We like to see that at least one expert has their head on straight. Samantha Blackmon, a Purdue University associate professor of English who studies representations of race and gender in video games, doesn't go the "videogames kill" route. Instead, she offers up solid, sensible advice for parents looking at holiday gaming gifts, and encourages parents to take an interest in the games their kids play.
"In a perfect world, video games would be rated in terms of content and complexity," says Blackmon, who is also a gamer who owns a dozen video-game systems and hundreds of games. "But the content of video games can be surprising. The way video games are drawn can remind us of cartoons and feel safe for children, but sometimes the language and innuendo that accompanies the images is anything but child-friendly."
Hit the jump for Blackmon's holiday 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 for 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.
Make yourself familiar with how the parental settings on computer consoles work. You can block images, text messages and chat from strangers online.
We wish more non-gaming parents had the sense to think of these helpful tips on their own. What's more is that the other "gaming experts" would be better off approaching the issue like Blackmon has, but I think the difference here is that this expert actually plays games. Imagine that!
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