Playing video games is now commonly a child’s first choice of entertainment. It provides him with excitement, thrill, challenge and control, while at the same time he is being rewarded with eye-catching and near-realistic graphics and audio. It gets him to socialize, compete, cooperate and interact with friends, and there are several studies that suggest that playing video games have a lot of benefits for the brain.
Kids usually choose their games based on what their friends or peers play. However, there are some advantages when you pick for yourself what you want your child to play and what to buy. You get to avoid what’s inappropriate for them and you get to choose what intellectual skills you want them to develop when playing the games. You may also want to choose a game that both of you or your family can enjoy, and therefore the games become a source of parental and family bonding.
There are so many video games to choose from, and you might be overwhelmed with how to start to choose. Here are the steps that could help you unearth the enjoyable treasure that your child and your family will enjoy:
- Choose a genre that you think your child will enjoy, one that he’s interested in, and presents intellectual challenges. The most popular genres are:
- Strategy games – requires planning, making strategic decisions, and managing limited resources to win
- First person shooter – requires spatial navigations, hand-eye coordination, hypothesis testing to win
- Action role playing games – requires deeper decision-making, inductive reasoning, and making fast analysis
- Research the best and popular games in the genre by reading information and reviews from the internet, or Gaming magazines. You can also ask sales persons if you are buying from a physical store. The most popular game review sites are:
Alternatively, you can just search Google for “video game reviews” or watch games being played in Twitch. You can also consider the recommendations of friends and family.
- Choose a game that you think is appropriate for his age – Check the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) Ratings of the game before you buy it or allow your kid to play it. Check its rating which is indicated in the box. Note the title and cover picture. If they have themes of sex and/or violence, then these themes are in the game. The ESRB ratings are as follows:
- EC – Early Childhood. Content is intended for young children.
- E – Everyone. Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
- E10+ – Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
- T – Teen. Content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.
- M – Mature. Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
- Adults Only – Content suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. May include prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.
- RP – Rating Pending. Not yet assigned a final ESRB rating. Appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a physical (boxed) video game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and should be replaced by a game’s rating once it has been assigned.
- Make sure that your hardware can fully support the games you choose. See if your PC meet the minimum hardware requirements of the game, or if your game is playable in the version of your Game Console (like PlayStation and Xbox)
- For PC Games, consider buying digital copies of games, as opposed to physical copies to save money. You can find cheaper prices in sites like Steam and Green Man Gaming and GamersGate.
- In considering the price of the video game, be aware of in-game purchases that may be necessary to fully enjoy the game.
- Keep in mind that some older games may be more enjoyable than newer games, even if the graphics is more advanced.
Click here for more detailed info on game genres, and how they might be good for the brain.
Other Tips for Choosing Video Games for your Child (and Yourself):
- Decide what is acceptable in your home and if you think violent games are not acceptable, explain to your kid the reason why it might be bad for him.
- Sometimes, the “bad” part of the game is hidden in the higher levels. Do not neglect supervising your kid as a parent.
- Consider your child’s maturity level to determine which games are suitable for him. Chronological age is not necessarily a measure of maturity.
- Pick games that require the player to come up with strategies, and make decisions in a game environment that is more complex than punching, stealing, and killing.
- Look for games involving multiple players to encourage group play.
- Although ESRB rating is a good indication of the age appropriateness of your child’s video game, remember that for online gaming, interaction with players online may expose your child to people who might use inappropriate language on him.
- According to Los Angeles-based psychotherapist Robert Butterworth, PhD , you should “evaluate the shows and games not just in terms of violence or obscenity, but in terms of the mental engagement that they require. Boys need to slay dragons and play games with action figures of cowboys and Indians,” he says. “They need to be in a fantasy where they are conquering heroes; suppressing this may have long-term effects that may not be good.”
- Watch out if your child shows symptoms of video game addiction.