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Let’s be honest, finding appropriate video-games is a minefield even for those who are well informed. Some might say it’s as simple as reading the box but there is more to it than that.
Andy is a journalist specialising in video-games and families. He talks to a lot of parents struggling to catch up with their children’s gaming hobby and there are some simple steps to take to ensure the whole family has a positive experience.
Before getting technical (I won’t be getting that technical), there are two simple changes to how your children play games, that can actually make the biggest different.
Keep them playing on screens in shared family spaces.
Play video-games together.
Ensuring games don’t migrate to bedrooms isn’t easy, particularly if it’s a console game that needs the television. The family has to negotiate who uses the screen when. Arguments are inevitable and would (temporarily) be solved by letting younger members play in their bedrooms.
But holding that line is worth it. Not only does it mean you can see what they are playing, but also you are more likely to share the experience with them. Contrary to most parent’s assumptions, the children I talk to are keen to share their gaming with parents.
Playing video-games together changes the conversation around them in the home. Rather than them being the territory of the children, they can become a shared pursuit. The benefits and dangers can be assessed more easily because parents have first hand experience.
All that said, there are also some very helpful tools to avoid any major pitfalls and games that contain content that is aimed at older players.
Every game sold in the UK has a PEGI rating. This specifies which age group the game is suitable for – 3, 7, 12, 16 and 18. The 12, 16 and 18 age limits are legally enforced at retail so it is illegal for a shop to sell a game with these ratings to individuals under the age.
On the back of the box is a simple explanation as to why a game had a certain rating. This may be because of Violence, Sex, Drugs or Language etc. Each of these descriptors has a line of text describing them.
To get more information you can go online and read the PEGI website. Also, a series of videos I curate for Ask About Games offer a simple 2 minute guide to most big games. These outline what makes the game so popular as well as what to watch out for, with video examples of the game and any violence, sex, drugs etc that it may contain.
This list should also serve as a way to find games that your children may enjoy, as well as a warning on those you might want to avoid. Here are some non-violence examples for younger players recently published:
Splatoon on Wii U (PEGI 7+)
Kirby and the Rainbow Paintbrush (PEGI 7+)
Monster Hunter 3DS (PEGI 12+)
The Crew (PEGI 12+)
Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare (PEGI 7+)
This information, combined with trying games out yourself avoids any nasty surprises. Add to this playing games in a shared family space and enjoying them together and you have a recipe for getting much more out of video-games in the home.
Andy Robertson is a freelance journalist specialising in video-games. He writes for national newspapers and runs the Family Gamer TV channel on YouTube.
Any other tips? Let us know in the comments, or join our Facebook group to take part in the conversation.