Tag Archives: gamer

Gamer Confessions Part 3 of 3

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Congratulations parents! Your gaming education is nearly at an end. You have all of the macro knowledge now it is time for some microanalysis. Part Three of this series will focus on actual games that kids today want to play and how to empower yourselves with whether or not it is appropriate for your child to play a particular game.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, should be the very first website you visit when Junior asks you to buy him the latest video game. In my opinion, the ESRB does a fantastic job in properly rating games based on their content. In an time where every movie is rated PG-13 I am happy to report that the ESRB does not rubber stamp video game ratings. You should feel confident that a game rated as Teen is suitable for a teenage child but unsuitable for a ten year old.

The ESRB rates games with the following levels:

ESRB Ratings and Location

ESRB Ratings and Location

The six distinct ratings are: Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone over 10 years old, Teen, Mature, and Adults Only. Each of these ratings are discussed in-depth on the ESRB website if you want more detailed information.

Let’s imagine that you are the parent of Junior. Junior is 12 years old and desperately begs you to purchase the latest stalking game Splinter Cell: Conviction. I am a tremendous fan of the Splinter Cell video games and I love playing them, however a brief search on the ESRB website brings up the following information about Splinter Cell: ConvictionRating: Mature, Content Descriptors: Blood, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language. Along with the rating and description you also get a full synopsis about various scenes that accurately describe what will be seen in the game.

With a rating of Mature only individuals 17 years and older should play the game. Sadly, little Junior should not be allowed to play this game until he gets older.

As with all ratings, they are intended as a guide for responsible gaming. If parents educate themselves about the rating system and see that Junior is holding up a copy of a Mature game at Wal-Mart you will know that he probably should find a more age-appropriate game.

ESRB Ratings Search Box

ESRB Ratings Search Box

Now, I am not critiquing anyone’s parenting style. In fact, until I have kids of my own I should keep my mouth firmly shut on the subject, but as a former gamer I know that parents generally lack knowledge about video games and their ratings. If you are one of these parents I resolutely believe that you should familiarize yourself with the games your son or daughter is interested in playing. I remember when my father decided that it was time for me to watch “The Godfather.” As any self-respecting Italian from New York my dad had seen The Godfather at least twenty-five times and he had a good understanding of the mature material in the movie. Because he knew the movie and he knew my maturity level for my age he and I had a father/son night and watched easily the greatest mafia movie of all time.

The moral of this story is my father was educated about The Godfather and felt he could properly explain the mature subject matter to me when I was fifteen years old. Now if I had been less mature at fifteen maybe he waits another year before breaking open the DVD. The point is that he felt comfortable letting me watch a mature movie and that is what parents must become in the age of the video game. If you do not feel comfortable having your son or daughter play a game then by all means do not buy it! But, if you feel your child is mature enough and responsible enough to play a particular game then allow it but with supervision and time limits. If you do those two things you will prevent your child from losing 100 days to improper gaming.

Featured Image Credit – www.vooks.net

Cheers,
Gordon

Gamer Confessions Part 2 of 3

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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.”

Golden Eye

Golden Eye

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

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

Cheers,
Gordon

Gamer Confessions Part 1 of 3

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Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat

Ever since Mortal Kombat came out in the early nineties controversy has grown around video games. Many of the early arguments against video games contended that these games glorified violence and desensitized young children to graphic images. These days video game opponents argue that games increase the risk of depression, agression, and addiction in young kids. As a former gamer I am going to address each of these issues in light of my own gaming experiences in a three part series. Part one will detail my own history of gaming to the present day. Part two will focus on my observations of the available games today. Finally, Part three will delve deep into the benefits of video games and the valid concerns. I hope that this series will educate parents and children alike in what video games are all about and how to “game responsibly.”

Part One – The Personal Gaming History of Gordon Corsetti

The earliest game I remember playing is the original Mario on my most prized possession – the original Nintendo. I never beat Mario but I could never resist how much fun the game was. Smash the little mushrooms, dodge the ducks, defeat the giant turtle, and rescue the princess. I was a hero in sixteen pixels. Eventually I graduated to Paperboy and Duck Hunt. These two games required far greater timing than Mario and consequently took up more of my time to master. I will say with pride that I defeated the Paperboy game in impressive fashion but my experience with Duck Hunt was not as awesome. Try as I could I just never was very good at shooting the ducks unless I was six inches away from the screen. Each Nintendo game I played was mostly a distraction. I could burn thirty minutes to an hour engaged in my personal fantasy world after school then I would go play with my friends. It was not until I dived into the world of the RPG that I lost control.

