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Our 7 year old son really wants a video game player

April 2013

Our 7 year old son really wants a video game player (Xbox, Wii). Many of his friends have one, and he is saving his money for one. My husband is very adamant against getting one; I, on the other hand, am open to the idea as long as we set strong LIMITS. My observation seems to be that boys, in particular, can get very addicted to the gadgets and video games. I see it with adult men too, for that matter! I see that my son has that obsessive potential too. He is allowed limited screen (TV/movies) time right now and we spend a lot of unstructured time playing and being outside, etc... I worry that if we don't get a player - maybe not now but when he is older? - and integrate it into our house with moderation that he will continue to want to go over only to his friends' houses that have game players so that he can get holed-up in their rooms wanting to do nothing else! What to do? video gaming moderation


Setting limits is important. Fold video game time into his already limited total screen time. I would also suggest putting a game system in a shared space and not in a child's room. Be proactive in selecting games for your son to play and spend time playing together with him. If you're comfortable with it, talk to other parents and come up with some shared best practices so that you don't feel so far apart in the structure you are creating for your own child.

You specifically mention console systems. I've put together a short list of E rated games that should be appropriate for children ages 7-9 and their parents to play together:


Kinect Party (X360)
Joy Ride Turbo (X360)
FEZ (X360)
New Super Mario Bros (Wii U)
LittleBigPlanet 2 (PS3)
Harvest Moon: Animal Parade (Wii)
MLB Power Pros (Wii)
Animal Crossing: City Folk (Wii)
NiGHTS into dreams (PS3)
Pikmin 3 (WiiU) -- released Q2 2013

Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language. (ratings and rating descriptions taken from www.esrb.org)

If you have a PC, MIT's Scratch tool is a great way to start building a foundation in interactive storytelling and programming for boys and girls at around ages 7-8: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/website-reviews/scratch

You might award your son with a little extra screen time for every meaningful Scratch project he creates. Think of it in terms of earning a small time allowance to encourage further self-motivated learning and exploration.

My parents bought our first family computer when I was seven. I was never allowed to have a video game console growing up. I'm now a video game developer with a three year old son of my own. Game Developer Dad


Get the video games! Video games were a highlight of my childhood. I remember playing with my cousins and my dad and uncles growing up and they are some of my fondest memories of quality time spent with them. There are a lot of benefits to video games, too many to list here, but read this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/babblecom/reasons-why-your-kids_b_2664141.html

I would recommend to find out about each game your child plays, and play with him. Not all games are the same, some are just the ''shoot 'em up'' type which I believe do give video games a bad rap. But others are more like long puzzles that take focus, perseverance, and problem solving to play (these are the type I prefer). I don't know much about the newer consoles (I grew up with the original Nintendo) so hopefully other posters will advise. TetrisGirl


We have 4 boys in our family and the oldest is 12. My observation is that enough of his friends have these gaming systems at their homes-- so he gets a lot of chances to play them. We decided *not* to get them in our home because we wanted our kids to be able to do other things-- such as enjoy reading a book, playing outside, building with blocks and legos, etc.

We thought we might get one when the oldest was in middle school... which is now and, while they would love one, we are just not going to rush out and get one.

Middle school aged boys spend so much time playing these games, it it good to let them have time to develop other skills. Plus, no matter where they are located, they tend to take over the whole house with the sound, etc. Unless both parents were on board and were willing to play the games with the kids, then I would say do not get one now.

If your son is only 7 wait a few years! Let him get into a good novel, paint a picture, draw a comic, make whistles with grass, learn guitar etc. Being bored is kind of good for kids. no video game family and happy!


I am with your husband on this one. Kids don't need video games, especially boys who are 7 years old. That is awfully young -- a time to explore the world and expand the body and mind in all different directions. Video games change the brain (not always in good ways) and kids can easily get addicted to them. Also, once you have them in the house, it is hard to remove them. (It is a case of ''how you gonna keep them down on the farm after they've seen Paree?'') And you are dooming yourself to years of arguing about gaming time and priorities.

We decided early on to be a TV/Video Game free zone. In this, as with all decisions (can they go places alone, go to parties without parents home, whatever), we always told our kids ''this is a benevolent dictatorship.'' We had some push back, but really not a lot. It was one of the smartest decisions we ever made in parenting. Now our kids are 21 and 17, and they still don't watch commercial TV or play video games. They are not luddites or ignorant. They love movies. Our high schooler has watched the entire West Wing series and is a Downton Abbey fan. Both boys occasionally play games on line or with friends who have consoles. But they don't ever turn on a television or a video game for entertainment, and they don't miss it. One plays competitive chess. The other reads The Economist and writes fiction. A good trade, if you ask me.

You worry that ''he will continue to want to go over only to his friends' houses that have game players so that he can get holed-up in their rooms wanting to do nothing else.'' He may want that. But you don't have to agree to that. And at least he only can do that in the houses of friends with game systems. Better that than in your house too.

If you decide to keep a console out of the house, don't let him complain and beg on this. And for goodness sake, don't let him buy it with his own money. That just invites battles about who gets to make the rules about things he buys with his own $$. You are the parents. You decide what devices and activities you want in your house. Then stick to your decisions. And certainly don't be upset by his reaction. It's not personal, and not a reflection on you or your parenting. He's just a kid wanting something you don't want him to have. (If you're hurt now, just wait until he's a teenager. :)) Your son may protest, but so what? Kids want all kinds of things that are not good for them, and our job is to say no. Like whether he eats candy instead of dinner, or holds your hand when crossing the street, or sleeps over at friends' houses. Mom of Big Guys


As the mom of three boys - teens and beyond, I feel your pain. And the timing of your question is great - just last night I attended a talk by James Steyer the founder of Common Sense Media about the influence of media on our kids - mind blowing. As to games, our boys were allowed to have a system but they had to buy it and we still have veto power over the games and set limits on the time played. I draw the line at any game where killing someone is part of the game. In my opinion, I do not want my children entertained by killing someone, virtual or not. I know that they sometimes play these games at friend's houses. I can't control everything but I can reinforce my values in our home. Honestly I would hold off on this as long as you can and do agree that some moderated exposure is better than an absolute no. But you have years of struggle ahead of you over this so putting it off would help. And check out www.commonsensemedia.org for review of movies, games, etc. Good luck! Too much media
I was also against getting a game system for my son, for all the usual reasons. He did play at his friends' houses, but I figured that was out of my hands, and it didn't bother me. In elementary school we told him we wouldn't buy him one, but that if he wanted to buy his own, he could buy it once he was in middle school. Sure enough, he saved his money and as soon as he was in sixth grade he bought one, and the battles started, on screen and in the house. He's a somewhat obsessive kid, and it was hard for him to abide by the limits we set as to amount of time and types of games he was allowed to play. It took a lot of parental policing and energy to hold the limits, and the reality is over time his persistence was succesful in getting the limits pushed out ALOT. so just keep in mind that the negative impacts aren't just the exposure to violence, and that it's subsituting for more active, creative, physical play, it's also that it will almost certianly create additional tension in your household. It's hard to hold the line against such a compelling force, and the reality is that it is a huge part of boy culture, and many of his friends were allowed to play with few limits. So I don't think it's something that can be totally avoided, but my advice is to keep it out of your house as long as you can, and at least make him pay for it himself and/or earn the right some other way. not a video game fan
I would hold off longer. I say this as the mother of 5 and 8 year old boys who are allowed to play their current favorite game (Skylanders) on the Wii. We seriously limit their video time (30 minutes after dinner and all chores and homework are done.) Their father is more in favor of videogames and while he doesn't play any on his own, he seems to enjoy the kids' interest.

