Inevitably, your child will ask for a video game you don’t know anything about. Maybe the rating is higher than you think is appropriate, or you’re simply not sure you want your child mowing down pedestrians or playing with sharp objects, no matter how virtual.
But your child tells you that his friends all own the game, or that you’re worried about nothing, if not “completely unfair.” So how can you reconcile your child’s wants with your concerns?
Children like violent games because they are exciting — but parents can find equally entertaining games appropriate for younger children. For example, “Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks,” a new game from D3Publishers, is based on a Cartoon Network show popular with boys between ages six and 11. And while the game contains plenty of exciting action — the main character can take on 10 different alien forms to battle villains — the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gives it fairly gentle ratings.
But you can’t go by game ratings alone. While video game ratings, as provided by the ESRB, offer a good starting point, not all of the games that receive the same rating prove equally offensive. For example, a game may be rated “T (Teen)” for a single use of a curse word in a song lyric or for illustrating cartoon animal poop, as well as violence and suggestive themes.
The Nintendo DS version of “Ben 10 Alien Force: Vilgax Attacks” received an “E” rating for Cartoon Violence and Comic Mischief, while versions for Xbox 360, Microsoft, Wii, PS2 and PSP are considered “E 10+,” or appropriate for everyone over 10.
Ben does have to fight to save the universe, but the game also contains puzzles and platform challenges that encourage children to think. When considering a game, think about its possible benefits, not just its rating. And take the time to look up a few reviews -; they will give you a good idea about the reasoning behind the ESRB’s ratings.
Of course, the best resource for choosing video games is readily available — talking to your children about why they want specific video games can help you make appropriate decisions. If you’re still in doubt, start playing the games with your kids — you will know exactly what they see and hear, and enjoy a fun bonding experience.