A Role Playing Game, or RPG, is a game “in which players assume the roles of characters in a fictional setting” (Wikipedia). Taking this concept a bit further for the non-gamers in the crowd, imagine The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now imagine that you are actually Frodo and you must personally destroy the ring in the fires of Mordor. That is the allure of the RPG. A player actually takes on the responsibilities of the lead character/characters in this type of game. My first experience in this fantasy was with an ironically titled game Final Fantasy 8.

In the interest of full disclosure, Final Fantasy 8 was my world for over a year. I thought about this game daily, pined for it during classes, and played it until my eye lids were too heavy to keep open. As far as I was concerned my mission in life was to beat that RPG. Looking back I had an actual addiction to Final Fantasy 8 but I was not old enough to realize it. What, you don’t believe me? What if I told you that I have empirical evidence of this addiction?

I played this game eight different times from the very beginning. This fact cannot be denied as I have the memory card to prove it. What I find scary now is how much I played this game according to the memory card. The first two times I played for a total of forty hours. The third and fourth combined for a total of sixty hours. The fifth and sixth equaled eighty hours. The seventh time I tried to play this game and beat it I spent seventy hours on it from start to almost finish. I say almost finish because the Playstation shorted out and fried the system. I was so furious that I did not play for about a week. Then the bug hit me and I dedicated myself to beating that game once and for all. Game number eight took a total of eighty hours to finish. Now (40+60+80+70+80 = 330 hours). 330 hours equals almost fourteen days of gaming on one game! That means I spent nearly two weeks attempting to beat a game that had no real bearing on any aspect of my life, but in reality it impacted every aspect.

Once I beat Final Fantasy 8 I had no real games to play until the Playstation 2. Oh what a glorious machine that was! The image quality on that piece of technology equaled the beauty and power of the Ark of the Covenant. I was hooked instantly. It would take far too much time to detail how many games I played on the PS2, Xbox 360, Gameboy, and my desktop so I will list them here:

  1. Final Fantasy 10 – 120 hours
  2. SOCOM – 60 hours
  3. SOCOM 2 – 40 hours
  4. Final Fantasy X2 – 80 hours
  5. Starcraft Brood War – 200-300 hour range over three years
  6. Diablo 2 – 150-200 hour range over three years
  7. Sonic the Hedgehog – 30 hours
  8. God of War 1 and 2 – 40 hours combined
  9. The Sims – 30 hours
  10. Sim City – 40-50 hours
  11. Okami – 50 hours
  12. Splinter Cell 2 – 20 hours
  13. Splinter Cell 3 – 30 hours
  14. Splinter Cell 4 – 40 hours
  15. Assassin’s Creed 1 – 20 hours
  16. Assassin’s Creed 2 – 30 hours
  17. Final Fantasy 12 – 60 hours
  18. Pokemon Red and Yellow – 60 hours combined
  19. Madden Football – 40 hours
  20. Grand Theft Auto 3 – 50 hours
  21. Medal of Honor 2 – 20 hours
  22. Tomba 1 – 20 hours
  23. Tomba 2 – 40 hours
  24. Final Fantasy 8 – 330 hours total
  25. Guitar Hero – 40 hours
  26. Halo 1 – 20 hours
  27. Halo 2 – 30 hours

All of the hours listed are conservative numbers but they give an decent range of total time playing games. When added together these numbers equal a whopping 1,850 hours! That turns into just over seventy-seven days of total gaming with conservative numbers. These numbers do not reflect time thinking about the games, strategizing in my off time, or daydreaming in class. So tack on another twenty days to reflect the times I was thinking about gaming and you have almost 100 days of gaming over a ten year period. That may not sound like a lot but imagine what I could have done on a lacrosse field and in school if I had those 100 days back to practice and study.

To be completely honest I am disappointed in myself, but I did not have the knowledge about what games can do to a young kid and neither did my parents. They saw their kid playing sports and hanging out with other kids so me playing games occasionally did not seem like that big of a deal. That lack of knowledge cost me 100 days.

I hope that disclosing my personal gaming history will open the eyes of parents and players alike. While it may seem that I am showing video games in a negative light I am not. I am just chronicling my own experiences and my own experiences with games took a decidedly negative slant because I was not educated to game properly. Because video games are part of the culture of young kids parents cannot ban them from the house entirely, lest your child become a social pariah because he cannot talk about the newest Wii game. To further educate parents and players, Part Two will focus on my take on the current gaming culture and how young kids can game without losing out on the world around them as I did.

Featured Image Credit – www.destructoid.com

Cheers,
Gordon