December 9, 2005
Expert helps parents understand world of video, computer games
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Adults who are not familiar with video and computer games should be cautious about what they buy children this holiday season, says a Purdue University video game expert.
"In a perfect world, video games would be rated in terms of content and complexity," says Samantha Blackmon, an assistant professor of English who studies representations of race and gender video games. "But the content of video games can be surprising. I recently played a football video game that was rated mature, which is similar to an R rating for a movie, and I never thought a football game would receive that kind of rating. But it did because of the foul language used by the commentator."
Blackmon says young children will often imitate the language they hear, and they also will draw conclusions about how they should see women and minorities represented in the games.
"That's why it is important for adults to take an interest in the games children play," says Blackmon, who owns more than a dozen video game systems and hundreds of games. "Plus, video games can be used as a teaching tool. In my house, we play games with closed captioning and turn the sound off. The subtitles not only improve reading comprehension but also help with reading speed."
Here are some other buying tips:
• Visit the game developer's Web site to view trailers for specific games. These trailers, just like for movies, will give you a good feel about the game.
• When at a gaming store, ask if you can play the game. If you are not a video game player, then ask someone who works there to demonstrate the game for you.
• Unless a child is going to be supervised, avoid role-playing games utilizing the Internet to connect the players. You don't know what the other players are going to do, which can very quickly change the content of games.
• Even if buying a game for a specific teenager, be aware if there are other children in the house. A game may be suitable for a 17-year-old, but chances are the 8-year-old will be playing it, too. Look for games that are appropriate for all ages.
• Pay attention to the video game rating system. It is more complicated than the motion picture code. The Entertainment Software Rating Board explains the ratings.
• Look for video games that involve puzzles or quests. These types of games teach and offer logic challenges rather than just entertain.
• Before buying the latest system, make sure age-appropriate games are available for that console.
To the News Service home page