Videogames And Children: A Bad Combination?

With the inexorable advance of technology comes the inexorable advance to seek entertainment. When computers were first introduced to the public, they were still quite primitive and much of their performance could be easily compared to something just a little more advanced than your scientific calculator. Just a few years since their creation, the idea of computer games came to the minds of various programmers who simply wanted to amuse themselves with what their computer was capable of. Thus was the world of video games created.

Video game addiction is a growing childhood affliction.

Video game addiction is a growing childhood affliction.

However, in those days, games too were quite primitive. Some of the forerunners of modern videogames were simulated table tennis and simulations of shooting down aircraft. In later years, as developers created more advanced graphics, the Mario brothers were introduced to the world and children all across the world came to love him as their new pop culture icon. Then, as more progress was made, Chun-li came into the scene, becoming one of the first playable female characters in videogame history and teen boys (and maybe quite a few girls as well) fell head over heels for her thighs.

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Okay, now that I’ve given you some idea on how videogames came into being, it’s time to address a question that’s been floating around the public mind for a long time: Are videogames bad for children?

Indeed, over the past few decades, as videogames continue to develop and become more advanced with graphics that are more and more realistic and artificial intelligence that is getting closer and closer to how a real human thinks, there has also been a notable increase in violence among the youth. Could there be an actual relation between the two?

Well, unfortunately there is. While I myself am an avid gamer, I have noticed that children in computer shops that have been playing violent videogames tend to be a lot less pleasant than, say, children who just want to do a project with a computer. There’s also the various school shootings we hear that are also attributed to violent videogames although some of the connections with the games can be somewhat iffy. Then there’s even the latest news regarding children who died because of playing a game for days at a time with very little food, rest or bathroom breaks in between, an act that is called poop-socking by other gamers.

Videogames,  are considered a form of media on their own much like books, films and TV shows. I, for one, can also say that some videogames can be considered works of art such as Sid Meier’s Civilizations franchise and the Mass Effect trilogy. But like all media, not all videogames are appropriate for children. For instance, even great films like The Matrix trilogy or The Titanic are not exactly appropriate for children, have scenes that are not appropriate for children or at least require an adult to explain to the children that what they are watching might not be real or good for them.

Videogames are almost the same way. As a fellow gamer,  I think that it would be nearly impossible to put a stop to the production and development of newer and more advanced games. Like comic books, videogames have an audience in almost every society and outlawing them will only serve to make things worse. I think that, in order to mitigate some of the more negative effects of videogames, it’s time that parents step-up and put a little more discipline into their children. Remember, it’s not up to game developers to change the content of their games, it is up to parents with discretion to decide whether or not a game is actually beneficial or detrimental to their children.

Since it’s a bit hard for less informed parents on how to decide a game for their kids, I’ll offer three important tips on how to choose a game for your child if you yourself are doubtful about videogames:

Check the ESRB Rating of the Game

For those not in the know, the ESRB is to videogames what the MTRCB is to TV shows and movies. The ESRB or Entertainment Software Rating Board was formed many years ago when it was decided that some games, namely Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, simply isn’t for young minds. Anyway, the ESRB is responsible for checking games and rating them for the right audience.

The ESRB rating system is as follows:

  • RP (Rating Pending): This means that a game has yet to be rated for an audience.
  • EC (Early Childhood): Educational games for preschool children.
  • E (Everyone): Everyone, obviously.
  • E 10+: Everyone above ten years of age.
  • T (Teen): For teenagers and above.
  • M (Mature): 17+ gamers.
  • AO (Adults Only): Absolutely NOT for children.

Take a Peek at the Game Yourself

If you’re more than a little suspicious about the game’s contents, you can try playing the game yourself. This isn’t really all that surprising as I found the game Dead or Alive Paradise a little too intense but was nonetheless given the “Teen” rating. Anyway, if you’re not sure of the game being for kids, check it out yourself. I’m not saying that you should play it yourself, what I’m saying is why not take a 30-minute look at the game’s contents, mechanics and theme before letting your children play it. That way, you’ll have a way better insight on just what it is your children are playing.

Limit Hours of Gaming

Your children might complain about this but remember, discipline should start at home. As one commenter said, throwing a tablet at a kid and asking him/her to stop annoying you won’t put points in your skills as a parent. Of course, the occasional game every now and again to pass the time while waiting or as a reward for good deeds is certainly helpful but you don’t want a game to influence the rest of your child’s life. Too many parents of today simply think that giving a tablet or any kind of gadget to their child will be enough to placate them and make them good children. Unfortunately, this can’t be further from the truth as doing this plays into the idea that they can get whatever they want and gradually distance them from you. And remember that a gadget makes for a very poor substitute for a parent and only the real love and warmth of a true mother or father can make a child’s life whole.

