As the father of two young boys, games are on my radar in one more than one sense. Not only do I have my own gaming habits to consider, but I have to think about the games that my sons consume too. Given my profession, there's no getting away from this, and because I play and write about games all the time, it's only natural that the boys find them fascinating. Monkey see, monkey do.
Given what I do for a living, as you might expect, other parents often talk to me about what they let their children play, and while I'll either agree or disagree with what they consider age appropriate, one thing is constant throughout each discussion, and that's a shared appreciation that kids today have it so good when it comes to games. They really are spoiled for choice.
Whether we're talking about cleverly made tablet titles that take advantage of the intuitive touch screen controls (something that we now take for granted), or educational offerings on the desktop PC that test the grey matter, or even console games that develop coordination and reflexes (for example, my kids, like so many others, are partial to a bit of Lego-based gaming); there's so many great games for the younger generation to enjoy.
Of course there's some total shite out there too, and with kids being easy to please and an impressionable audience, it's often parents like yours truly that are left to pick up the tab for questionable pieces of programming. However, once you ignore all the rubbish and start to seek out real quality, it becomes abundantly clear that there's plenty of decent stuff for them to play.
The starting point for this blog came yesterday, Saturday, walking through town on the way to the local swimming pool, bumping into a friend and fellow parent, and talking about Disney Infinity and how impressed he was with the depth of the offering. It got me thinking about the difference in quality between what I played as a youngster, and what my children have to enjoy nowadays. Of course, back then, a lot more games were universal in terms of age appeal, and as a whole the game-consuming audience was less mature and it was less socially acceptable (remember when it wasn't really normal to play games?), but I still think it's fair to say that youngsters have never been served better than they are today.
My kids enjoy Lego games (we're currently playing Lego Jurassic World at the moment), Steamworld Dig is another favourite, we're all partial to classic Sonic, and of course Nintendo makes great family friendly titles that we enjoy playing together. We've not got into full-on Minecraft mode just yet, but it's edging ever closer; I fear that addiction is just around the corner.
There's a nice range of titles for the boys to choose from, and I know other parents think the same, even if we don't always agree on when it's suitable to let the little ones start playing games made for a slightly older audience. One thing we all agree on, though, is the online element, and I'm not alone in keeping my kids away from the interwebs and limiting (almost completely) their online interactions. Because while we can trust our kids to play nicely - most of the time - the same can't be said of everyone else, and I think it prudent parenting to be extremely careful about what, and who, they're exposed too.
To sum up this rambling blog post: kids have never had it better. But like most parents, I think it pays to limit the time they can spend playing, as well as being extremely careful about what/who they're exposed to. There's a world of amazing digital experiences out there waiting to be discovered and enjoyed, but as a parent I personally think that we have a responsibility to our children, to expose them to certain games when they're ready for them, which isn't always when they might want to play them.