Even with their access limited, I find myself quite dismayed by how much the games colonize their imaginations. On the playground, they want every game to have the language and ideas of the video game (for instance, when playing handball I hear ''I did 20 damage to you!'') If my older son is drawing, he's drawing something related to the video game. If my younger son is playing with toy animals, they're acting out scenes from the video game. My older son is also starting to want to reject playdates with kids who don't do video games in favor of playdates with kids who do, so they can talk about it more. We have recently had to make a rule that each kid can only tell me three things per day about the video game, because otherwise my entire day would be an unending series of questions like ''Mama, what's your favorite Skylander that isn't a tech type?'' I don't see this kind of addictive quality with television.

If I were to do it again, I would hold firm and deny videogames for a few more years, especially until my five year old was older. Sick of Skylanders


We went through the exact same thing with my son. There actually is some amount of social status associated with being good at those games, but we did not let him buy a console until he was in 9th grade. Until then, he went to his friends' houses to play. Since buying the evil thing, he has reduced his outdoor play and reading, but has also had sleepovers with friends at our house to host some gaming. My main concern was that he would become a hermit and isolate himself from actual people, but that did not happen.

I was also worried about the addictive potential so when he first got it, he was only allowed to play it on weekends, and even then only for limited amounts of time, and only if all his homework was done. Now we let him self-regulate more, but it's easy to lose track of time when engrossed in gaming, so I periodically ask him if he notices how long he's been playing, and that is usually enough to get him to quit. He plays varsity sports and keeps his grades up, so for him it is a way to unwind, and my fears of addiction were unfounded as well.

So yes, he enjoys them, but they are just one of the things in his recreational repertoire. --Limits are possible


We're living in a small apartment now, and I didn't want our one TV hooked to a video console, so I decided to put off an XBox purchase for a while, despite constant clamoring. My son didn't want to have his friends over (he was at a new school), because he was embarrassed that there was nothing to do. Finally, 9 months later he had his first friend over, and surprise surprise, they had a blast: playing with nerd guns, walking to the pet store to get a mouse for the snake (gross), busing to Subway for a sandwich, riding bikes in the neighborhood and finding cool parking lot ramps to fly off of.... Basically, once they realized there was no XBox, they still found a way to have fun, and now we have kids over at least once a week. My son is about to turn thirteen, and we're moving into a bigger space soon, so I may need to revisit the whole XBox thing. I'm glad I waited, and it's been a good lesson to my son that he doesn't need to have everything everyone else has, AND he'll still have friends. Maybe next year
Go ahead and get him one. I don't think it's such a big deal. Just stay in the picture - play with him! I have three boys, the youngest 12. I have really enjoyed playing computer games with them over the years. Talking about the games and playing them with my boys has given us some fun time together. Now is a really good time to establish the ground work on this - setting limits and sticking to them will come in VERY handy later. Enjoy the few years you have to do this, because by middle school he will prefer playing with his friends, not his parents!

Games for 9 year old - Minecraft OK?

Oct 2012

My 9 year old son wants to play games on the computer. So far, we have limited him to math games that his school recommended and Club Penguin. We limit screen time, don't have a Wii or iPad and don't watch TV (but occasionally rent movies). The current rage is Minecraft. It seems benign to me (except for the possibility for unmoderated text messages), but it reminds my husband of first-person shooter games and worries that it is a gateway to those types of games. Is he imposing his experience? Can you recommend any age-appropriate games that build creativity and expose kids to computers, but aren't violent/commercial/unmoderated? Low-tech mama


Minecraft could be a 'gateway' game as your husband calls it (not sure), but it's pretty benign as games like that go. There is more building/exploring/creating than violence, and the violence is pretty tame (e.g., you hit a skeleton or zombie a few times and it disappears). My husband, son (8) and I all play it and this game can be so many things. If you are worried about unmoderated chat, either find family-friendly multiplayer servers for him to play on (you can search for these, esp. on sites like punchwood.com whichis family- friendly), or don't let him play multiplayer. There is so much on Minecraft that he can do on his own in single-player. My son usually plays in 'creative' mode where you just build/create and there's no fighting. He can download fun maps and puzzles to do in Minecraft. You can also help him create a small server where just he and his friends can play together. Reconsider Minecraft
Hi, My nine year old son plays (on our PC) mine craft, spore, Lego star wars, wizard 101.

All of these games have fighting! Sorry. But they also have ''creative'' aspects - where he is creating worlds, creatures, characters. That is wonderful. To me, it's a cool step along the artistic path, similar to drawing, Lego building, clay, etc.

Spore is my favorite for creativity. You make these intricate life forms. We just got mine craft and he loves building things.

I used to worry about the violence. Now I don't. He's read and seen Harry potter, star wars, etc etc. He's killed aliens, ninjas, darth vader, etc. in video games. Yet he's quite clear that he doesn't want to join the army and be in a real war when he's an adult. Nor does he hit his friends to resolve conflicts (although they do in play).

Hope you can find the right balance for your family! Nonviolent mama too


Dear Low-Tech Mama,

I'm a game developer with a three year old son, and there certainly is a lot to think about in terms of games appropriate for your child. I believe that parents need to determine guidelines they feel are appropriate for their own children. You've taken a good first step by caring enough to post and research what's out there.

I would recommend the Common Sense Media website as a good place to start. They cover media issues for parents across games, websites, apps, film, television, and even books. They also have helpful reviews that break down products in terms of their positive impact: www.commonsensemedia.org

In addition, games have a rating system similar to what you see in film: http://www.esrb.org

I haven't played Minecraft myself, so I can't comment on it. I can tell you that the XBox 360 Edition of the game is rated Everyone 10+ for its fantasy violence (as someone else here mentioned). While the interface and some gameplay moments share similarities with adult-rated first-person shooter games, I know several parents of nine year olds who are fine with their kids playing Minecraft. You can get an impression of what the gameplay experience is like from the game's trailer video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmB9b5njVbA

Computer games can be used as a gateway to learning all kinds of useful real-world skills. They can foster creative expression through design, art, and music. There are free tools like Gamesalad (http://gamesalad.com/) out there that are accessible to a wide age group. Your son can use these tools to tell his own stories and create games that he can share with others.

I encourage moderation in terms of screen time. Again, you are the best one to determine what moderation means to you and your child. I love hearing from parents who play computer and video games with their children. I hope you are able to game together as a family. All the best to you, and thank you for putting this out there! GM


5yo Fixated on his Nintendo DS

Feb 2012

I purchased a DS for 5yo son, hoping for an incentive for good behavior and loss of privileges for bad behavior. He's totally fixated. He wakes up thinking about it, it's the first thing he asks about all the time. I'm worried and want him to not be so intense about it. Any thoughts on how I can wean him? I created a monster


We have the same problem with iPods that Santa brought to our 5 and 7 year old sons. We are solving it nearly the same as with TV and other ''screen time.'' They need to ask permission before using them, they need to put them down when they are called to do something (or an appropriate amount of time has passed) or they are taken away. For us this works, but these are pretty normal rules in our house. Hope this helps
cold turkey. Like all addictions, it'll be hell for a bit, but it's the only way. He's just too young to be able to manage it. tough love
Set a schedule that allocates time that he can play with the Nintendo DS (this works for television too) and hold to it. He can check the DS in/out of storage with you. Write the schedule down on paper, and keep it in a 'rule book' binder, along with other written agreements/rules for behavior, play time, chores, clean-up etc. It just like any other 'contract' - to be enforceable, it needs to be written down, and it needs to be accessible to all parties to resolve disputes. You can use the exercise to help him work on organization, reading, time- telling/keeping skills - a nice redirect away from the DS. Dad
We bought our now-7-year-old a Wii for Christmas, and he too is fixated on it, a couple of games in particular, and wants to play all the time, talks about it when not playing, etc. We quickly had to set ground rules, particularly around playing before school and after homework. But now that it has been about six weeks, I think the obsessive part is starting to fade and balance more with other interests. I'm curious what others say. Bryan in Oakland
I would be very careful with the Nintendo DS. My rule for my son has been that he must learn to read before he can own a video game. My observation has been that the graphics are so mesmerizing and tantalizing to my son that he becomes a zombie when he is in front of a video game. Long story short. He reads. I give him books, specifically graphic novels, to look at in the car. My advice would be to take away the DS and buy some comic books or graphic novels to engage your son. Yes, he will throw a tantrum, but deal with the backlash and get him used to books. anon
Ahh, the DS... My kids have them too, and LOVE them. But they're older (10 & 12), so understand there's a time & a place. For a 5-year old, I would first decide when you want him to be able to use it (which days, times) and then make him a chart and put it up, with M-F, and which days & times he's allowed to use it. Then he'll know he can use it, for example, on Saturdays from 10-12 before soccer, and Wednesday afternoons, 3-5, after school...or whatever. If he knows when it's allowed, and knows what day it is, he won't have to constantly ask you. Berkeley mom

Nintendo DSi or 3DS?

