Posted by Trixter on August 1, 2008
Today I am 37. I am also 237. I’m working on the latter.
My youngest son Max will be 9 years old in November, but already he has been bugging (begging?) me to play some first-person shooters. I initially thought this was a good idea and let him play TimeShift with all of the blood/gore turned off. But something struck me as he played it: As he was gunning down the enemy, he was showing hardly any reaction as to what they were doing. In other words, he was shooting a fairly realistic gun at a fairly realistic enemy, who was yelling and dying in a fairly realistic way, and he simply was not reacting to this at all. That bothered me, so I uninstalled the game (actually I rar’d it up and moved it to another drive — I figure by the time he’s smart enough to figure out how to restore it, he’ll be old enough to play it :-).
While I relish the thought of nurturing the next Fatal1ty, I am bound by the morals/values/scruples that all parents (should) have. So I had to lay down the law last month about what he could and couldn’t play specifically regarding first-person shooters. Coming up with parenting-friendly rules was surprisingly easy (no realistic human targets, etc.). Coming up with the games that honor those rules was a little harder, given that the point of an FPS is to kill things :-) Here’s what Max can expect:
- 8-9 years old: No human targets or scary environments. Acceptable FPS games: Serious Sam series, Tron 2.0, Shadowcaster
- 10-11: Human targets okay only if they are zombies or possessed or otherwise completely unrealistic (ie. quite pixelated graphics or low polygon count). Acceptable games: Doom, Heretic/Hexen
- 12-13: Any target or setting is fine as long as the game is rated ESRB “T” for teen
- 14-15: Can play anything he wants as long as it’s not pointlessly sadistic (ie. games like Manhunt are not allowed)
- 16+: Anything goes (I was sneaking into R-rated movies when I was 16 so I figure it would be hypocritical to not let him play anything he wants at 16)
(I’m probably forgetting some eligible games; let me know which ones and I’ll amend the above.)
Note that the above guidelines assume all games will have all gore and bad language set to “off” if the game allows it. Even if they don’t, Max and I have an understanding about bad language (when it is and isn’t appropriate) so I’m not worried about that, and blood coming from an obvious non-human enemy is fine too. Fantasy violence is clearly a game. Getting a headshot on a human soldier can also be a game, but only if you’re properly grounded, and I don’t think a 9-year-old is that grounded.
Max, of course, thinks these rules are completely unreasonable. I think they’re pretty damn lenient!