In the digital age, technology is king. I would wager that most people today have played and enjoyed a video game; be it something as accessible as Fruit Ninja or as complicated as Civilization, gaming is becoming part of our culture and, as we become parents, our children’s culture. A recent Observer article discussed the affinity that children have with computers and games and how this can leave “their parents baffled”. Does this mean, therefore, that the next generation of parents, those who themselves grew up playing video games, will be able to understand and connect with their children more? Probably not seems the likely answer; the child parent relationship is unlikely to change that drastically just because parents understand the interests of their children a little better, but, for the gaming industry and for children, a better understanding of the role games can play in growing up might not be a bad thing.
Children like video games and pressure their parents to buy them, this is undeniably true. The advantage that the gaming generation might have as parents is the willingness and ability to research and test what their children want. Rather that simply relying on what the media and shop assistants advise, gamer parents can inform themselves and make their own judgements for their children. The worry that is expressed in the Observer is that the author can’t interact with her son over games:
“…computer games still bother me. It’s the knowledge gap. I have no idea what Patrick’s up to when he plays Zelda, or cries over penalties in Classics XI, because, other than the odd game of Space Invaders, I’ve never got into computer games.”
This is a problem that can be rectified by gaming knowledge. Moreover, gaming parents can change the way games are viewed by making informed decisions.
Too often have I heard of children playing games that are completely inappropriate for their age group. One could argue that this shows a lack of parental involvement but I think it is, at least in part, caused by a lack of understanding of games. Most people know what a 15 or an 18 rating means in terms of movies but for games they don’t. Gaming parents, however, will understand the likely cause of these ratings and can play the games before allowing their children anywhere near them. On the other hand, for some parents there seems to be the view that video games are universally “bad for children”. This too is damaging and misguided. I’ll say it again, children like video games; many of them will tire of games quickly, many will grow out of them eventually and many of them will become avid gamers. Think of games like chocolate. I am not suggesting that children should do nothing but play games but nor should games be seen as “bad”. If properly regulated, games are harmless fun for children and perhaps it is this view that will become more accepted as more gamers become parents.
I am not a parent and perhaps I am naive to think that being a gamer will change the type of parent I am or affect my kids in any way; but I do believe that a lack of understanding is giving games a bad image and allowing children to play games that are inappropriate. Not every parent of my generation will be a gamer but perhaps they will all have a better understanding of games and the gaming industry will be better off for it.