Nov 2011

The #1 item on my younger daughter's wish list this year is a DSi. Her sister got one about 2 years ago, and still loves it. The problem is that the new edition is a 3D version--the 3DS. But is it better? The screen is smaller and apparently the camera is not good. I looked at it in the store and the 3D screen made me dizzy. Do I go with the proven DSi, or will she be disappointed that I didn't get the newest version? mom of 3


My game-addicted teen son says go with the 3DS, if only because no new games are being made for DSi. All of the previous DS games (but not gameboy games) will work on the 3DS (though not with the 3-D, of course), but not the other way around. Of course, so many kids now just play phone games.... R.K.

Good starter apps for a 6 year old?

July 2010

Does anyone have any recommendations for good starter software for kids? I'm thinking it's time to let my 6-year-old get more familiar with computers, but in a positive way. He is definitely the kind of kid who could be sucked into gaming, and I don't really want to go there at this point, but I want to him to start becoming familiar with something that will have to be a big part of his life someday. He has already had some exposure at school, but I thought I'd try something at home. I want it to be fun but still educational (no junior versions of grand theft auto). I have no idea how to choose.


My daughter was introduced to computer use through www.starfall.com and www.pbskids.org in Kindergarten. Both web sites are educational and A LOT of fun. The pbskids pages involve characters they know from TV (Elmo, Caillou, dragon tales etc). Some games are aimed at developing reading skills, others challenge spacial thinking etc. I highly recommend them. Our then 3 year old learned to read by watching his big sister play on starfall.com. Heike

Wii in a very small house

Jan 2009

Hi - I know most families who have a Wii are pretty wild about it. Does anyone know how much space is needed in front of the TV screen in order to be able to use a Wii? If the room is quite small and there's not much footage in front of the TV, is it even possible to use? Is there a minimum space you need? They're pretty expensive and we're having a hard time determining if the cost will be worth it, given our tiny abode. Thanks for any advice ~ Space-challenged, but excited about Wii


We recently got a wii and I was surprised how little room it actually takes up. As long as you can be 3 feet away from the TV you have enough room. Most of the activities require mostly arm movements, so you need an arms reach on both sides. I only know about the basic games and wii fit. Wii convert
Our sofa is about 5 1/2 ft from the TV, and we have had no trouble using the Wii. When we are playing golf or bowling or doing Wii Fit, we are usually standing 3 ft from the TV and it works fine. My young daughter tends to get too close to the TV when she gets excited and the sensor can't pick up the signal-- say, inside of 2 ft from the TV.

For the sports games you need a certain amount of space to do the movement (swing the ''golf club'', swing the ''baseball bat'', throw the ''bowling ball''). You could probably do it with a bit less space than we have, but not much. Try standing in your living room and miming those actions. If you whack the TV or the person sitting next to you on the sofa, you don't have enough room. Wii fan


You can definitely have fun with the Wii in a small space. Our Wii is in a small room with about 4-5 feet clearance from the TV. As long as you have arm's length clearance most games can be played just fine. Even though most of the games are active, they don't require a lot of space. (It may become an issue if players are especially...enthusiastic.) FYI I am a person who was against game consoles, but my son bought this when he was a junior in high school with his own savings. It's been great! Most games are family friendly (we love Cooking Mama) and even the 80 year old grandparents enjoy playing. Have fun! Pro Wii

Wii from in-laws for kids 2,4,6?

Dec 2008

I have 3 boys, ages 2,4 and 6. My mother-in-law wants to purchase a Wii for us for the holidays. I am concerned we will all get ''addicted'' to it and it will be just more time in front of the tv. Anyone there have one that has one that wants to weigh in? My husband is for it. Madeleine


Go ahead and let them have it. I'm usually anti-screen time, but...Yes, it will mean more time in front of the TV, but my kids actually interact and cooperate with each other when they play. I have 3 kids too, and they have learned to take turns and negotiate what games to play, etc. AND, I actually have fun playing Wii with them on occasion, which I never do wtih the other video games. Have fun!
We love our Wii, and it actually takes the place of TV time for us. We're up, we're interacting, we're moving - it's totally different from sitting and zoning out to the TV. I'd go for it, and look for games that are interactive and social to play. Wii love it
No! Do not get it- your boys are too young and boys become addicted to these electronic games. Why do you want your boys to zone out in front of a game instead of playing outside and doing other creative activities. And do you want to spend your time setting limits and playing ref as to turn taking? The games are not even that fun. If the Grandparents really want to get them something electronic how about any of the Leap products. A non gaming mom
we recently purchased a wii for our son, who is already a pretty avid gamer, but with the idea that this would be for the whole family. i am not familiar with video games, never have been, but we all really love the wii. it's fun and there really are games that we play together. we especially love the wii fit, and my husband and son have started doing yoga and stretching together. personally i think it's a great way to spend some time indoors, especially now that winter is upon us. and i view it as a more ''controlled'' video access than just watching t.v. life is short, just have fun! anon
We love our Wii. The whole family plays with it, including me and my husband. Nintendo has the best selection of nonviolent and creative games. Also, when it comes in the house, YOU set the rules around using it before it is ever plugged in. You can use guidelines such as the number of hours per week allowed, whether it can be used at all on weekdays, or maybe only when all homework and chores are done. I know people who keep a chart and their kids earn screen time minutes (for tv, computer, and video games). If the kids fight over it or get addicted, then you unplug it and put it away until they earn it back. Just treat it like any other privilege in your domain. It won't be a problem unless you let it be
We were in the exact same situation and decided no Wii. They are too young and everyone we know who has one spends WAY too much time in front of it. We are saving the idea for a future reward. mom of young boys
I know it's late but I wanted to chime in. One of the responders in the last post on this said not to get the Wii because ''boys become addicted.'' That is a very generalized statement and it is false. We have had the Wii for over a year and a half and my son, who is now six, is no where near addicted to this game. Many of his friends have the console as well and it is not a problem in any of these homes (majority being boys). Just because kids are given access to something doesn't mean it becomes their lives or a problem. It comes down to personalities of child(ren) and parents. And the expectations that are set. The fact is, Wii is a game. Besides, the Wii really is fun and what everyone else was saying about being up and interacting is true. And I highly recommend the Wii Star Wars Lego game. It is well worth the price. As far as the game goes, it has 160 worlds to unlock, your character never dies, it just breaks apart and then comes back together again. Light sabers and spaceship flying...!! a Wii-lovin' Mom!
I know, the Holidays are over and the decision to purchase or to NOT purchase a wii for your kids has probably already been made. However, my family received a wii console and games from my in-laws this Christmas and my two boys (2 and 5 years) love it! Their favorite games by far are MarioKart and Bowling. The first days they played a few hours a day (which was okay because we were staying at the in-laws and it was raining anyway). The excitement was great and we all enjoyed having fun together. It's much more than just sitting in front of the TV with no interaction or movement. However, after a few days, the kids (while still enjoyed playing!) reduced the time they spent with the wii games and naturally moved on to other toys and forms of entertainment. My boys are still young and easy to distract with other things but parents will always have to have the final decision about how much time to spend on any type of electronic device, be it the TV, computer, cell phone etc. What I am trying to say is: Get the wii, have fun but -if this doesn't happen by itself - limit the time and encourage outside play. Got Wii from Santa

Wii games for adults and children?

