Friday, October 19, 2012

Kids And Video Games

I am totally a supporter of video games and I have even made the case earlier that they are not bad for anyone really.  Today I saw a two-and-a-half year old kid with a 3DS XL and my first reaction was that is a bit crazy.  It’s a $200 piece of equipment, and one that there is no way that child asked “Can I have a 3DS?”.  It’s unreasonable on so many levels.

This instance along with a few others both at day care and in other situations have lead me to think about where I put the value I do on games and what would be reasonable for my own children when they are that young.  I see their place as a social tool in some instances and as any other toy in others, but I think that it needs to be grounded in reality.

Video Games and my future kids.

Super Mario Bros.  I have said many times over that I plan to have my children play this game.  I am completely serious. I have had this particular game in many forms even now, twenty-four years after I originally played it.  It is the basic building block of everything that followed and it is a game that is challenging and fun.  I spent many, many hours just trying to beat this game for the first time and I have no problem with having my child believe that this is the current state of games for the first while when they are playing.

As I write this I think that something needs to be made clear.  There is no way I will have my two, three or even four year old child playing video games as a stand alone ‘go do something else while I do this’ experience.  At home we didn’t even have an Atari until I was in grade three I think, two at the very earliest and that would have been when I was eight years old.  Maybe I was seven, I always have such a hard time figuring all that out!  It’s not that I think it is a bad thing, I just think that it is unnecessary.  When a child still thinks that rocks are amazing, let them play with rocks.

Maybe it’s just that I have an issue with someone that is not even three carrying around a device that costs more on it’s own than nearly all of my childhood birthdays combined.

Anyways back to the plan.   Mario Bros, yes.  For the simple reason of skill building I’d love if my kid played them in order, but I’d be fine with any of them really.  And puzzle games like Dr. Mario or Tetris, also fine.  Games that need to be played with others like Mario Party, or Mario Kart that really are no different than sitting and playing a board game I’m fine with those.  I think it’s fair to say that I will be a parent that reads the boxes, checks the ratings and approves games based on appropriateness and not simply because my kid wants a certain game.  I’m always shocked and appalled when a five or six year old tells me that they played Call of Duty the previous night.  It makes me wonder who is responsible for that kind of thing.  I know the answer, the parent, but why? Who could possibly think it’s ok for a five year old to play a game where they are shooting other people?

(After a six hour break, we continue the writing of this post)

Where was I? oh yes, games.  I think some things need to be considered here that a lot of people don’t take into consideration.  My generation grew up with games.  Not that we all grew up playing them, but we grew up along side them.  Super Mario Bros was as advanced as it got when I first played it.  Then Star Fox on the SNES was the height of technology, then games like Wolfenstien and Doom, then 3D games like Ocarina of Time, then Halo and Grand Theft Auto (A series of games I am glad to say I have not spent more than three of four hours total playing).  Guys and girls around my age were a part of that progression.  It was censoring simply based on what was available.  Children today are not growing up along side the industry but thrust into it’s wheel house.  There is no suspension of belief required, things look as real as game developers want them to look and while I don’t believe that war games make killers out of people, they certainly are not appropriate.

I think what I am trying to get at, by this whole thing, is that when I have kids the word ‘No’ will come up a lot when it comes to games.  When my five year old asks if he can have his own 3DS (or whatever the current system is) ‘No’ will be the answer, he can use mine during car trips (because I will totally have that!) When my seven year old asks if he can have Battleduty: Call of Honour, ‘No’ will be the answer, and when he says that Timmy has it, the answer will still be ‘No’ and when he screams and complains, the answer will still be ‘No’.  Because no amount of whining from a child will make me cave in on something as fundamental as that.  Mario is a game appropriate for a seven year old, war games are not.

I’ll close with a story, because otherwise I feel like I’m coming off as a cranky old man talking out of nowhere.  When I was in high school the N64 came out.  3D Mario!  Shadows of The Empire! Zelda! It was revolutionary for it’s time.  Probably one of the biggest leaps from one console’s technology to the next generation.  I wanted it.  No that’s an understatement, I craved this new Nintendo.  I begged and bargained and tried to barter for it.  I had the teenage version of stopping my feet and making faces.  Always, always the answer was ‘No’.  I had a SNES, and that was good enough my Dad thought.  I lived way out in the sticks and didn’t drive or else I would have gotten a job and bought it myself, I couldn’t, so I didn’t, and no amount of offering to split wood or do extra chores gained me any headway, Dad argued that he did all that stuff for free, and so by me doing it he wasn’t saving any money.  I never got that N64 from my parents and didn’t get one until years later, 2001 I believe when I bought it with my own income tax refund money.  I actually got over being refused the N64 in a relatively short time, even with the grudge holding teenagers do.  Being denied did not have me love my parents less, or anything.  Looking back I can see all the lessons I learned from that one stick to his guns ‘No’ my dad gave me.  More people need to do that.

1 comment:

  1. I know a handful of kids under 3 that are obsessed with ipads! I get that they have educational games, but when the child would rather sit on the couch for hours on end (and scream when it's taken away) over playing with their dolls, bikes etc, I think it's wrong. It's hard to keep kids away from these devices these days, but I think purchasing an ipad or an ipod touch (my friend's 2.5 yr old has one) is a bit extreme! Like you said, let them play with rocks while they still think rocks are interesting.