Being a parent and a gamer can oftentimes be a tricky proposition. There are so many cool things crammed into video games these days that you’d just love to share with your inquisitive young ones, but there are also, typically, goodly amounts of questionable/violent/sexual content in most of today’s games that just wouldn’t be good to expose little Johnny or Suzie to.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for video games that push boundaries and explore adult realms…that’s really the only way an art form can grow, by testing, and expanding beyond, boundaries. I’m all for exposing children to as much as they can handle, and giving them as much perspective (historical or otherwise) as possible. But there are limits, of course.
And in regard to those limits, here’s a list of 10 games that you’d want to play with your kids to for various reasons…but should probably hold off on until they are a bit older and wiser.
1. CONKER’S BAD FUR DAY
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: It’s an amusing platformer starring a cheeky, anthropomorphic squirrel with a British accent. What’s not fun about that??
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: The squirrel is a profane, lecherous drunkard who gets in a battle with a signing mound of feces, has a quasi-sexual encounter with a buxom sunflower that wants to be “pollenated” and utters such classic lines as: “My head feels like a badger’s ass” and “Oh, no! A bourgeois, big-bollocked boiler! That's all I need!” ‘Nuff said.
2. MORTAL KOMBAT (series)
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: These games are still a blast to play in versus mode and there’s a ton of colorful, cool characters to choose from. Plus, there’s a great deal of video game history that can be shared/taught if you go all the way back to this series’ 1992 arcade roots.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: Two words: Fatalities and Brutalities. The violence depicted in the original game is one of the main reasons the video game industry was dragged before Congress in 1994 and essentially forced to create and implement a ratings system which was a positive for the most part.
My personal thoughts on the need for a standardized ratings system are, if parent’s paid closer attention to what their kids were doing and/or playing, there would be no need for a ratings system…but that’s just me. (Full disclosure: I worked for the ESRB from 2006 to 2007.)
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: Again, this is another historical oddity that’s fun to show off and it’s one of the first horror games that was actually pretty damn good. No, Haunted House on the Atari 2600 wasn’t any good. Get over it.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: This game’s imagery and gore are still pretty intense (hanging dead babies that puke on you, chainsaw armed bosses, etc.) even by today’s standards. It may be OK for a teen, but I’d definitely keep anyone under 13 away from this title. There is a more modern remake (2010) that I’m not too familiar with (because it wasn’t very good), but I’d venture to guess this version is pretty intense as well. Stick with the classic.
4. GOD OF WAR (series)
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: The God of War series does an excellent job of faithfully recreating creatures, situations and locations from Greek mythology. Therefore, the games could be used as a fun teaching tool to relate those classic stories to your kids as you play. On top of that, the games are drop dead gorgeous to look at and a ton of fun to play.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: Loads of blood, dismemberment, nudity and three-way sex. Plus, Kratos’ (the protagonist of the series) personal story arc goes down some pretty dark paths, dealing with deception .betrayal and the murder of his wife and daughter by his own hand. Those Greeks sure knew how to party…
5. RAZE’S HELL
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: On the surface, this experience looks to be a brightly colored, third person action-shooter with cutesy characters doing cutesy things.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: Beyond that candy-coated exterior lies a game that’s about mass racial genocide which is quite bloody and irreverent to boot.
6. FRAN BOW
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: This one is a bit personal. My 11-year-old daughter wanted to play this in worst way, and I wanted to accommodate this wish because I grew up playing cool, quirky adventure games from Lucasarts and the like. Fran Bow was billed as something akin to that, BUT…
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: …it’s a deeply disturbing adventure game with a pitch black tone. It’s also a very good game, but after 10 minutes of playtime, I knew there was no way in hell I was letting my daughter even watch me play it.
7. RED DEAD REDEMPTION
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: it’s an awesomely fun game where you get to walk in the boots of cowboy wants nothing more right the wrongs he committed in the past and live a simple life on his farm. Also, this another title that could be used at a fun teaching tool as Rockstar Games really went all out to make this an authentic, Wild West experience.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: Well, if you know anything about the Wild West you know that it wasn’t a very kid friendly place in many ways. Drinkin’, gamblin’, shootin’, stealin’ and whorin’ are all integral parts of the gameplay and narrative.
8. SOUTH PARK: THE STICK OF TRUTH
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: It’s a lovingly crafted RPG version of the South Park universe…which is a very good thing, and kids are attracted to South Park’s overall cartoony aesthetic. And it is funny as hell…not too many video games do humor well.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: It’s South Park…a franchise that’s widely known to flout conventions in the most crude and offensive ways possible. Case in point, about five minutes into the game you can find the sex toy stash of Mrs. Cartman. Very funny stuff (especially if you are a long-time fan of the show)…but not for kids, of course.
9. ASSASSIN’S CREED (series)
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: The Assassin’s Creed games are another series that does an outstanding job of dropping the player into whatever historical time and/or place the game is set in (the Crusades, Victorian London, Colonial America, etc.). This again would be another great opportunity to teach your kids about history while having some fun at the same time.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: The games are rife with adult situations and content. Additionally, the overarching story is a bit tough for younger kids to wrap their minds around. Hell, there are some adults that have a hard time understanding it!
10. THAT DRAGON CANCER
WHY YOU’D WANT TO PLAY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: It’s a deeply moving experience about a mother and father dealing with the highs, lows and ultimate death of their child who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 12 months old.
WHY IT’S A BAD IDEA: It’s a deeply moving experience about a mother and father dealing with the highs, lows and ultimate death of their child who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at 12 months old.
Some people may differ with my opinion on this one, and that’s fine, but as father who has also lost a child (to meningitis) this was a difficult game to get through. And if I had a difficult getting through it, I’m quite sure my daughter and son would as well.