November 2008

My husbands parents have purchased a Nintendo Wii console for our family as a Christmas gift. We will be visiting them end of the year and hope to enjoy some entertainment for the entire family. Since I am new to the world of this kind of entertainment system and games ... what are your experiences with it? Can you recommend certain games for adults (including seniors) that are fun? I was thinking maybe sports games or some adventure games ... no shooting or war-based games please! What about games for children? My two sons are almost 3 and 6 and I am sure they want to try out Wii when they see the family playing with it. Are there simple-structured games - even for the younger one ... I saw Disney ones or car-racing and some pet-related games... any recommendations for that age group? Wii game beginner


The sports games that come with the Wii are great for families. My daughter is 4 and loves bowling especially. The controls are pretty easy, even for her. She also likes tennis and golf, but the subtleties of figuring out how hard to hit the golf ball are lost on her.

We also have Wii Play (which I think my husband said comes as a package with an extra controller). It has a selection of games. None has really captured my daughters interest. It includes fishing, target shooting (not what you wanted), cow racing, an old fashioned arcade-type game with tanks shooting at each other (also not what you wanted), a ''find the two that match'' type game, a game where you manipulate a shape to fit in a hole, etc. They're all designed to help you master the controller.

I don't really recommend the driving games for young kids. We have the Cars (based on the movie) game, and even us grown-ups had a lot of trouble steering. Really frustrating for a 4-year old. Wii Fan


My son, who is 5, loves to play Mario Kart, which comes with a steering wheel. Up to 4 people can play at one time, but you need 4 remotes for that many people. You don't necessarily need 4 steering wheels, but the kids love them. My son also likes the Cars movie/game one, which allows him to race and to roam around the town in his car. You can enter ''cheats'' to make it easier for the little ones to play all the games, see all the movie clips, and select any car in any color. The game set that comes with the console contains great games for everyone: bowling, baseball, tennis, and golf (but this is hard for little ones). You can buy add ons for the remotes to make each of these games fun (a baseball bat, a tennis racket, a golf club, etc.) So, technically, you don't need to get any new games, if you don't want to shell out an extra $50. (Costco has many great games and extras for much less than many other stores.) My favorite add on, which is expensive ($80+), bu! t worth it is the Wii Fit platform. It comes with great games and activities for everyone: yoga, stretch and strength exercises, balance games, soccer, skiing, ski jumping, tightrope walking, bubbles on a river game (my favorite), meditation (which is hilarious). The Wii fit definitely engages everyone and it is fun to watch people playing it. Wii momma
Rayman Raving Rabbids is probably the most entertaining game for adults and kids I have played. Basically each game is a series of simple and short mini-games, some require more hand-eye coordination than others but all are fun, not super-hard to master and packed with humor that translates across generations. Both my mom (senior) and my kid (5) have enjoyed playing, and needless to say I do too. They just came out with RRR3 which is called TV Party. Aside from RRR I recommend all the Super Mario Brothers games. Also, Wii Tennis (comes with the console as part of Wii Sports) is pretty fun. Wii mom

Best Game System for mellow 8 y.o. boy

November 2008

Hi, I'm trying to figure out what the best game system is for my son's b-day and am so baffled! We're considering Xbox or Playstation but don't know enough and frankly don't trust the guys in the shops to know what's appropriate for his age. He's 100% non-violent, into puzzles, driving and motorcycle race games, strategy and logic games. I could see him playing one of the Lego games or Japanese cute character community-type games. Wii is out because he's got some physical special needs, so none of that throw your arm around stuff. Any good advice? Clearly Clueless Mama


I would get a Nintendo Wii. There are great games for kids of his age (new ones from EA/Hasbro include Hasbro Family Game Night with games like Boggle and other, Monopoly, Nerf, etc.) that are non violent. It skews to much younger kids and has lots of games the whole family can play. There is even a great puzzle game called Boom Blox (created by Steven Spielberg) that would be perfect for him. Just my 2 cents - go with the Wii! Anon
I would Wii & DS; both have TONS of puzzles, racing, etc. Wii utlizes more body movement, but DS is portable (for long car trips or waiting room).

My kids (6.75 & 9.5) love all the Mario Bros. racing games (Mario Kart, Mario Party, etc. -- these do have some cartoonish violence w/car crashes), & Need for Speed (traditional racing game). WarioWare Smooth Moves is hilarious (I bought it used for myself, but my kids and godkids use it more than I do). Wii Sports for some movement (though it does have boxing). World Of Goo where you have to build bridges (physics-based game).Boom-Blox (where you knock towers down). Cranium Kabookii. Wii Play. Even a Dance Dance Revolution type game w/mat for Wii. Hope this gives you lots of ideas! Stephanie


In your post, you ask about the Xbox and Playstation. Is there a reason you're not considering a Wii by Nintendo? It is the most family-oriented of the platforms, plus Nintendo has its own licensed games that are pretty kid friendly, such as the Mario Kart driving series and so on. The Wii offers way more puzzle and fun role-playing games (e.g., Wario Ware, Animal Crossing). Also, you could get Wii Fit for workouts and fitness games for the whole family. We love ours. Guitar Hero is also available for the Wii now, but not sure about Rock Band. Nintendo has just released or is soon to release a music composition game for the Wii. I just feel Nintendo does the best job with all ages...all the way to adult.

Having said that, we also have an Xbox 360. My son loves it (he is 13), but it has a bunch more violent games and fewer of the brain-activity games. From my understanding the Sony Playstation is marketed to older teens and young adults, and the titles reflect that. I believe the Playstation to be the most expensive of all the platforms, with Xbox being in the middle, and Wii being the least expensive. Nintendo Fan


Have you looked at the Wii in person? I wouldn't necessarily eliminate it due to your son's physical limitations. Many of the games are NOT of the ''throw your arm around'' type. You can also play GameCube games on it (available used at a good price) using either the Wii remote or the old GameCube controllers (buttons and a little joy stick). My son has a Wii, and I can assure you that he still spends most of his Video Game Time sitting on his bum with his fingers and thumbs running the game. I think Nintendo (maker of the Wii) is really the game designer with the most games of the non-shoot-em-up type. Most game stores (including Target and GameStop) have a Wii set up to demo games, so you can have your son try it. If the particular game being shown requires movements that aren't appropriate for your son, explain your situation and ask to try a few other games. If you want to check it out more, contact me and you can look at ours (and our games)! There are games of all the types you described - racing, puzzles, cute Japanese community games, etc. As he gets older, he may want different games, but my son, now 15, still plays mostly non-violent (or minimally/comically violent) games. He has no interest in the other game systems because he feels they don't offer enough of the kinds of games he likes. I don't know the specifics of your son's situation, but if it's mainly his arms that are limited, there are also games (with the Wii Fit system) that use more whole-body movements (balancing, running in place, doing a jump-type movement, yoga postures, etc.). Good luck! rk
I already posted my opinion that the Wii might still work for your son, despite his physical issues. After talking to my son, I wanted to supply a little more detail. He assures me that many of the Wii games have the option of playing with either with arm/wrist movements (often just wrist flicks, not arm swinging), or using the ''nunchuck,'' which is a joystick remote (purchased separately) that attaches to the regular remote. They can even be played with the old Game Cube controllers, which include a joystick. So I stand by my advice to consider the Wii after all. rk

