How to pick age-appropriate games for kids (Wired UK)


Call of Duty for children review — test photo

Andy Robertson


Parenting younger children is often about setting parameters of
what they can and can’t do. This is straightforward for
outdoors play — my youngest
doesn’t come in saying all the other kids get to play on the
motorway or use the lawn mower. When it comes to playing video games, however, there is less
agreement over what is appropriate, and I am regularly pestered to
relax the rules.

This new territory, coupled with children’s desire to test
boundaries, can make it tricky to keep gaming
healthy. Some suggest parents just need to say “no” and read the
PEGI age guidance, but the reality is not as simple as that.

More important on my agenda has been developing engaged
conversations around games with my kids rather than simple
prohibition. This means I find myself paying as much attention to
what a game has to offer the family as the alarm bells about
violence and language.

Multiplayer games and experiences that engage us with unusual
topics, or common topics in unusual ways, have worked well. But
finding great examples of these games can take time, not least
because I’ll research and play them first — particularly if they
have an older age rating. On balance though, this time has been
well spent.

I recently compared notes on this with fellow dad Brad Gallaway,
editor of Game Critics.
We soon got talking about our family’s growing obsession with
Monster Hunter, which for me really kicked off with
the new multi-player option in Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate
on the 3DS.

Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate – How To Set-Up Multi-Player with Father and SonFamilyGamerTV

Brad described how this worked for him. “I’ve been playing
Monster Hunter as a series for over 1,000 hours, and got
my oldest into it when he was ten. It was a very positive
experience, as we were able to get into the co-op and work together
towards defeating each new monster and making the weapons and
armour.”

Of course there is a lot to learn in Monster Hunter and
some will suggest you need to be older to have the skills and
perseverance required. My children seem to rise to these kinds of
challenges though and often surpass my skills.

Brad’s son sounded similar. “He took to it once I explained how
the systems worked, and soon had gained mastery of the combat, only
needing a bit of advice from me as to how to max out his stats, or
what tactics to use.” 

Those too young to play themselves can still join in with other
aspects of game like these. “[My youngest] does not like playing
himself as it’s a bit too difficult for him solo, but he loves
joining the family and playing a support role, or gathering items
while we fight the beast on hand. He leaves the rough stuff to mum
and dad, but he’s right there with us picking up the tricks and
learning the ins and outs of the game.”

More mature titles like this have more advanced reading
required. Unlike younger games this text is usually essential to
making sense of proceedings. My children soon realised they needed
to read every line on Monster Hunter — which I now count
as contributing to their rapid progress in reading age. “It has
also been a great source of reading practice,” Brad agreed. “Within
a few days, [my youngest son] was able to read the names of the
items and menus, and so on.”

Teaming up with other families has helped. In fact I’ve started
sharing the games we’ve researched together in short family video game guide videos and have been
inundated with both thanks and suggestions for other games to check
out next.

However you do it, you need to have more to say about mature
video games than “no” as a parent, and certainly playing games
together as a family is a big step in this direction. The age
ratings are very useful as well, not only for their headline
guidance on appropriateness but also the detail they describe about
what’s actually in the game.

Of course I don’t always get it right and it takes quite a bit
of work to stay ahead of the curve on game suggestions. However,
having some exuberant and challenging experiences up my sleeve has
transformed requests to play Grand Theft Auto or Call
of Duty
from a parental denial of service to a genuine
conversation. 

In fact, on occasion I’ve suggested older rating games to my
kids before they’ve discovered them. This creates the peculiar
situation where I find myself reassuring them that, playing the
game together, it won’t be too scary or violent for them.

Andy Robertson is a freelance gaming expert and
runs  Family Gamer TV on YouTube.

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17 March 2015 | 4:05 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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