Monday, April 11, 2005

Parent Guide for Computer Games

What is it about the virtual world that makes it so much fun? I’ve been playing computer games since I used to upload the programs with a cassette tape plugged into a Commodore 64. Since then the games have become more sophisticated, but the basic genres remain the same.

  1. Arcade. This involves chasing or being chased or chasing something across the screen. These games are in the 3ed person. (You are the outside observer.) Donkey Kong, Pac-Man are good examples. NBA Jam is the best arcade game ever created.
  2. First Person Shooter. I remember the first time I really stepped into a virtual world. It was a game called Tank Commander back in 7th grade at Aladdin’s Castle in the University Mall. In the game you actually looked through a set of sights and could steer the tank by using a couple of controllers. While the graphics were line drawings, the experience of playing was incredible. I don’t even want to calculate how many quarters my friends and I fed the machines.
  3. Simulations. These games involve simulating a specific environment or historical event. The best games of this genre give you a new insight into how the world works like Civilization or Simlife. The worst is the genre simulate behavior that teaches you how to commit violent or stupid acts of aggression or deviant behavior like the Sims or Grand Theft Auto.
  4. MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.) This genre is relativity new. It involves creating an alternate identity, connecting to the internet and playing with thousands of other people worldwide. In this genre the game never ends and is very open ended. Players develop skills and abilities and usually battle fellow players or bots. Because of the immersive nature of this genre it is the one most likely to result in an individual spending huge amounts of time playing. In addition, the relationships that people develop with fellow online players can be very intense. For individuals with low social skills or the inability to read social cues these games allow them to form valuable friendships.

Most parents have very little understanding of the online world and allow their children to play games that are very inappropriate for their age. Conversely, they ban games that are of benefit to their kids. One of the most disturbing games that is available to kids are First Person Shooters. While some will argue that they are just sophisticated versions of cowboys and indians, but the level of graphic realism makes these so realistic that they help kids become immune to violence. Of course T.V shows the same thing, but the difference is that in gaming players participate in the violence.

Parents should play the same game as their kids. Only by actually playing the game will they understand what their kids are experiencing. If you would not allow your son or daughter to watch an R rated movie, why would you let them play a violent video game? Generation Y is the most media savvy, but they are also the least parented generation. As a group they are much older and jaded then even Generation X. The games provide an opening that can create a longer conversation about more important things. That is sometime we all need.


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