Online interactive games for grade school kids

November 2006

I am the mother of 2 daughters, ages 7 and 9. I consider my husband and I to be pretty conservative when it comes to what my children watch on television (rarely watch) and movies. I cannot help but feel a little in over my head when it comes to these online games that many of their classmates are playing, so I insist on sitting with them when they ask to play. Truthfully, with a younger toddler in the house, I rarely have the time, but I try to allow them some time on the computer despite my feelings as I realize that this generation is inundated with computers in so many ways. This evening, my older daughter asked if she could play something called ''Penguin Club'' or something similar. While the players never put in their names or any identifying info., once they got into this ''generically'' interactive site, I was floored by the savvy of so many of these kids (or posing to be?) on the site. Thinking I was being a bit overprotective sitting in on this ''kids'' site, it only took a moment for me to see that one cute,tiny penguin was following my daughter's penguin around, asking her to ''adopt'' him/her. My daughter said, ''Oh, how cute!'' and instantly typed in ''Sure!'' The penguin instantly called her ''Mommy'', then asked her to meet him/her in a pizza place on the site. She went, and suddenly, then penguin began referring to her as ''Daddy''. As my daughter typed, ''I'm not your daddy, I'm your mommy'', I pointed out to her that even though she might be being careful not to tell any ''personal'' info., she had just told that penguin that she was a girl. She didn't get it, but as we spoke, she understood.

My question ... are there any sites that anyone can recommend that appear to the kids to be ''interactive'', but are not truly so? While I understand the importance of being with my children when they are online and our computer is in our kitchen where I usuall am, it seems, I also have a toddler. Logistically, I cannot always be there every second with them, but am very watchful overall. I do not want to make my daughters so fearful of using computers that they do not want to learn the positive aspects of the internet. Mama Penguin


My 7 y/o daughter also tried playing the Penguin Club on the ''advice'' of her 4th grade reading buddy. We sat with her while she explored the site which was benign. However, at a certain point the website indicated that you were required to ''join'' the club by choosing a monthly payment level ($5-15) and providing a credit card #. At that point I said ''no way'' and it gave us a good opportunity to discuss the consumer aspects of the internet. Now we stick to the PBS, Nick and Discovery Kids sites.
everything in moderation

Fun non-violent games for 7.5-year-old

March 2006

My 7.5 year old son has started to have computer time at home. He's not had any until this year and only gets an hour a week. So far this time has been spent playing Age of the Empires which was introduced by my partner. Both father and son enjoy this game, but the shooting at other empires makes me uncomfortable even though there's more to the game. Everyone has agreed to let me introduce some other games so long as they are engaging. Can some folks please recommend some non violent, interesting, fun, engaging computer games? I checked the web site and there are just a few old entries on computer game systems. Thanks. minimal media mama


Try the Backyard sports series - they have Backyard baseball, hockey, soccer, football, all with young cartoon kids playing, sometimes famous athletes as cartoon kids, all very enjoyable, even for adults. There are also some Sim City games that are good for younger kids (do they still make Sim Town, which was SimCity for little kids - my kids loved those). also hated violent games
Dear Minimal Media Mom, I have the greatest resource for you, and for all BPN members: www.commonsensemedia.org

Common Sense Media is the leading non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to improving the media lives of children and families. As you know, media and entertainment profoundly impacts the social, emotional, and physical development of our children. Common Sense provides trustworthy information and tools so families can have a choice and voice about the media they consume. Their website is a one-stop resource for expert ratings, reviews, and recommended lists on thousands of TV shows, video games, movies, websites, music and books. All of the content is based on child development criteria. In the reviews you'll find straightforward, factual information, and then you can decide for YOUR family, and YOUR child what is right for you. Oftentimes the review has questions about the content of a show, movie etc., so you can dialogue with your kids about what they see, view, hear and play. One of their motto's is ''we can't cover their eyes but we can teach them to see''. I really like that because no matter what the rules might be in our own house, the reality is kids are bombarded by media constantly--there is no escaping it--so let's help develop our kids to be critical thinkers of the media and raise them to be ''media savvy''!

They also provide an interactive forum where adults and kids can offer their own views and reviews. In addition, you can sign up to receive their weekly on-line newsletter, which comes every Friday with the most recent media releases as well as news and research updates. The site also has parenting tips and tools about managing a healthy media diet, media violence and kids, selling to kids, and more-- it's terrific.

As you can tell, I'm a total fan of Common Sense, and as a parent with 2 young children I've found their website and newsletter a wealth of information and a terrific resource. Hope this is useful. Take care, Dana


Have you considered logging on to Neopets (www.neopets.com)? There's an enormous variety of activities, and violence needn't be an elements. It's free, and highly interactive. Kathleen
I would suggest checking out Gamehouse games (www.gamehouse.com). They have tons of different types of games that you can download for a free trial (usually 60 minutes of playing). If you decide you like a game, you can buy it online (the games are $19.98 but you can usually get 20% off if you buy more than one at a time), get a license code right away and keep playing. Some of our favorites are Luxor, Ricochet, Varmintz, and Tumblebugs. For more ''educational'' type games, we like Starflyers, ClueFinders, and Zoombinis, all from The Learning Company. They have a series of puzzles and activities to do, no violence, no time pressure, just fun. Lucy

Games for Teens & Preteens


Call of Duty game for 12 year old?

April 2013

Hi, My 12 year old has bought the ''call of duty game'' on XBOX with his savings knowing how much I was against this violent game. As I found out about it, I took away the Xbox. He keeps asking about the game and XBOX to the point that is driving me crazy. He crys and begs me to give it back to him constantly. Most of his friends have this game, and the parents are fine with it. I like to know if anyone has been through this with his or her child. How can I get his mind out of this game? Is it true that they become more aggressive and violent when they play this game? I have an 8 year old too and don't want him to watch his brother playing a game of killing people on TV. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks, Anon


Hi, Sorry, I think this is going to be a long response but I'm so happy to write as a mom with much video / kid experience. My son wanted COD last year, (12 yo), and my husband & I relented. There are two things you bring up in your letter; the first is the crying & begging for the game system back and the second, will your child become violent?

First - don't reward the whining. One point my husband & I stress is that if our son wants to play any video games or even have a game system, it's under our jurisdiction. We decide & we don't give in to whining. Really important --he's got to act responsibly before even playing a game where he'll be letting loose.

We often talk with him about the games -- everything from ''Little Big Planet'' to ''COD, (no GTA or anything like that allowed here); what is it he likes about the game? What's creepy? And we're nearby to hear him or his friends playing to say ''that doesn't sound appropriate''. We'll let our son know during the course of a conversation --if it seems like he's influenced by something in the game -- same thing -- ''that's not appropriate, is it?, why not?''

We don't leave him completely isolated and use the game as a babysitter. It is a game he plays with friends and believe it or not - my husband plays with him, too. There is a zombie mode where players go after zombies. They do this together pretty regularly. Which is to say, we've made our son's gaming part of our acceptance of him. How could he ''become violent'' if we are including him? We check him when he sounds like he's getting a little snarky or insensitive, so there is a time and place for the boy anger, but we don't let it seep into every aspect of our day because of the gaming.

Our son was never violent to begin with, just very curious and a lot of his friends play this and other games. They happen to not be violent either. It's our house, so our rules. We have to be okay with the game first, and that means looking into it, via the gaming store or on-line reviews. There are games his friend's parents are ok with and we aren't but that doesn't make any difference to us and at this point our son knows that.

Be consistent, don't give in to bad behavior. If something arises in his behavior because he's started playing COD, you have the right to sat ''we're taking this away for --- (x days) until you understand that this behavior isn't acceptable to us.

