Which Video Games Should You Buy for Your Kids?

For adults it may mean regular visits to the golf course or talking leisurely lunches at an outdoor café.

For children it means roughly 2½ months of free time. This will undoubtedly include family vacations and camps. For many kids it will also include hours of killing time in front of the TV playing video games.

Playing video games has become an accepted part of mainstream American culture. The early clunky arcade games of the 1970s have progressed to multiple levels on multiple systems with incredible degrees of realistic play.

It has also created generations of gamers. According to an Ipsos MediaCT survey released last year, the average game player is now 35, with 40 percent of the gamers being women.

Clearly heading to the mall to play “Donkey Kong” is a relic of the past. The changing marketplace has also dramatically changed game content to appeal to an adult audience. It doesn’t mean, however, the only adults are playing those games, a fact game producers are acutely aware of.

A survey released last month in the journal Psychological Science stated roughly one in 10 children who regularly played video games showed addictive tendencies. This led to avoidance of chores and homework, and in some extreme cases, stealing money to purchase games.

Iowa State University psychologist Douglas Gentile, who took part in the study, said it was still difficult to tell what the long-term effects of the addiction was and if it frequently lasted beyond the excitement of getting a new game.

The possible negative effects of unbridled gaming were also addressed in a 2004 study Gentile participated in, where correlations were drawn between excessive gaming and poor grades and antisocial behaviors.

The question then becomes: In a household where the parent or parents both work, how do you keep your kid from not spending the entire summer spraying rival soldiers’ bloody guts all over the screen?

One answer is making sure the games in your house meet your approval, and that’s where Plugged In comes in.

Plugged In is a review Web site operated by Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family. It offers reviews of popular media including TV shows, movies and video games. The goal of the site is not to rail against pop culture, said Plugged In Director Bob Waliszewski.

“We try not to be preachy,” Waliszewski said of the site’s reviews, which do sometimes quote Scripture. “Our aim is simply to spell out the information. We believe our audience is spiritually mature enough to come to their own conclusions.

“It’s up to families to make their own decisions to say that a game is OK or that no way is that welcome in our home.”

Games today bear little resemblance to the comparably tame “Space Invaders” or “Frogger” parents may have played themselves as kids. Plus, with normal adult obligations, sitting down to play games for hours on end is rarely a priority.

“It can be a huge responsibility for parents to evaluate these games with 10, 11, 12 levels that they can’t always work their way through but their kids can,” Waliszewski said. “The rating doesn’t always mean yes or no for parents depending on what’s in the game. We’ll play all the new games and let readers decide if they if it’s something OK for parents to buy if their kid wants it for their birthday.”

The rating system Waliszewski refers to is similar to movies as a general guideline. Ratings are E (Everyone) E10 (Everyone 10 and up), T (Teen) and M (Mature, intended for adults only).

Metaphorically, the rating system for kids can be a modern version of the forbidden fruit so well-known from Genesis 2:15-17.

“The game ratings help a smaller and smaller percentage of parents,” Waliszewski said. “The M-rated games are seen as the forbidden fruit and a badge of honor to have. Kids may not want the E or T games because they think it’s too babyish. ‘Mom, I’m 11, 12, 13 years old, I should be able to play these games.'”

And much like movie rating systems, not all games with the same rating are created equal.

“There’s a lot of difference in an M-rated game like ‘Halo’ where you’re shooting aliens than a game where you reach in a body cavity and pulls out guts and spray them all over the screen with foul language,” Waliszewski said. “There’s a big difference between movies like ‘Star Trek’ and ‘I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry’ when they’re both rated PG-13.”

The level of violence in popular M-rated games can fuel addictive behaviors, which in turn can ultimately lead to problems in the real world.

“Doing anything for nine hours a day non-stop without a break is harmful no matter what it is,” Waliszewski said. “When you add the level of blood and gore some of the games have, it’s clear it can have a psychological impact.”

That being said, Waliszewski had some suggestions as for possible thumbs-up and thumbs-down for newer games on the market. These are summaries of some recent Plugged In reviews:


“Empire: Total War” (T): This game, while a war game for the PC, prompts users to think through political and social ramifications before launching into battles. It uses historical empires and provides a thinking process behind strategies. Battle views are bird’s-eye views and bloodless.

“Wii Music” (E): For the popular Nintendo Wii system, this music game is easier and less repetitive than the wildly popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises. It uses animals to build up melodies for songs that players can use standard controllers for, with a wide array of song choices.

“Tom Clancy’s Hawx” (T): The popular author of political thrillers has a long history of delving into the gaming field. This game, set in the future with a Special Forces-type of Navy fighter squadron, gets high marks for its strategy and easy game-play compared to some flight simulation games.

“LittleBigPlanet” (E): Only for the PlayStation 3, this game lets players be Sackboy, a doll-like character which can take on different identities and appearances in different creative cultural landscapes.


“Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars” (M): The Grand Theft Auto series is well-known for its high level of violence against police, use of the drug trade and the use of prostitution and other harsh treatment against women. This newest installment is for the Nintendo DS, a hand-held gaming device popular primarily with elementary and middle school-aged kids. In running “errands” for crime bosses the gamer is directed to rip the heart of a person in graphic fashion, be exposed to detailed information and glorification of drugs, and the liberal use of cuss words.

“MadWorld” (M): This Wii game is set in black and white graphic novel style similar to recent R-rated violence-fests Sin City and The Spirit. The game puts you in the person of Jack, a well-ripped character in a city quarantined by a viral terrorist attack. The game gives you points for the amount and creativity you use with your buzzsaw to slice and dice your way through other city residents.

