At Gamewagon, we often get asked our opinions on a whole range of game-related topics. Usually it’s as simple as troubleshooting controller problems, or advising on compatibility between consoles. One question, however, that we’re asked again and again, has a less straightforward answer.
“Is this game suitable for my child?”
It’s a complicated question that, unfortunately, doesn’t have a yes/no answer. It’s certainly not our place to decide what’s best for your children. We do, however, feel a responsibility to be able to advise on what is in place to help guide your decisions.
The best place to start is with the PEGI age rating system; the little coloured boxes you see on the front of games. It gives each game a rating from five possible options of age appropriateness (3, 7, 12, 16 or 18). Each number corresponds to the recommend minimum age of the player, based on the content of the game.
So, according to PEGI, a 10 year old should not be playing LEGO The Lord of the Rings, because they’ve labeled it as only suitable for children aged 12 and over!
The top three ratings (12, 16 and 18) are actually legally binding for retailers, meaning they cannot sell, for example, a 16-rated game to a child under that age, without breaking the law in the UK.
To compliment the age ratings, PEGI also implements content descriptor icons. These tell you why a particular game was awarded a specific age rating and can range from Fear and Gambling to Online and Violence. If you’d like to know more about PEGI, you can visit the family-focused website, askaboutgames.com
“At Gamewagon, we take this system very seriously and will only allow games that are age-appropriate for the whole audience to be played at our events, whether supplied by the customer or by us.”
When it comes to what you allow your children to play at home, it’s no longer a question of the law, but your own personal judgment.
Games have evolved drastically in recent years. It’s a medium that’s constantly pushing boundaries in the pursuit of realism. Games are capable of creating (or recreating) worlds with such accuracy that, now more than ever, you could easily find yourself mistaking footage of a game for a video recording.
This heightened fidelity is not just found in the visual presentation, but the story, dialogue and even audio, of modern games. They’re deeper, longer and more involved than films or television. Something like Skyrim, one of the most popular games of all time, would take hundreds and hundreds of hours to completely absorb.
A few hours watching something like Grand Theft Auto V could never be enough to assess the content. You may see nothing but the harmless exploration of rolling hills, with little idea that the game contains a short segment that forces the player to commit horrific acts of torture on an innocent civilian. Depending on your opinion it’s either a brutally honest, political comment on US foreign policy and homeland defence, or a gratuitous and unnecessary scene, only inserted to shock. Either way, it is entirely inappropriate to allow a child to try and process this.
So what does a busy parent do when a child is begging for the latest 18-rated release? You can’t play every game to completion before making a decision (even if you wanted to). So here are our 5 top tips for making sure your kids are playing fun and suitable games.
- Use the PEGI system – particularly the 18, 16 and 12 ratings. It sits on the conservative side so if they don’t think it’s right for your kid you’ll be better safe than sorry.
- Find the best new games that are suitable – askaboutgames.com publishes a weekly list of the top selling games, by PEGI rating, so you can see what’s popular in your child’s age bracket.
- Play with your kids – it may seem daunting to the uninitiated but playing along with your kids is the very best way to understand what games can be and how they affect your children.
- Indie and mobile games – as big console releases are increasingly aimed at adults, smaller, downloadable games can be great for kids. They’re weird and wonderful and there are all sorts out there. Minecraft is an Indie game! (most indie and mobile games aren’t rated by the normal PEGI system so do read reviews prior to handing a game over to your child).
- Keep an eye on Gamewagon – finding the best games for kids of all ages is our business. We won’t recommend a game if we don’t love it and we’ll always let you know who we feel it is right for.