Parent Guide to Online Gaming, Part 1
Windowofworld.com – The internet touches every aspect of your children’s lives. Where you can find an unknown word in a dictionary, your children use dictionary.com more frequently. Wherever you use the phone, they use instant messaging. An even bigger difference can be found in playing games. Where the online gaming of their parent generation may have involved a board, cards or on their most sophisticated console system, the games that your children play on the Internet can be much more complicated. They exploit gold, distribute empires, fight foxes and aliens alone or with tens, hundreds, even thousands of their fellow players. It all adds up to a confusing mix of names, places, jargon and lingo that gives you no idea of what your kids are doing, and a vague sense of discomfort that some parts of it may not be good for them.
What suits your children is just a decision you can make. How much violence they are exposed to, how much time they spend in front of the screen, and how much contact they have with the faceless strangers who are so common on the Internet are all questions that you must grapple with and ultimately decide for your family. . While we don’t help you make these tough decisions, we can certainly help you get the information you need to better understand your hobbies, to make informed judgments about what they should and shouldn’t do, and to to help you make another part of their lives that previously looked like a puzzle box.
The Easy Things
The simplest type of online gaming is the kind of Flash or Java driven game that you usually see running in your web browser. These types of games are relatively simple compared to the standalone games discussed later. Common examples include Bejeweled, Zuma and Diner Dash. These games are almost universal singles and have none of the kind of violent or adult content that parents keep up with at night. If they were films, they would be G Rated, with the game perhaps extending to PG occasionally. If this is the kind of game your kids are playing in, you should be relieved first. Then try the game. Many of these games can be very enjoyable for even the most comfortable players. Some, like Bookworms, even have educational content. These games can be just as much an opportunity to capture and learn from one another as to throw a baseball in the backyard, and have the added bonus that it’s much easier to have your kids sit and play with you.
FPSs: Look for something to shoot.
FPS stands for First Person Shooter. They are First Person in the same, as it can be a story. That is, the player sees the world through the eyes of a single character and interacts with the game environment as if he were that character. Shooter comes from the primary purpose of most such games; the shooting of the bad guy whatever happens. FPS games are one of the most popular online game.
Common examples include Doom, Battlefield: 1942, and the X-Box game Halo. From parental perspectives, these games may be of concern. It varies greatly in the degree of realism, degree of violence, language and general attitude. The only way to get a good idea of the content issues is to look at the specific game. If your kids don’t want you to watch while they play, hurry up the game yourself when they’re not around. There is a huge variation in how violent and how personal FPS content can be from game to game. For example, the single player section of Halo has players fighting against alien invaders with largely energy weapons and a minimum of realistic human suffering. In contrast, World War II games tend to get out of their way to show realistic violence. Given the topic, it is appropriate for the game, but may not be for your children. Online gaming raises a potentially bigger concern. The purpose of online FPS games is to almost always kill other players. While some games do have different ways in which it is a secondary purpose, they give the player a gun and encourage him to use it on characters that represent other people.
Simulated rushing and using violence against others to achieve goals can be things your children do not want to be exposed to. Again, these are your decisions, but we encourage you to do so with as much information as possible. Talk to your children. Find out what they think is going on in their game. Make sure they see the line between what’s happening in the game and what’s happening in the real world, between what’s good to simulate and what’s good to do. The answers may surprise you. If your kids understand the differences, see real violence as deplorable and simulated violence as part of the game, then FPS games, even online games, can be a perfectly healthy way to have fun and make steam disappear. In the end, it is up to you to make sure that what your child gets out of the game is good for him or her.
Next time, talk about RTS and MMORPG, the two other common types of commercial online games, and touch on the dual demons of addiction and predation.