From The Archives: The gaming industry needs to keep kids in mind

From The Archives posts are posts which I’ve carried over from my old blog (usually just the opinion pieces and other critical stuff, not the news and miscellaneous posts). They come from the entire length of my time in games writing, so you’ll probably notice a big jump in quality between the really old stuff and the more recent posts.

Originally posted on my old blog on May 8th 2012

So a few things lately (namely THQ’s troubles and the fact they’re no longer making licensed ‘kids’ games) got me thinking about so called ‘kids’ games, and you know what? I think we actually need more of them. Now, this has probably enraged a few of you already, so let me explain. Back when I was a kid, the games I played were mainly Mario, Pokemon, and games based off movies and TV shows I knew. I played a lot of Sesame Street and Magic School Bus games which were teaching me key skills like problem solving and exploring possibilities, which were useful in both life, and games I would be playing in the future. Eventually I ‘moved up’ to games like Banjo Kazooie, which were again making me think about things, and were colourful, fun, and age appropriate. These were the sorts of games, I was playing for ages, and only played ‘mature’ games like Grand Theft Auto and Halo when I was at the houses of friends who had them (or older brothers with them!), and you know what? I think I’m all the better for it. The games I played were giving me skills that would help in both real life, and in games, and were most importantly, teaching me how to have fun! I learnt the importance of trying new things, like that if I turned the lights of Elmo’s house off, he would get scared, and that was amusing. This form of experimenting was stimulating in that it was encouraging me to get the most out of situations, and seeing how my actions had effects on things. I learnt strategy, in that my friends’ Pokemon were stronger than mine, and I needed to discover a way to beat them. I learnt to have stress-free fun, in trying to get as far as I could in Super Mario Bros. Kids these days grow up on ‘mature’ games, trying to be cool and older than they are. But playing mindless shooters like Call of Duty isn’t stimulating them at all. It’s a simple, easy to play game, with no real objective other than ‘kill everyone’. It’s not really teaching them any skills to apply to life, nor any that they can really apply to non-shooter games. It’s just mindless action that has them swearing at the TV getting agro when people kill them. It may seem like I’m singling out COD here, but it’s just the most prominent example. I’m a big Battlefield fan, but I don’t think that would really do the kids any favours either. What happened to kids being kids, trying to come up with the best strategy to beat each other’s teams of Pokemon? What happened to kids only being concerned with the graphics or guns that a game has? We need more appealing kid-friendly games that can help them grow as both people and gamers, and we need better marketing from companies to remove this stigma that games like Mario and Pokemon aren’t cool, and that to be somebody you need to play the games the ‘big kids’ are playing. These kids are growing up with an attitude that things have to be gritty and serious in order to be fun, which isn’t the case, they should be learning to appreciate all the different experiences that life and gaming offer. Sure, a lot of licensed games are rubbish and critically panned, but the people reviewing these games are adults or young adults who are way beyond the age group of the games. If one were to watch Play School, they’re obviously going to see it is a mind numbingly simple program with nothing to offer, but the show isn’t designed to entertain adults, but to educate kids and entertain them at the same time. Does this make it a bad show? No, of course not, and I believe the same applies to games. Developers who are creating these games shouldn’t be worried about critical response. That isn’t to say they shouldn’t try to make the games good, rather they need to keep the audience in mind. Why would kids find our game appealing? What skills are they drawing from our game? How will our game stimulate their thinking? With less and less games being created for kids (that aren’t just objectively rubbish with nothing to offer), it means the only alternative is the ‘mature’ games, which despite having bright stickers on the front saying they aren’t for kids, are constantly bought by parents wanting to make their kids happy. And this is the case. There’s a reason that the stereotype of COD players is a whining 12 year old- because so many of them play it! Instead of games rewarding thought and skill, these games provide instant gratification, and I’d wager is part of the reason why kids nowadays have such short attention spans. They need explodey action and violence or their minds aren’t satisfied. While a lot of you won’t appreciate kid-friendly games, I say- SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

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