Kids, right? Little bags of noise and constant want. A distraction from the important things in life such as loafing around and trying to delude ourselves that the ever present looming of retirement, gardening and death is never going to happen. Cheery banter aside, a lot of people have them, despite their better judgement, and one of the things that these mewling cabbages tend to want as they grow bigger and more belligerent is a games console. With that in mind, what does a less tech-savvy/non gamer parent need to know? Hopefully Def-Exclusive can help.
Firstly, what to buy them? Well, consider their age first of all. A tween or teen may want (or need) a current gen console as their friends will all have them. So PS4 or Xbox One. It is best to check with the other parents outside the school gates what consoles that little Jonny Strawkid’s friends own too. Don’t make them a pariah by buying them an Xbox One when all of their chums own PS4, or vice versa. A lot of social interaction these days happens online through gaming. Don’t be intimidated if other parents know more about this than you – gamers tend to love to share their interests with others and most will happily discuss any pros and cons with you.
Nintendo often have a friendlier online service for children, where messages such as ‘good game’ and ‘I’ll get you next time!’ replace screamed unintelligible insults and threats varying in horrific scope
But younger children will not need powerful consoles as an introduction to gaming. Last-gen consoles are getting cheaper and there is a bevy of games for all with a ridiculously low price tag. There will be nothing worse than having spent the best part of fifty pounds on a new release for your child, only to find that they don’t like what they are playing. Staff in game shops can be helpful, but there are often cases where they are obliged to push any old shit on unsuspecting consumers to fulfil quotas. Best to pick up two or three older games for half the cost and get a better idea of what appeals to your child. Also, this is where Nintendo shines. Their consoles often cost less and have a bevy of family friendly games. Something like Super Mario Maker for Nintendo Wii U can be ideal for a young child, encouraging hand eye co-ordination and having a creative element too, creating levels for themselves and to be shared with others. Nintendo often have a friendlier online service for children, eschewing the online chat functions in Mario Kart in favour of a simplified message system where messages such as ‘good game’ and ‘I’ll get you next time!’ replace screamed unintelligible insults and threats varying in horrific scope.
Getting involved is important. Don’t see the console as a proxy babysitter – play games with your child, know what they are doing, what they are playing and see how much they are enjoying it. Don’t be afraid to limit their time. Games are extremely addictive and can absorb anyone, child or adult, for hours at a time. If possible, try and keep the console in a shared area such as a living room, so there are boundaries in place. The (based on reality) stereotype of the pale skinned gamer, bedroom bound with no real-life social interaction is something you obviously want to discourage and the need for ‘privacy’ will come as they get older. An hour or so of fun times as a family is not only good for children, but for you as well.
Peer pressure may be all a young teenager has to consider, but as a parent you have your own set of responsibilities that trump that
The real cause for debate as your child gets older is that of the adult oriented games that they will undoubtedly hear of and want. ‘All my friends have it!’ they will cry. Again, check with the other parents as to how true this really is. In the 80s, during the moral panic over video nasties, a survey was conducted of children with a list of false movie names and asking the children if they had seen them. A high percentage of the children would answer yes, then going on to describe what they liked about the fictional movies. Undoubtedly some of the children will own adult and violent games, but many will simply be saying that they do out of pressure to ‘fit in’. Games, like movies have ratings. Would you buy a 14 year old child a copy of the Human Centipede on Blu-Ray/DVD? The answer SHOULD be no. Those films have the same rating as games such as Grand Theft Auto 5 or Call of Duty – they aren’t intended for children. Whilst I personally do not believe for a second that games/movies cause children to commit acts of violence or indeed anyone, exposing them to more adult themes at a young age can definitely have negative effects on children. Peer pressure may be all a young teenager has to consider, but as a parent you have your own set of responsibilities that trump that. Violent games are not the bulk of what is available out there, they are a minority.
It could be argued that no-one needs to buy a child a games console, or a gaming PC. Whilst that is certainly true, there is no obligation to do so, but the gaming industry has gone from strength to strength over the decades and has become a major force in popular culture. Embrace your child’s interests is a piece of advice that no parent really needs to hear, they know it already, but sadly when it comes to gaming they seem unwilling to engage often because of shock pieces in the media making it seem like a scary pastime. It really isn’t – you can see this for yourselves and who knows, maybe find something you really enjoy too that you may have overlooked before?