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A Parents Guide to Online Gaming
by GrandMatrix Team
The internet touches every aspect of your childrens
lives. Where you might look up an unknown word in
a dictionary, your kids are more likely to use dictionary.com.
Where you use the telephone, they use instant messenger.
An even greater difference can be found in how they
play games. Where the games of their parents
generation may have involved a board, cards, or
at their most sophisticated a console system, the
games your children play on the net can be far more
complex. They mine gold, spread empires, fight dragons
and aliens alone or with tens, hundreds, even thousands
of their fellow gamers. All of this makes for a
confusing mish mash of names, places, jargon and
lingo that can leave you with no idea what your
kids are actually doing and a vague feeling of uneasiness
that some part of it might not be good for them.
Whats appropriate for your kids is a decision
only you can make. How much violence they are exposed
to, how much time they spend in front of a screen
and how much contact they have with the faceless
strangers so common to the net are all questions
you must grapple with and, in the end, decide for
your family. While we cant help you make these
rough decisions, we can certainly help you get the
information you need to understand your childrens
hobbies better, both to make informed judgments
about what they should and should not be doing,
and to help you reach into another part of their
lives that may have previously seemed like something
of a puzzle box.
The Easy Stuff
The simplest type of online game is the sort of
Flash or Java driven game that you generally see
running inside your web browser. This type of game
tends to be relatively simple compared to the stand
alone games discussed later. Common examples include
Bejeweled, Zuma, and Diner Dash. These games are
almost universally single player and have none of
the sort of violent or mature content that keeps
parents up at night. Were they movies, they would
be G Rated, with perhaps the occasional game stretching
to PG. If this is the type of game your kids are
into then first, be relieved. Then, try the game
out. Many of these games can be very enjoyable for
even the most casual of players. Some, such as Bookworm,
even have genuine educational content. These games
can be as much an opportunity for bonding and learning
as throwing around a baseball in the backyard, and
have the added bonus of being much easier to get
your kids to sit down with you and play.
FPSs: Finding Something to Shoot.
FPS stands for First Person Shooter. They are First
Person in the same since that a story might be.
That is, the player sees the world through the eyes
of a single character and interacts with the game
environment as though he were that character. Shooter
comes from the primary goal of most such games,
the shooting of whatever happens to be the bad guy.
FPS games are among some of the most popular online.
Common examples include Doom, Battlefield:1942,
and the X-Box game Halo. From a parental perspective,
these games can be cause for concern. They vary
widely in the amount of realism, degree of violence,
language, and general attitude. The only way to
get a good idea of the content issues is to watch
the particular game. If your kids dont want
you watching while they play, then fire up the game
yourself sometime when they arent around.
There is a sizeable variation in how violent and
how personal FPS content can be from game to game.
The single player portion of Halo, for example,
has players fighting against alien invaders with
largely energy weapons and a minimum of realistic
human suffering. In contrast, WWII themed games
tend to go out of their way to show realistic violence.
Given the subject matter, this is appropriate for
the game, but may not be for your kids. Online play
presents a potentially greater concern. The goal
of online FPS games is almost always killing other
players. While some games do have various modes
where this is a secondary goal, all of them give
the player a gun and encourage him to use it on
characters representing other people.
Simulated gore and the use of violence against others
to achieve goals may be things you dont want
your kids exposed to. Again, these are your decisions
to make, but we encourage you to make them with
as much information as possible. Talk to your kids.
Find out what they think, in their words, is going
on in the game. Make sure they see the line between
what happens in the game and what happens in the
real world, between what its okay to simulate
and what its okay to do. The answers may surprise
you. If your children understand the differences,
see real violence as deplorable and simulated violence
as part of the game then FPS games, even online
ones, can be a perfectly healthy way to have fun
and let off steam. In the end, it falls on you to
make sure that what your child gets out of the game
is good for him or her.
Next time, well talk about RTS and MMORPG,
the two other common types of commercial online
game and touch on the twin demons of addiction and
About the Author
The team at GrandMatrix.com provide a broad range
of games and puzzles articles and reviews. Read
more and play the latest PC games for free plus
thousands of user submitted puzzles, quizzes and
word games at GrandMatrix Game Downloads