Hope that helps a little! anon


Hold your ground! My 13 yr old also wants it as well as others with a Mature rating. He tries to reason with me, saying he understands the difference between real and fake violence, that he plays the games at friends' homes. I tell him I still don't like it and being a participant as opposed to a passive viewer of a violent movie is different and I feel it will desensitize him to violent images. He disagrees. So I told him to research articles that defend/justify violent games, find studies and proof that it's okay. When he can present an argument with credible sources, I'll listen. Until then, no violent games in my house. Another Mom
I have three boys and also find these games offensive and frankly, kind of boring. However, video gaming is a huge part of young male culture and there is no way to shut it out.

I think putting up a complete roadblock to your son playing these games by taking his Xbox is only going to lead him to play them somewhere else. I also think if he saved his money to buy the game, you taking it away is going to create a lot of frustration and resentment.

A few things I recommend, create a meaningful dialogue about the games. Sit with him and talk about the game while he's playing it. What is his strategy, why does he find it challenging, how does the violent aspects make him feel. Also, purchase games that you approve of, I recommend Minecraft, if he doesn't already have it. Building worlds with cubes, builds on mathematical strategies, really challenging and fascinating. Finally, limit time playing games, no exceptions.

Hope this helps. East Bay Mom


Good for you! He'll survive without that game -- isn't it PG13, anyway? Just hold on to it until he's 13 or 14. Then give it back to him with tight restrictions -- ie. he can only use it for an hour at a time, and when his younger sib is out of the house at some activity.

Here's common sense media's review of the game. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews/call-of-duty-modern-warfare-3

These kind of games were developed to train soldiers to kill people, and we don't need to provide them to our children. You are the parent and get to say what happens in your house.

You might want to try to get him involved in some more activities -- busy kids are less likely to get obsessed with games, and he'll meet friends who want to do a sport or maker club or whatever. anon


My son is 16 and started playing games like Call of Duty towards the end of middle school. I also dislike the games and am now dealing with a full blown video game addiction. I highly recommend the website techaddiction.com. There is a parent handbook that is definitely worth getting. He tells you which games are most addictive and how to set limits with them, etc. There is a lot of very helpful info in the handbook and on the site. The games are not going away and I think the trick is setting appropriate limits and boundaries with gaming. The handbook helps you determine appropriate gaming times for different age groups. It has also helped me to understand the addictive nature of gaming. You are wise to be questioning this now because from experience, the grasp these games have on kids is very powerful. You have to educate yourself about them and be one step ahead of your son. Another mom concerned about gaming
Wow, I just really think we ALL have to stand up against this crazy perversion of our boys! These games are proven (I've read the studies) to make children violent, second ONLY after being in a gang, for pete's sakes! They also make our kids check out, loose interest in all healthy pursuits, loose their good grades, and they drive us crazy! If your son says 'all the other boys are allowed to do this', I doubt it is true. My son, for one, is not allowed. I really think we all need to rise up and be strong here! Stop the whining, boys! Do all your homework, play your instrument, do chores, volunteer, be kind, and then, maybe, you get to play a short time on a NON violent game! Tuff because Iove him
Hello Mom, My now 19 y/o did the same thing. Absolutely no violent games by my rules, he went on and got the x-box and a whole collection of violent games from his wealthy friend who was upgrading to who knows what more blood, better guns game system. He bought it without asking, he knew the answer, and with his own money. I protested but he said, mom, this is the way we guys bond! we sit there and we swear and laugh and beat each other on screen! we would not know what to do just sitting around in the living room... ! and he was right ! whole bunch of kids came and took turns killing each other and snacks and drinks were going around and there was laughter and swearing... still today when he returns from college on breaks. Boys love it, there is no way around it. My daughter would not go near the living room, she is 2 years younger. So if I had to give you advice I would say give back the x-box and set strict rules about when he can play: after all homework is done, no more than 1 hour, etc. and take it away the minute grades drop or any other misdemeanor happens. It's too bad they start younger and younger on these games. My son was 14 then. Much luck to you. I still don't like the games... but I am a girl... Reluctant video mom
Really? Your 12 year old just went out and bought an M-rated game on his own with his own money?

Listen, the video game ratings use different letters, but that's the equivalent of an R movie. If there's really a store out there that sold a 12yo the equivalent of an R-rated movie, you should call and complain to the manager. That's the whole point of a rating system: to keep kids from buying games that were made for adults. I'm going to guess though that an adult was with him who wasn't paying attention to what was being purchased or it was bought online.

So the question here is, if the other parents let their kids watch R-rated movies, does that mean your kid should get to as well? Of course it doesn't. You decide what's appropriate, and if he's not mature enough for a specific R-rated movie (or M-rated game) then don't let him have it. Do you believe that watching R-rated movies makes people violent? That's your answer on the game too. Personally, I do not believe that M-rated games, when played by the people they were intended for (adults and mature teens!) have any effect on the player.

And since you're (understandably!)opposed to your 12yo having access to games rated for adults, might want to have a talk with him and/or his friends' parents about it. Perhaps they don't understand how a rating system works, or perhaps they feel their child is mature enough for it. And watch his purchases. just because it's a video game, doesn't mean it was made for kids


I know this may sound odd, but you can also try to meet your son half-way, so to speak, by bonding with him and learning what he thinks about video games in a non-confrontational manner.

''Wreck-It Ralph'' is a funny 2012 animated Disney kid's movie about the secret lives of video game characters after the arcade closes. It's similar to ''Toy Story'' in the sense that the toys have their own lives and adventures when people are not around.

It's got plenty of references to older arcade games when parents were kids, like Mario Brothers and Q-bert. It's also got a hilarious take-off on a Metroid/Call of Duty:Black Ops mash-up called ''Hero's Duty''.

Watch it with him (it's fun and *not* scary). Talk to him about it. Get his feedback, views, opinions and, yes, even his preferences about which characters he prefers in his video games and why. Let him talk about it. You may be surprised what he's thought about.

This is a good first step to communicating with him about some of the things he feels are important and interesting in his life. And it would give you the opportunity to learn a bit about the world of video games. It may even give both of you some common ground for negotiating playing video games, and when and what is acceptable. Good Luck


Your son might enjoy reading ''For the Win'' by Cory Doctorow (author of ''Little Brother''.) It's kind of a post-apocalyptic video game novel. This book had a big impact on my video game loving middle schooler not wanting to get too hooked in to games. And if not, at least he will have done some reading. Rachel

Xbox games for 12 year old, no gore?

Jan 2012

For reasons not really relevant, our family now has an xbox gaming system. However, we're at an impasse over games. I have two sons, 7 and 12. It seems that the most popular games, the ones all of my older son's friends play (halo, call of duty, assassin's creed) involve assault weapons and lots of gore - which i just don't want in our house. He insists that there's 'nothing else worth playing' and gets bummed out when he has a friend over because he doesn't have any of those games to share. Are there games that your preteens/early teens like to play - strategy, sports, other types? - that are challenging and fun, but don't involve all the intensely dark and bloody graphics? can't stomach it


We have an Xbox game called Forza Motorsport. It is a driving/racing game. My son (17 yo) and his friends love it. I think if you went on a site like Amazon and searched on games, you would probably be able to narrow the search by content.
There is an Xbox version of the computer game Minecraft -- which all of the 12 year olds I know, including my own son, are obsessed with lately. It's a creative game, you can do a lot of different things with it, and there are monsters to fight but no realistic violence or gore. (It's actually appropriate and a lot of fun for a very wide age range; both of your kids will probably love it.) Holly
Portal! Really cool game. I play it with my 12 year old. Check Common Sense Media also - they have great recommendations and reviews.

Gaming system: what kind for middle schoolers?

