Editorial: Children and Video Games

Be sure to sit right next to the TV while gaming

An argument waiting to happen

Children. Often found doing menial jobs around the home or studying at school. When it comes time to relax I often sit down with my son to play some games on dreary British afternoons. Our favourite type of game to play is fantasy. He enjoys running around with swords in real life as much as he does swinging them around in game. Usually I will do all the walking and my son will take over during combat, pressing the attack button while I hold the controller. He could hold it himself, but its more fun when we do it together.

Obviously there are games aimed at children, but due to budgets it may be easier to buy something that can enjoyed by adults as well. RPGs are good choices to play as the difficulty can be lessened with a bit of grinding. Many games in the role-playing genre are rated twelve or higher, usually due to the violence contained in the games. My son is 6, yet I believe games like Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2, White Knight Chronicles and even Skyrim are perfectly acceptable to play together. The ‘violence’ in these games is almost non-existent, with the exception of Skyrim.

Bullseye!

Well, you should try not to damage the pelt

Combat in Skyrim can get a bit graphic, especially if a kill is made in melee. I would not advocate making repeated melee kills, instead I prefer to use bows and magic. When playing a game like Skyrim a line must be drawn where combat becomes too violent. Most of our time here is spent navigating the environment and slaying countless numbers of wild creatures for their pelts. My son has become quite adept at chasing down foxes and deer with a bow.

This is an area where games can help children. I have seen a child make finer correction to his aim than some grown adults. I have witnessed him turn on a PC and log into a Facebook account to play Bejeweled. In a world where computers are used in almost all work environments, I believe getting some solid experience as a child can only be a good thing.

But there is a dark side. Games like Grand Theft Auto, Borderlands and the Fallout series contain levels of violence that I would not want to expose a child to. The use of guns in these games is not always the problem here; rather its the fact that you are trying to kill people. The language used in these games is often of a more adult nature.

As with everything in life, there must be balance. However suitable a game is for a child, eventually they must put the controller down and find other activities. I try to avoid playing games together for anything over a couple of hours. It can be hard to get a child to stop playing once they start, which is why I make it clear how long we will play for. Setting a deadline is essential as children often ask for extra time. Keeping the time displayed nearby makes it difficult argue when it comes time to stop playing.

At the end of the day, all it requires is a little common sense to know what is suitable for children to play and how long for. Would you let your child play the latest Call of Duty? How long would you let them play for in one session? Let me know in the comments!

3 Comments

  1. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.07.06 at 11:59 | Permalink

    @Imitanis: Would I let my child play the latest CoD? Certainly not. I do not want to raise a Motok!

    They can play some Peggle and some Tetris and some Mario. Later, they can play WoW with me.

  2. Imitanis
    Posted 2012.07.06 at 12:13 | Permalink

    @Lusipurr: My son already enjoys playing WoW with me. I’m training him to be a good little farmer. He has already maxed out fishing!

  3. Lusipurr
    Posted 2012.07.08 at 14:57 | Permalink

    I am reminded of a Penny Arcade comic in which Gabe put his pokewalker on his son, before sending him to the playground.