The bottom line is that videogames are just another form of media and can be either good or bad for children. It falls entirely to the parents to filter out which games are for their children and which are not. Also, remember that too much of anything is always bad. Too much videogames are always detrimental to minds just as too much cholesterol can be bad for their physical health and too many teleseryes and noon-time shows can be bad for their intellectual health. Children are the responsibility of adults and, by shirking that responsibility, we allow the next generation to suffer ignorance, apathy and incompetence. As adults, it is up to us to raise children properly and make sure that they grow up into the kind of productive citizens that this country needs.

Now, back to my quest in Neverwinter Nights 2: Mysteries of Westgate…


10 Replies to “Videogames And Children: A Bad Combination?”

  1. You did not include “modern” games new feature. In-App Purchases. Spend credit-card money to gain “unfair” advantages in-game. Lots of these “FREEmium” games were designed to milk money from consumers in such a way that they wont notice they already spent a lot in IAP. Sometimes even more than the cost of a AAA console/pc title.

    Shame my hobby is going down the drain and I will be forced to stick to those old PAY ONCE, PLAY FOREVER console/pc games.

    1. It’s a vicious cycle too. Normally, you can only play a modern game for a set amount of time. With money, a kid can play for more than 10 hours, leading to a lot of complications.

  2. Mentioning a Sid Meier’s remember Alpha Centauri and most of the timeless quotes there ring a lot of bells in today’s society.

    One of those I remember was from Pravin Lal,

    “As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny. The once-chained people whose leaders at last lose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.”

    I’ve been sorely missing on games like these, good thing the creator of that game is still in the biz, though I would love to see something like that in the future again.

    I do admit it is a bad combination, I was addicted to it somehow during my growing years and it ended up ruining my grades because I was too busy playing than studying. It wasn’t until I got to college where I got some kind of balance between gaming and schooling, I’m not as addicted now as I used to but if needed I can play just as well as the other guy but I do have limits for myself now unlike before when I used to fight with my guardians or parents when they take it away from me, this time I’ve learned better. The only good thing that came out of that addiction was when I was looking for a job, I got a job where I’m paid to play and test games even though it is part-time at the moment I still enjoy it.

    1. That makes us all too similar then. Actually, I’d rather have Pinoy kids playing Civilizations than DotA. They’re bound to learn more from the latter.

  3. Despite being a part of Gen Y. I can understand the perspective as I was part of the Game Boy Pokemon craze.

    My history on games are mixed. It was more a wild west territory and I played simple franchises that I knew and I was afraid to try out anything knew.

    Despite that I was self disciplined early, I never purchased a game that wasn’t age appropriate to me while my father is not that knowledgeable and mom is more casual gamer than me I had to look up the ESRB myself and look up the games which is why I have more games rate E than M with a mix of T in them.

    Still I see your take in this and I agree with it. I find it puzzling that when I shop at the Datablitz a parent can buy a kid GTA 5 without suspicion. I sometimes point out the age rating but the parent often brush me off and also sometimes joke at me I still play Mario or Sonic.

    Anyway, I admit while a video game or medium may sound fine to spend time but let us not use it as a sub for care and appreciation. I had to admit that the hard way but the time spent with family and friends was better than any game.

    Also since you mention Civilizations I am still a newbie to the series ever since I picked up Civ 5 and still lose on level 4 but I am familiar on Railroad Tycoon and other business strategy games, got any tips?

  4. VideoGames are for entertainment…however, they can be addicting. Nintendo started this VideoGames…it has now many companies , making VideoGames.

    You have to Supervise your children. There is a time for entertainment of VideoGames. and, a time for studying their School lessons, and doing school homeworks.

    Future VideoGames will become more REALISTIC and more Sophisticated…Halogram Games are being tested; and planned to be marketed…this will be more addictive, and will make these companies richer and richer…

  5. I’d like to add that kids are also being pressured by other kids to keep up with the latest trends in video games which are usually “age inappropriate” material, under the pretense it makes them look cool and edgy. This usually happens at school, arcades or any other place where parental supervision is not always at reach. You see your friend playing GTA or Gears of War at his house, and your underdeveloped impressionable mind urges you to jump in. It’s not always bad though. Like someone said, kids were really into relatively child friendly properties like Pokemon.

    Of course, we have to keep in mind that kids don’t stay as kids for long nowadays. With the advent of technology, the new generation wants to be seen as an equal to adult society and prove to them they’re grown up and what better way to show that than being into adult stuff.

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