Parents Guide to Video Games

Everything Parents Should Know about Gaming

PlayStation Vita Handheld game

Video Games play a big part of many kids lives. That isn't necessarily a bad thing. However, if you are a parent, whether your kids are already gaming, or you have young children who might be starting soon, there are many things that you should know about video games.

Why Do Parents Need to Learn about Video Games?

  • You cannot guide your kids to make safe decisions while gaming if you do not understand what they are doing.
  • By learning how to play, you can play with your kids, which is one of the best ways of bonding with them.
  • Learning about the educational and other benefits of playing video games might change your views of them and help you in choosing which games to buy.

Video Game Platforms

There are five places to play video games:

  1. Video Game Consoles - The big 3 are Sony PlayStation, Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Wii. The latest versions of each are the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U.  
  2. Handheld consoles such as the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita. All of the highest rated handheld video game consoles right now are made by Sony or Nintendo.
  3. PC and Mac - Games that you download on to your computer.
  4. Mobile apps - Games played on your smartphones and tablets. Many are becoming almost as sophisticated as console games.
  5. Online - These are games that are played using one of the above hardware systems but played over the Internet or some type of computer network. Online games allow players to play with other people from all over the world.

    Types of Video Games

    • Action - These are the games that give video games a bad name. These include the shooting and fighting games. However, these are only one category, so don't let one genre sully an entire industry.
    • Adventure - Usually in these games the player is part of an interactive story and needs to solve a mystery or puzzle.
    • Casual - Easy games that do not require much direction. Mostly apps such as solitaire or Angry Birds.
    • Role-Playing - The player becomes a character in a story. Often these games are played online with very large groups and are known are Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games or MMORPGs. 
    • Serious Games - These are games that were created with a purpose other than entertainment. They were created to help specific groups, societies or the world at large. 

    Video Game Ratings

    There are two wonderful websites to help you::

    1. ESRB - The Entertainment Software Ratings Board rates every video game for age appropriateness. On every video game box, or website if you purchase online, you will see a rating for Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone 10+, Teen, Mature 17+ or Adults Only 18+. There is now an ESRB app to find the ratings of gaming apps.
    2. Common Sense Media - They rate video games by quality and learning potential. You can search games by age, platform or game type. They have a separate section to search apps.

    Parental Controls

    Since all of the video game consoles connect to the Internet, depending on the ages of your kids, you might want to set up parental controls to restrict what your kids can download.

    Here is where you can find the instructions for these consoles, Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita.

    Educational Benefits of Video Games

    Video games have so many features that make them perfect for learning, whether in school or at home. And I'm not talking only about educational video games. There are many benefits to be had when playing many adventure, role-playing and other games. What are these features?

    • Well made video games require players to make decisions and solve problems, some of the most important skills students need, yet not easily taught.
    • Many video games have a feature called "leveling up", which means that the player can't move on until the current level has been completed. This drives the player to achieve because the reward is moving on. 
    • While playing, you are learning through doing, not by watching.
    • Video games set goals for players and give feedback on achievements. Clear goals and feedback are very important to motivate students or workers.
    • Multi-player games require collaboration to do well, which is also a very important skill to learn.
    • Simulation games, such as driving or flying, let players feel what what it is like to actually do the task.
    • Learning is always more fun when it involves play.

    Other Benefits of Video Games

    • Social - Video games give kids something to bond over. Multi-player games encourage cooperation.
    • Physical - While not as great as hoped for, using the newer movement controllers, playing many video games no longer means sitting still on a couch.
    • Manipulating complex video games seems to result in improvements in multitasking, cognitive processing and manual dexterity.
    • Business skills - Many of the concepts and skills learned in gaming are those needed to succeed in the business world.

    Violence and Video Games

    There have been just as many studies that refute the claim that video games cause kids to be violent as there are that support it. In fact some studies have shown that violent video games even reduce violence by helping kids release their anger through game playing. Whatever you believe, violent video games make up only a small selection of games on the market.

    Parents and Video Games

    Even with all the benefits that I pointed out, the phrase, everything in moderation, should apply to video games also. And parents should make sure that they check the ESRB video game ratings. If you follow these two pieces of advice, you shouldn't have to worry.

    If you want to go a step further, show an interest in video games and learn how to play, at least the easier games. That is the best way to understand what is going on.