Some Discernment about Video Games

Friends of ours who are rearing three daughters asked what video games / platforms I would recommend. That’s a good question. Some parents are completely indiscriminate concerning video games, letting their children play whatever they like. Others fall into the opposite category, keeping their children in the dark about video game platforms.

This made me think back to when Tim was a child. Laurel and I had seen children whose very lives seemed to revolve around video games. That wasn’t something we wanted for our children. But we didn’t want to take an anti-computer-game position. Having an engineer’s heart (if not the degree), I wanted my children to be as comfortable as possible with today’s technology. So we set up some ground-rules that addressed the issue:

  1. Time limitations. I think we gave Tim one half-hour per day when he was in elementary school. By sixth grade that increased to one hour. I seem to recall a chart on the refrigerator that he used to track his time. Believe it or not, that single hour comprised his video game time and his television time. (Steeler football didn’t count. He could watch them all day!) This is why he needed the chart. He’d skip several days in a row, and then spend a few hours on Saturday morning playing video games. By junior high, that became self-regulatory.
  2. Content limitations. In our minds, violence was the big problem in video games. So we were always opposed to first-person shooter games in the hands of young players. Violence against robots was preferable to violence against people. We stayed away from death games — like Mortal Combat. We also stayed away from games where the character was a bad role model (like Grand Theft-auto). There is a lot more than violence to worry about these days — language and sexual content are issues.
  3. Sharability. In our house, a game was more favorable if it could be shared. Sometimes this meant taking turns. Often it meant the game had two controllers.
  4. Personal enrichment. If a game had moral values, that was great. If it taught history, that was good too. If it taught logic and strategy, that was a bonus.

At first, we had a Sega platform because their games were very “cartoon-like”. Sonic the Hedgehog was fun and never really hurt anyone except some monsters he crashed into. In a short time, we moved to Nintendo because they were so very creative. I’ll never forget the first Zelda game we played together — The Ocarina of Time. It was a good story with challenging puzzles and moderately difficult fighting. The fighting was against unreal monsters and clearly evil beings. There were ghosts and undead creatures lurking about, but they were not scary at all. When you did fight a person (like the Gerrudos) your arrows only knocked them out for a few moments, and then were okay.

Some video games use myth as their story platform. Okami, an excellent game made for the PlayStation 2 to compete with Zelda takes its story straight from Shintoism. I never allowed this kind of thing to deter us from playing the game, but used it as an opportunity to teach the difference between those religions (real or fabricated for the game) and our Christian faith.

Anyway — that is a bit of a synopsis of our experience as a family with video games. How about yours?

5 thoughts on “Some Discernment about Video Games

  1. My parents bought me the first Atari system…Atari 2600 I think…I still have it. Anyhow, at that time most games were pretty lame compared to what we have today. You could shoot a space centepede or space invaders or a tank, if you shot anything. Usually, though, you were in a maze of some sort (whether Pac Man or ET) and trying to get out alive.

    I didn’t start higher end games until I was in college when I bought Tomb Raider. I have to admit, that’s a game that I wouldn’t purchase for just anyone. Aside from Lara’s, um, unique physique, the action can get rather violent (although arguably nearly everyone she locks onto is a bad guy). However, there isn’t blood, the dead guys just fall over and fade away, and Tomb Raider is known for being a puzzle based platform.

    What goes into the head through the eyes is stuck there. And if you’re a visual person like I am, it’s even worse. I’ve thrown out novels that, while they had a good plot, some of the stuff wasn’t fit for consumption, and what I read, I remember. Video games have to be held to the same standards as television or movies. If you won’t let your child see a PG-13 (the former R movies!) movie, then don’t buy a video game of the same theme. Because your kids will remember what they see, and some day it will affect them.

    Pastor Steve, I think you had a good system there. And playing with your kids is key, not all parents are willing to take that time.

  2. Wendy — I admire your dumping trashy books. Most people would get into the book far enough to discern the trash and keep reading because they “might as well finish it.” Laurel and I have ejected rented DVDs in midstream and even walked out of a movie theater when we were dating.

    Playing good games with your kids isn’t hard. πŸ™‚

  3. It was hard, though. Some of the books I got rid of had really good story lines and I’d hang onto them for that reason. Finally I thought, I’m not going to forget the story, at least not the gist of it. The sad thing is, it isn’t just the so-called “romance” novels that have the trash in them these days…I’ve stopped reading certain fantasy writer’s because of what they write. πŸ™

    When your parents are technologically impaired… πŸ™‚

  4. I know this blog is ancient, but I will always remember playing the Ocarina of Time when I was little, and actually I still play it today! When you first play the game it can be difficult…but once you have beaten it 30+ times it gets a little bit easier. I can easily beat Ocarina of Time in a day if I tried, but I think there is stuff I would rather do. But there is always room for Zelda! I have to work on Majora’s Mask though, I have only beaten it twice.

    That had nothing to to with your blog, it was more of how I play Zelda… I recommend it though for anyone it’s easily the best game ever made in my opinion.

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