A letter to my kids about videogames

I have regular discussions about videogames with my kids, but I also have a lot of parents who are less game savvy ask me about what I do and don’t let my kids play. I think the most common question I get is “Why?” In other words, why is one game ok and another is not? Why do I sometimes follow the ESRB recommendations and other times do not. The short answer is that I am using the greatest power any parent possesses. Discretion. However, if I had to sit down and give a lecture to my kids about playing videogames it would go something like this.


Look guys, you see Dad playing videogames a lot. It is one of my favorite pastimes. I play videogames pretty much any chance I get and I play them with you guys on a regular basis. Obviously I think videogames are fun and I know you guys do to. I think we just need to come to an understanding about a few things so we can continue to enjoy them in this house.

First, let’s always remember the word game in videogame. Games can get serious. In professional sports multi-million dollar careers can be made or broken over a game. In this house though, we use the term “game” in the more traditional sense. We play games for fun. If a game is leading to hurt feelings, frustration, or anger, then it’s probably something you don’t need to be playing. Yes, even I can get frustrated at a game. You know what though, there is a point where I’ll give up on a game and simply get rid of it. Games are for fun and if a game is not providing entertainment we don’t want it in this house. Also, Mom says we’re too mean during Rock Band. I know we all want to five star every song and we hate it when someone flubs their part. We need to be more constructive though. Yes, I still entirely approve of you two playing Super Smash Bros. rather than actually beating on each other. When the whining starts the game goes off though.

Second, I know some of your cousins get to play games like Modern Warfare 2 or Gears of War. I want to say I respect that I trust you guys enough that I don’t have to put those games up and you’ve shown a lot of maturity. More maturity than some kids your age that are allowed to play games like that. I know you guys get exposed to worse language at school and I’ve watched some pretty intense PG-13 movies with you. I think there is a difference between spectating and participating though. When we play games, we’re a participant. We choose to shoot that bad guy, we choose to race down city streets with reckless abandon. Our willingness to make choices when there are no real consequences does say something about us as people. I want you guys to grow up some more before you’re put in a position to make serious choices without consequences. Just because games are for fun doesn’t mean they can’t be thought provoking. I want to make sure you guys have the proper knowledge to fully understand and appreciate what you’re doing.

While we’re talking about content, I want you to know that the answer to your question “When will I be old enough to play game such-and-such” may well be never. Look, guys, your Dad has held jobs that are best done by rough and occasionally unruly men. You guys know I’m no saint and I’ll never pretend that I was or will be. That said, I want all of us to be good, strong, moral men. To that end there are certain games that I do not play because they contain some very negative content that doesn’t reinforce the type of person I want to be, and certainly not the kind of person I want you to be. Reckless escapism is acceptable in small doses. We’re doing a good job in this house so far. Let’s just remember that we want to be the good guys in the real world. You can role-play as a Sith Lord in Knights of the Old Republic if you want. I think you may have fun but find it’s less fulfilling than you might have guessed. What I really want though is that when your adults and the choice is all yours that you will still ask the question, “Do I want to be exposed to that?” before you see that movie, read that book, or play that game.

Third, we need to always remember that games are just games and that just because we can do something in a game doesn’t mean we should try it in real life. The real world has consequences that we ignore at our peril. You’re my kids and we have a long family history of doing stupid and illegal things in our teenage years. I shudder to think what I’m facing in just a few years time. I just want you to remember that before you go off and do the same stupid stuff that I, your grandfather, and great-grandfather did that you will face Hell’s Wrath if I ever have to come get you out of jail. So be certain that if you try to pass the buck like some of these kids and say you got the idea from a game it will not do anything to lessen your punishment. I’m hoping about talking to you guys about this early and with my own experiences working at a jail you realize there is plenty of fun to be had in your teenage years without involving law enforcement officials. You know right and wrong and you know where the right places to learn it are. Movies, videogames, books, or music will not be your moral compass.

I hate to talk so seriously about something that is for entertainment. I’m only having this discussion because other people have taken this topic way too seriously already. I want you guys to understand appropriateness about everything. Videogames fit in a very particular place in our lives. They are for entertainment, they are for fun, and they can and often do stimulate your minds. Enjoy them, but don’t take it too far or ever forget their proper place in your life.

In [Nat’s] Hands: Batman Arkham Asylum

I’ll keep this short. After only two hours of play. Batman Arkham Asylum is my GOTY 2009. I don’t know of many other titles that are coming up that may pass this. (Assassin’s Creed 2?)

Over XBox Achieving

I understand there is a huge debate over the merits of Achievements on the XBox 360, and for the most part I think people tend to make a big deal out of nothing. Either people put way too much into getting them or they often feel too strongly about how worthless the concept is and think it’s important to share this point of view.

I think like any standard of measurement, even as unscientific and illogical as it may be, achievements are only as important as you make them. For me though I established one rule that I have stuck by even though it has been painful at times. I will not put aside, trade-in, give away, or throw out a game that I have not earned at least one achievement while playing.

This was, in theory, my “give it a fair shot rule”. Since not all games dole out achievements equally I have often felt frustration trying to live up to my rule. While I don’t exactly flaunt my Gamercard I’m not going to hide it either. The one useful metric achievements has given me is an easy display that I at least tried a game before I used the disc as skeet.

I don’t think you have to finish a game before you can decide if you like it or not. A game that is absolutely brilliant in the last two hours but painful to play in the first two is not a good game. Of course, the typical game often shows the lack of focus it had later in its development the longer you go through a game, so if it was bad in the beginning it is likely to get worse as a good rule of thumb. My belabored point is that sometimes a bad game is just a bad game and wading through the manure hoping to find a diamond is a fool’s errand.

However, that said, I like to be able to “prove” I give every game that graces my disc tray a real chance. I won’t deny that it’s a point of pride that I will not dismiss, or even love, a game lightly.

I Want to Be Held in Your Hand

Some quotes from various blogs reporting at E3:

“Microsoft’s new motion controller is a camera, that uses object, movement, and voice recognition to deliver a new kind of immersive gaming experience.”

“We’ve seen Paul’s Höfner bass, John’s Rickenbacker 325 guitar and George’s Gretsch Duo Jet guitar. All that’s missing is Ringo’s drum kit. Until now.” (That’s three guitars, a set of drums, and three mics—Nat)

“Ubisoft announced Your Shape, a new fitness game for the Wii. But more interesting than the game itself is how you “play” it — with a new Wii camera peripheral that reads your body positioning.”

Red Steel 2 may not have multiplayer, but it does have Wii MotionPlus. No, make that, it requires the Wii MotionPlus add-on.”

“Nintendo announces the Wii Vitality Sensor, a device that attaches to the tip of the player’s finger that measures their vital signs and helps them relax.”

“Richard Marks was here to show off the first PlayStation motion controller, the PS2 EyeToy. The latest camera will enable “a completely new set of experiences” using a new controller.”

This is my response:

NO!

I imagine that some are excited by this, but I am sick of buying one-shot peripherals. I have enough plastic as it is and I’m nowhere near close to what some people have. Of course, it’s all here to stay. This is truly the over-priced-plastic-device waggle age.

I, for one, am taking back my living room.

Thanks to Kotaku, Joystiq, and 1up for the quotes.

Are YOU Prepared for the Apocalypse?

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Are Violent Video Games Adequately Preparing Children For The Apocalypse?

Make sure you get your daily dose of gaming in. You never know when it’ll happen.

That or you could of go make a vault somewhere…