So, it looks like it bears saying again. Parents should be playing with their children. Not just when they are little and cute and want to play tea party, Legos, or pirate fairy princess, but when they are (pre)pubescent and cranky. When you really start to wonder if they were switched out for your real kid at the hospital. Those times are just as important. Especially when they play videogames.
I am wholly in favor of paying close attention to ratings on videogames. Folks, they are there for a reason. But, your kids are yours and I can’t tell you what to do with them. Well, I can but you dang sure don’t have to listen (and as I have learned from many interactions with parents at Target, WalMart, and GameStop) and most of you don’t. If you have determined that your 10 year old is indeed mature enough to play M-rated games then can I at least make the suggestion that you play the game with them so that you can see what they do and don’t understand and so that you can be there to explain the problematic parts. Worst case scenario? You have some fun with your kid and you even have a conversation with the mutant that lives in your house and talks to everyone except you.
But here’s another suggestion, if you allow your kids to play adult games why not play them first? Or at the very least watch a YouTube play through. That way there won’t be any nasty surprises, because even if you are sitting there playing along there is really no way for your 10 year old to un-see a prostitute being raped in the street (Red Dead Redemption) or a man who has been raped by another man (Far Cry 3). Yeah, there is a lot of rape going on in video games. I know, it’s time consuming, but we do it because we love our kids and want to protect them. Pea is only 4, but I still watch every movie (or at least one episode of a new series) before she does and she knows that I do. When she sees something new that looks interesting to her she asks me to do so. They may whine about it at first, but once you do it a time or two they come to expect (and dare I say appreciate) it.
Of course we can’t control everything our kids see and play (there is too much knowledge of Disney Princesses in my house for my taste), but if we have lines of open lines of communication we can at least know what is going on and be there to help them understand. Because even at 4 Pea knows that Mama doesn’t want her watching the Disney Princesses yet because they make some poor choices and that when she is old enough to understand and talk about the choices that they make that we can watch some of the Princess movies together. I don’t know that I will ever be able to stomach the white slavery/Stockholm syndrome of Beauty and the Beast, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
If you listen to the podcast regularly you know that I’m usually pretty good about telling you which games I am playing with Pea and how that’s going. Not to say that all of those games will be your cup of tea, but it might be a start. If you don’t listen regularly and want to know what we’re playing or what any of us here at NYMG might think is good to play with kids just send us a shout out on Facebook or shoot us an email. We’ll be glad to offer any suggestions that we can. We’ll even, happily, crowd source it and see what the rest of our Facebook fans have to offer in terms of suggestions.
Just to get you started, in episode 48 I talked about playing Epic Mickey 2 with Pea. I think EM2 is a good game to play with kids. Younger kids can take on Oswald as a helper character and the co-op is drop in so that you can keep playing long after they get bored and want to go explore the moon or some such. Unfortunately, EM2 is not the world’s best game. The camera angles and controls are better than the original, but it still has a long way to go. So this is one that you might want to rent or catch on a good sale. Children often have more patience for these things than I do. It’s a beautiful game and sometimes Pea will just drop out and ask me to keep playing just so that she can watch it “like a movie”. And rather than killing the bad guys I can just spray them with paint and make them all friendly. This is a comfortable spot for me.
Other games, like co-op Mario games are also usually pretty good for playing with children. You two can help each other through the levels or have a little sneaky fun and see who can wreck the most havoc on the other player. There’s a new version for the WiiU which I haven’t gotten yet (but I expect to in the next week or so) that will tell you about later. It promises to be interesting and considering the fact that the helper can do so simply by tapping the screen on the tablet controller it may be a good co-op game to play with younger kids. I’ll keep you posted