Part Two of this series explains the various genres of games available today and my recommendations about their usefulness to young kids. Each genre will be given a “Thumbs Up,” “Thumbs Down,” or “Neutral” based on the benefits versus the disadvantages of the type of gameplay. Whether you like it or not video games are the medium of young kids and if you want to be educated you need to know the language. So strap in parents because I am going to throw more video game lingo at you than you ever though possible. All of the information below is provided by the wikipedia article on video games.
Action Games – These games rely on a player’s reflexes to win and believe it or not the granddaddy of all action games is the beloved Pong. The concept is simple – be faster and think quicker than your opponent and you have a solid chance of winning the game. These days action games fall into a few sub categories: fighting, puzzle/maze, and platforming. Platforming is video game lingo for jump from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Because action games encourage quick thinking and fast reaction to stimulus I give this genre a “Thumbs Up.”
Shooter Games – As the name suggests this genre focuses on games that require projectile weapons. Guns, arrows, throwing knives, grenades, and rocks have all been integrated into shooter games. The most successful shooter of them all was James Bond’s GoldenEye. Players could play against three other opponents at the same time with the singular goal of amassing as many kills as possible before being killed. Within this genre are two sub categories: tactical and third-person. Tactical shooters were actually designed for the U.S. military as training aids for troops. In tactical shooters the player “shoots” through the sights of the gun as if it is at eye-level. Third-person shooters are for the more recreational gamer where the camera sits a few feet back from the main character to provide a wider angle of vision. The issue I have with these games is unless they are set on the hardest setting a player can beat it by just pressing A and B repeatedly. Some of these games require actual skill but the majority do not so my recommendation is a “Thumbs Down.”
Adventure Games – These games immerse a player into a fictional world where they become a scientist, historian, gold-digger, etc. The purpose of these games is less about winning and more about the journey getting there. The breakout game in this genre was Myst and it continues as a powerhouse today. The goal of Myst is to solve a series of challenging puzzles in an alternate world. As the player progresses they unlock new mysteries within the world that deepen the storyline. These games do not emphasize quick reaction time or head shots. Instead, they reward critical thinking and the ability to remember past events and not repeat mistakes. My recommendation for this genre is a “Thumbs Up.”
World of Warcraft Logo
Role Playing Games – In my own experience these games are both the most fun and the most addicting because the central concept of this genre is that the player becomes the character or characters in the game. Often, a gamer can change the name of the main character to their own name! While many RPGs have an adventure component their are two overriding objectives: level/power up your character, and beat every aspect of the game. Often RPGs have various “side-quests” that can assist a player in beating the final boss but have no actual bearing on winning the game. They are really a way to immerse a gamer deeper into the story. Still many of these games require critical thinking and a level of multitasking that would astound the greatest mini-van mom. Because these games have an addictive component but also provide a way to learn critical thinking I am giving this genre a “Neutral” rating. However that is not the end of this explanation.
- A Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, or MMORPG, is a type of game that takes some explaining. Take a moment parents and imagine your favorite game as a kid. Perhaps it was hide and seek or cops and robbers. Imagine you go outside and play your favorite game with ten of your friends. Everyone has a fun time and you gained valuable skills socializing with different kids. Now imagine you walk outside your door and instead of ten kids who want to play hide and seek with you there are 100,000 kids wanting to play. That is the allure of the MMORPG. The big daddy of this genre is World of Warcraft, or WoW, which is produced by Blizzard. This game brings together hundreds of thousands of people per day in a gigantic, fictional world where every player has the opportunity to become a hero on their computer screens. That sounds pretty darn enticing compared to a game of hide and seek with ten friends doesn’t it? That enticement is the danger with this genre. In fact, Blizzard has been sued by individuals who spent more time playing WoW than caring for their family! There are multiple websites for individuals who have been addicted to WoW and are trying to break it much like an alcoholic going to A.A. There is even a best-selling book by a WoW addict called Unplugged, which details how he spent nearly 20 hours per day playing the game. Because of the highly addictive nature of these games and the way they affect adult and child psyches I must give this genre a “Thumbs Down.” If you are a parent of a child who enjoys playing MMORPGs I strongly suggest setting one hour worth of play time per gaming session and enforcing it.
Simulation Games – These games are actually pretty cool. The entire goal is to create a self-sustaining town, city, state, country, empire, or world. They require critical thinking, learning from mistakes, adapting to new situations, and diplomacy between the computer and other players. Sim City and Civilization are the biggest names in simulation games because the gameplay is executed flawlessly. Players actually need to keep their citizens happy, productive, and safe. If they do not their citizens will revolt, strike, or get attacked by a stronger player. Within this genre are two subcategories: construction simulation and life-simulation. I give construction simulation a “Thumbs Up” because they encourage a serious degree of multitasking and conflict management. However I give life-simulation games like The SIMS a “Thumbs Down” because they only encourage players fantasize about what their life could be like instead of actually living it outside the computer.
Strategy Games – This is my favorite genre of video games because there are so many different types of strategy games but they all follow the same basic pattern. The player acts as an Overlord controlling every aspect of the gameplay. They set characters to collect gold or food, create armies and defenses, anticipate and work through conflict, and above all work to create a winning strategy. My personal favorite of this genre is Starcraft and Starcraft 2. Although I played those games far too often I did learn how to keep four or five situations in my head at the same time while defending my home base. South Korea actually has a Professional Gaming League where strategy games can win thousands of dollars in televised competitions. Remarkably, militaries in developed countries are benefiting from players with experience in strategy games because they multitask so much better than those who do not play. As long as there are limits on the amount of time a kid plays strategy games I give this genre a “Thumbs Up.”
While there are many other genres and sub-genres the ones I have listed cover the basics. I hope I have not overloaded the parents with too much information. If I did comment below and I will answer any questions as best as I can.
With all of the “Thumbs Up” and “Thumbs Down” you may not have realized one key point I made in this post. That is the setting of time limits for gaming and enforcing those limits. Every one of these genres can turn into a serious compulsion for a young player if they are not reined in by their parents. Unfortunately, the major benefit of video games to working parents is the ability to baby-sit a young child. Yes you did hear me correctly. If you allow video games to baby-sit your child you have not yet realized the dangerous impact that can have. We tell our kids to eat breakfast, eat their vegetables, get eight hours of sleep, do their homework, don’t talk to strangers, and get physical activity. Yet somehow setting limits on game time has slipped through the cracks. Remember, I lost 100 days because my parents and I did not have the knowledge about the addictive power of video games. Take this knowledge and be firm with your kid about their new gaming hours. They will whine, cry, and complain but, really when do they not when faced with change?
Part Three will delve deeper into the benefits and disadvantages of some of the more popular games that your kids want to play today.
Featured Image Credit – www.giantbomb.com