Aug 2012

Okay, major ignoramous here! My son started a new middle school last year, and all his friends have gaming systems (Xbox seems to be the most popular). I have not been a supporter of video games, preferring reading, imaginary play and bike riding for my son. However, these are not the interests of his new school friends, and after a year he still doesn't want to invite kids over because ''there's nothing to do.'' I have spent some time soul-searching and have decided to surprise him with a gaming system for his birthday (with some help from extended family). HOWEVER, I don't know what to get! I read some reviews of Xbox, and all the games seem to be very violent. Then there's Nintendo, Wii and Playstation! He did buy his own iPad and plays some video games once in a while (mostly he watches NetFlix during his screen time), so the point is to get something that allows people to play, in-person, together. We have a small flat screen TV and an older old-style TV, wifi, but no cable TV service. What system do your kids like? What kind of set up do I need (e.g., flat-screen TV, controllers, extra memory...)? What games are fun and would not be too offensive to a pacifist and feminist mom? Where's the best place to shop for new and used stuff? Any online resources for newbies? Any other tips? Thanks! Want the boys to come over


My son is making a good argument for playstation 3 because it will upgrade our existing set up. His point is that it will turn our 1990s fat screen into a youtube, netflix, gaming freindly fun center. Birthdays are coming!
XBox is the one to get. I don't like it, but that is the one all the kids play, and if you goal is to have your son included in what other boys his age are doing, that is the one. Unfortunately, what this means (or it does at least at our house), is that all the socializing takes place over the headset with his friends playing the game at the same time at their houses, and not side-by-side on the couch. My son likes the games you would probably consider too violent, like Call of Duty, so I don't have a lot of suggestions there, although I am sure there are many places you can find ratings and reviews. One thing that has saved us that many parents may not be aware of is that there is a ''family timer'' built into the XBox that allows you to use a password and set limits for the amount of time allowed to play each day or each week. Good luck! reluctant XBox mom
I know it seems weird that so many games are violent (and I wish they weren't), but studies don't show any significant problems. Video games increase hand-eye coordination and teach strategy and cooperation. The key is balance between video games and other activities.

Xbox 360 sounds like what you want for a boy to fit in with his friends. If you're not dead-set on surprising him, you might ask if he;s okay with a Wii. Wiis have less ''cool'' video games, but have more games that you might like. You don't need a new TV. Bigger TVs are nice, but this is already a big investment! You will need to buy controllers; a new Xbox 360 usually only comes with one and used Xbox 360s may come with none. (Though your boy's friends could bring their controllers over - that's what my friends and I do.) You'll need more than 4GB of memory. He will probably end up using 20-40GB.

Many of the multiplayer games teenagers want to play are violent, though not all involve shooting guns at humans. For instance, you fight zombies in Resident Evil 5 & 6 and Left 4 Dead 1 & 2.

Fable 2 & 3 are both fantasy action RPGs. The LEGO games (Batman, Harry Potter, Star Wars) are fun. There is fighting, but as everything in the games are made of LEGOs, they burst apart into pieces when you ''kill'' them. Portal 2 has physics-based puzzles.

Rhythm/music games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band may be good choices, but are rather expensive due to the special equipment they come with. Many sports and racing games are multiplayer and generally should not be violent. Lastly, there are arcade games downloadable from the Xbox Live store, such as Castle Crashers or Dungeon Defenders.

If I had to recommend one game that you would be happy for him to play (and maybe even play with him) and that is also ''cool,'' it would be Portal 2. Make sure to pick up the first Portal, too.

A warning: get games with local multiplayer so that your boy and his friends can sit on the couch together to play. Many multiplayer games, especially competitive ones, only support online multiplayer and that's not what you want.

Unfortunately, there aren't many 4-player local multiplayer games, especially if you're avoiding games that involve shooting people. Most of the ones I mentioned above are only for two people.

As for where to shop, I'd recommend staying away from GameStop if you plan on buying things used. Better to buy new to support the developers (Amazon sometimes has good prices) or buy from a person on eBay, etc.

Good luck! You're going to have one happy boy on your hands. Jessica


You would think this would be an easy question but it is not and you are in no way an ignaramous for not knowing the ins and outs of the complicated gaming world. These games are very sophisticated on so many levels, including the messages they convey. As a mother of three boys, I find the screen time/gaming issue to be huge. My oldest, who is 14, while excelling in school, would prefer to spend all his time on his xbox.

I imagine that your son has played video games at his friend's houses, right? So he probably already has some ideas about games he likes. You are correct, a majority of the Xbox games are first-person shooter games or first person combat games. You should see the eye-rolling when I ask my oldest about his impressions of the games in discussions about incidents like the shootings in Aurora, CO. I personally think that individuals who are already struggling socially, can become emboldened by playing games like Black Ops day after day. But what I get is ''Mommmmm,I am not going to go out and shoot anybody!!!'' Again, so many issues here to parent on.

As to your questions: Xbox is the best for game play physics and graphics. I am sure there are people who can better speak to the technical aspects, and I find that the young people who work at Game Stop are well informed and helpful. They like to play games and know them all.

The TV needs to have the correct plugs for the gaming system, if it is within 10 years old, you are probably fine. Controllers and the like depend on the games to be played.
Games: Minecraft - world building game, all in blocks. No violence to speak of, totally creative, builds math skills (geometry!!); problem solving; animal husbandry. Not easy but engaging.
Music games - Rock Band or Guitar Hero - here's where more equipment/space is needed. ''Barbie'' body-style female characters, but they are playing in the band.
Sports games - Fifa Soccer is pretty cool.
Portal - future distopia, puzzles and problem solving.
Batman Arkham - this does have fighting, in a good vs. evil sense. Somewhat dark, like the movie franchise. Comic book style.

We have purchased new and used equipment (refurbished) with no problems. Games all from Ebay. As I said, GameStop employees are good resource if they are not too busy. They also have a magazine called Game Informer that give extensive details about game releases. Common Sense Media also has detailed reviews of games. Good Luck! East Bay Mom


As the mom of 3 teenage boys who is also not keen on excessive video-gaming, I hear you. Everyone needs to find their own comfort level with this stuff but this is what we did:

They could have a game system but they had to buy it – they pooled their money, shopped craigslist and got a Playstation 3 which they use on our newish flat screen tv.

We still monitor how much they play– but are more vigilant with the 13 year old. (As they get older, I think you just have to let them start to exercise their own judgment. The 19 year old never plays and hasn’t for a couple of years.) And I draw the line at first person shooter games – Call of Duty, etc. I personally don’t consider hunting people down to kill them – even virtually- an appropriate source of entertainment. So they play sports games – NCAA football, MLB, and other games where they find targets and in some cases shoot them down – like nazi war planes. This may be a fine distinction but one I have chosen to make. Their friends do occasionally come over to play but we are not video game central as some houses are. Good luck! 3 boy mom


My 6th grader son and his friends are all into Minecraft, which you can download for your computer for a nominal price. It is a multiplayer game, sort of like SimCity in that you build houses and roads and etc, but it also has the interaction of other multiplayer games, including shooting and blowing things up, which of course is a big draw. The characters look like Legos. It is very engaging, with increasing complexity as they play more, and it appeals to both geeky kids and blow-em-up kids. It has interesting properties involving geometry, geology, electronics, and more. We run a server at our house that my son's friends (and their friends) login to play on so it's sort of a closed environment, but you can also login to public servers to play. The kids make arrangements with each other about what times they will play, but they also enjoy playing side by side in person (if you have more than one computer at your house). I really like the social negotiation they are learning. Common Sense Media rates this game pretty highly. (By the way you can find lots of game suggestions, by age, on that site. http://www.commonsensemedia.org/)

We have a Wii too which my son has no interest in anymore, though some of his friends who don't have a Wii still do like to play when they come over. But I can't recommend buying a Wii. We have not been asked yet for an xbox or playstation. I have two older boys and a nephew who played and still play a lot of the violent games at this age and honestly I don't have a problem with it for middle school age and above. The data just isn't there to say they are harmful. Some of them are a whole lot of fun.