“Resident Evil 5” (M): In the last decade Resident Evil has become an entertainment franchise spawning games and motion pictures with futuristic annihilation and plenty of blood and gore. In this installment, new weapons are added to the arsenal as you tear your way through phalanxes of African zombies: “Whether you’re making your way around rotting human corpses lying in pools of ichor, or shying away from splayed-open, fly-covered animal sacrifices, there’s no shortage of gore and goo.”

“Fallout 3” (M): Fallout is set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have survived for generations following global nuclear war. Instead of taking the opportunity to give players compassionate choices, the rewards come from pulverizing women and leveling cities with atomic weaponry. It includes upper levels where cannibalism is part of the game.


Plugged In: http://www.pluggedinonline.com/

Video game age survey: http://www.dmwmedia.com/news/2008/07/17/survey:-average-u.s.-gamer-age-35%3B-40%25-are-women

Video game study: http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/~dgentile/Gentile_Lynch_Linder_Walsh_2004.pdf


Be First to Comment

  1. BiffBird said:

    I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, but your summary of Fallout 3 is way way off base. It still belongs in your thumbs down category for the language, violence and adult situations but the your summary is a more than a little misinformed. There are several instances where the player can make compassionate choices, and is rewarded for them. For example, choosing not to level the city with the atomic weapon not only allows several side quests to be completed, it is also the only way to get a house in the game. I don’t even know where you got pulverizing women from, you certainly aren’t encouraged nor rewarded for doing so. Cannibalism is an option later in the game, but the whole game is based on choices (good or bad). The ending of the game and several events throughout the game are heavily dependent on the choices you make. I don’t know if you played the game for yourself or not, but if you did play it, I would encourage you to give it another try while actually trying to be good in the game, not looking for the bad things.

    May 20, 2009
  2. chronoswing said:

    Did you even play fallout 3? Your assumptions are laughable at best. The game far from awards you for doing bad things, in fact it usually punishes you. The whole game is based on making moral decisions good or bad is up to you. You can choose whether to level the city or you can choose to disable the nuke and save the city from annihilation earning you many rewards in the process. Also this assumption about pulverizing women and being rewarded is also stupid, any type of violence towards citizens usually was met with a quick death from the town guards. Don’t even get me started on Total War, because apparently violence is acceptable if you don’t see any red. You obviously have never played some of these games and just need to crawl back in your hole. This article is a worthless waste of web space, if parents are so stupid they can’t read clear labels that explain this game is not suitable for children then they shouldn’t even be aloud to procreate. That’s right I said it, if you buy your kids Mature rated games then blame game companies for letting your kids play them your a terrible parent. Take 5 minutes out of your busy day and learn how to read. This article should of been about teaching stupid parents how to read ESRB labels, not that it would help any because bad parents always have someone else to blame for their lack of parenting.

    May 21, 2009
  3. The game reviews are summaries from the review site discussed in the article, not my personal opinions. Please read the article details carefully.

    May 21, 2009
  4. masterpunks said:

    I don’t understand your review of Fallout 3. In in the first two games you could kill children, with the inherit graphic upgrades this was taken out as it would be much more brutal and in poor tastes, but in the fallout games you have a Karma score that reflects your characters reputation in the world. If you say killed a child you get the child killer perk which meant that all of the civilized people would refuse to associate with you or try to bring you to justice. It is the same with Fallout 3. I am currently playing it and I had a child come up to me and give me an apple and tell me I am on of the good guys with a smile on her face. The fact is that the game allows you to make many moral choices and is rated “M” as it is intended to be for adults. It would seem here you left out the good choices you can make, like freeing slaves, and talking out a solution to a problem, which for all of the evil choices in the game there are good alternatives. So please do give the games a fair shot. It doesn’t belong in the hands of children but the way you speak about it sounds like you never played the game and just decided to demonize it.

    May 21, 2009
  5. Chrissd21 said:

    Dude.. Come on. There are several reasons people think Christians are idiots. 1) They’re hyprocrites. 2) They act like everyone else and are hypocrites. 3) They’re idiots. This is an example of the third type. No offense meant btw. As you said, you didn’t write the review, just repeated it. But really.. Try not to parrot talk. It makes you look bad. In Fallout 3, if you play as a Male, you get the Ladykiller Perk. If you play as a female, you get the Black Widow perk. Both are the same. If you’re one sex, you get bonuses against the other. And the blowing up the city thing? The game is and FPSRPG. First Person Shooter Role Playing Game. Note the role playing bit. It’s a game of choices. If you choose to be an rtard, the ingame characters will hate you. If you play nice, they’ll be nice to you. The person you got the review off played as the “bad guy”. He deliberately played to be as evil as possible. Yes, the game allows that. That doesn’t make it a bad game. Just more complex and mature than other games. H.A.W.X involves blasting people out the sky and Total War involves sending armys against each other.. “The possible negative effects of unbridled gaming were also addressed in a 2004 study Gentile participated in, where correlations were drawn between excessive gaming and poor grades and antisocial behaviors.” First concept you learn in statistics. Correlation does not equal causation. There are other factors involved. “The question then becomes: In a household where the parent or parents both work, how do you keep your kid from not spending the entire summer spraying rival soldiers’ bloody guts all over the screen?” That great big thing on the cover. Known as a rating. If it says M 17+, then I’d seriously suggest not buying for someone below that age. I like a complex game or a mindless shooter. But doesn’t mean a 10yr old should be playing it. And.. Well. I’d class the entire thing as fairly narrow minded BS. So yea. All up, dont’ parrot talk something you have no idea about. Especially that particular site. If you put something up, make sure you’re not talking junk. Otherwise you’ll look like an idiot. And with the Christian bit up, you’ll make the rest of us look bad.

    June 7, 2009

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