted every week. He was already surrounded by alcohol for many years, in a controlled manner, so it doesn’t thrill him in the same way.


  19. TBoneTony says:

    Well it is only just a theory I have

    Also to anyone who has got the book Grand Theft Childhood.

    Did the book say anything that a normal part of being a kid is to test yourself and explore your limitations?

    I believe that kids want to play violent videogames after hearing all the stupid opinions about violent videogames, this only makes the kids want to play them more.

  20. Cerabret100 says:

    people want what they can’t or shouldn’t have, always been that  way, always will.

  21. TaoJeannes says:

    …the more objectionable the content, the more kids clamored for the controller—"forbidden fruit," the researchers called the games…

    They missed a GOLDEN opportunity here. I figured they had put actual ratings labels on the games. This may point to a "forbidden fruit" theory. But they didn’t, they merely described the content.

    What does this prove? Only that children like gore, violence, and profanity. Duh!

  22. beemoh says:

     >As GamePolitics readers know, PEGI, which enjoys video game industry support, is locked in a bitter struggle with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) for ratings dominance in the U.K.

    …and that’s not what this study is about. Since this study was preformed in, erm… Dutchland, it wouln’t bring the BBFC into the matter, same reason the ESRB aren’t involved.

    Either way, I can’t see the BBFC taking much interest in this. Micheal Atkinson, on the other hand…


  23. DeepThorn says:

    Yeah, but the parents should be able to tell their kids no, and slap their hand away.  If you are mature enough to have sex, and make a child, you should be mature enough to raise that child.  I am sick of lazy ass parents that just let everyone else get the blame for their shotty work as a parent. (I am actually for minor prosecution of parents when their kids do illegal acts and the parents blame it on video games they bought for the kid.)

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  24. DarkSaber says:

    You can’t argue against PEGI on this basis when the BBFC slaps a huge red 18 on the front of the box for such games that warrant it. It’s the equivalent the Big Red Shiny Button simply labelled ‘Do Not Push’ to a kid.



    "because video games with objectionable content can have harmful effects on children and adolescents."

    Proof please.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  25. DarkSaber says:

    Easy example is Manhunt 2.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  26. State says:

    I don’t know why people keep on getting fussed over comments like "violent games are unsuitable for all ages" and ignore what is actually being said. The real issue here is the actual rating.

    It’s well known that every time a game gets banned (or talk of being banned) more people want it. It doesn’t matter who puts the ratings on the games, most kids want the games that they are not allowed.

  27. DarkSaber says:

    Calm down, you’re being far too dismissive of the fact that some children DO want to do things more when they know they are not supposed to.


    I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

  28. TBoneTony says:

    Perhaps it is the major errors these people still continue to say "These games are detrimental to young people" accturely make kids want to play those games more to prove them wrong.

    Once again, I am not surprized that a few researchers who NEVER PLAYED VIDEOGAMES continue on that ignorant myth about Violent Videogames. And yet again they get their facts wrong.

    It is NOT the ‘forbidden fruit’ theory…

    It is the "Stop telling us what games we should not play, because you are only making us want to play them more" theory where kids want to test their limits.


Comments are closed.