You might read up on Minecraft and try it out at home on your computer. Also you should find out which game system your son wants. There's nothing worse for a middle school boy than having something his mom picked out that nobody else is interested in! gamer mom


I can definitely feel your pain, but I'll tell you as a mom of a 16 yo boy, if he doesn't play the games at your house he will play them elsewhere. So I went for the controlled approach and instead of a ban on everything, we talk about what's in a game and why it is rated whatever it is rated. Is there graphic sex, domination over women, drug use, graphic violence? These games (like GTA) get vetoed. I've allowed other games that involve some violence, but perhaps not too graphic, or maybe they involve strategy or are unrealistic (fantasy, sci-fi). I'm trying to let him get what he wants while taking him through the decision-making process so that hopefully he learns something. We have an XBox and there are tons of games that are not rated M, and even some rated M that aren't as horrible as I imagined. It is a difficult issue - best of luck! Autumn
When my son got an Xbox 360 (middle school), it was placed in the living room where I could hear the conversations and if I didn't like it, it got turned off. My son is now in high school and it is in his room and he typically only plays with friends that he knows. I can still hear him and actually keeps me in the loop of stuff that is going on and of the latest gossip He also uses it to watch movies and go on You Tube.

My advise-- set up the rules before setting it up!!!!! For instance, if a friend is over during the week or only on weekends, the timer is helpfuI to keep it limited. I would suggest buying the system new, buy used games and accessories at GameStop. They have a great return policy if he doesn't like the game within 7 days and they do have warranties on all the stuff you buy from there. Buy a membership FIRST to GameStop, you get a great magazine and extra discounts when buying used which will help since you are starting fresh. And I know this may sound crazy-- but play a game with him every once in a while. We play soccer, Lego games, and I even try to the shooting games. Some of best conversations have been during a Halo game. Anon


Pre-teen wants to play World of Warcraft

May 2007

My pre-teen son has become very enamored of an online game called World of Warcraft. We have friends whose child is somewhat obsessed with this game. I am getting a lot of pressure from my children to say okay and let them play at home, buy the cd, let them have an account, etc. I think the name of it bothers me the most - however, as my son pointed out, that is pretty much judging a book by its cover! Does anyone have any experience with this game? Is it as awful as it sounds, or is it pretty benign? Pros, cons, any thoughts would be welcome. Thank you. Melissa


Both of my kids (11 and 14) and I play World of Warcraft (''WoW'') and have been doing so since it first hit the public market. WoW can be a very addictive game, but you can impose automatic limits on the amount of time your children spend playing it: Blizzard Entertainment has thoughtfully provided a ''Parental Control'' feature by which you can set the weekly hours on which your child can play, controlled by your own password. I supppose you can call WoW ''violent,'' but it is set in a cartoonish fantasy- world that no rational child will mistake for reality. Television and movies are far more realistic and disturbing. (Not only that, movies and television are non- engaging and stupefying, whereas WoW requires constant personal and online social interaction.) My kids have both been playing computer games from a very young age (starting at 2-3 years old) and they are outgoing, diverse, intelligent, well-rounded and doing well in school. Computer games have not caused them any serious problems, and WoW has been no exception. Note that according to WoW's rules, all players must be at least 13 years old, although there are many exceptions and Blizzard Entertainment cannot really tell the actual ages of players. Just be sure to set limits and stick to them. (Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions.) ed

Should I let my teen play World of Warcraft?

Sept 2005

My teenaged son and his friends have discovered a game called World of Warcraft. Is anyone familiar with this game? I was told this morning by another parent that it is considered such an addictive game that she won't let her son buy it. It does seem to be pretty consuming. I'm also interested in what limitations other parents put on computer/TV use. We don't allow computer/TV use during the school week, unless it's homework. On the weekends we limit ''screen time'' to two hours per day. Our son says we are the most restrictive parents he knows. Any thoughts? Nontech Mom


Dear Nontech Mom,
I have a 16 year-old son that has been playing World of Warcraft for about a year with a group of his friends. I regret ever having gone down this road and will not allow my younger children to use the computer to the extent that we have allowed our oldest son. I would argue that World of Warcraft (along with many other games) are addictive and create a sedentary, non-communicative, non-social existence. While we also have tried to limit computer use (1 hr on school days, 2 hours on weekends) my son is old enough now to go to friends house where they immerse themselves there in computer games. While I don't have any advice on how to enforce the limits I say good for you for holding your ground and don't give an inch. Mary
Hmm, actually the problem in my house is that I myself get addicted to my kids games - Warcraft, Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Riven, Simcity. I have to get the kids to hide them from me. Seriously, computer games can be very addictive and I've seen it among other teenagers (not mine). Mainly it's a physical problem, like tv, when they spend all that time sitting in one position and not getting any exercise. Different people have different susceptibilities, though. Most kids have a big binge for a week or so, then get bored and want a new game. I tend to only let my kids buy games over the summer so any binges don't affect their schoolwork. So,it could be worth trying one game and seeing whether there's a problem or not. At some point your kids are going to come into contact with computer games, maybe when you're not there to blow the whistle and get them to take a break, learn methods of pacing themselves, and so on. PS You can always snap the disks at a moment's notice. Fiona
My son has played Starcraft/Warcraft since he was 10. It can be addicting, but seems more benign than the super-violent games found on X-Box. The game also offers the opportunity to chat on-line. He and his friends have signed up, giving each other their screen names (I've given him guidelines about on-line chatrooms and our computer is an open area not in his room, and it's used by our whole family to check our own e-mail accounts). I have no objection to his playing as long as the primary objectives--homework, required reading, chores, and keeping up his grades--are met. The other reasons I have no objection is that he's physically very active, is conscientious about homework and gets good grades, but I do keep a close watch. I don't like to subscribe to the hysteria that because something is bad for some must therefore be bad for everyone else, and be banned. It's really a case-by-case call to make and you know what's best for your family. I don't limit any TV time on the weekend, because there's not that much TV to be watched--my son either is playing a sport or playing Warcraft. I suggest just being reasonable, limit some playing time if your son's chores aren't done, or you notice he's not doing homework, or if you see in his first grading period that his grades aren't what you expect, then cut down the computer/TV time. --Anonymous
My son has been playing World of Warcraft for about a year. I asked him to read your post - here are his thoughts: he says he can't argue about it being addictive. You really have to control yourself and learn how to prioritize. But he loves the game because it's so much fun. Socially you get to ''hang out'' with friends on line, you get good at working cooperatively since each character has different abilites and no one can complete an ''instance'' alone. He also claims to be learning money management skills since you get gold and have to buy things but have to watch your budget. From my point of view the game is fine - it's almost like im'ing in that kids get to socialize in addition to (not replacing!!) the times when they're face to face. But limits are critical.

Here's what our rules are: no gaming at all during the week, limited to 4 hours a day on weekends (that may seem like a lot but it can take that long to do a group mission.) He must stay on top of homework and his sports and music commitments, and his grades must stay up or his account gets cancelled. We had to cut him off once to help him get clear on the concept. But now he understands what he needs to do to keep gaming and has been doing a good job with prioritizing. As long as you're clear on how you want it to fit into your son's life, I think it will be fine. WOW Mom


My son and I are both familiar with the Warcraft family of games. While they're certainly addictive, I don't think they're especially addictive -- for some of us, any game at all can be addictive, for a while.

The upside of that is that access to the game becomes a powerful incentive. Letting our son play anything on the computer as much as he wants to has obvious ill effects; making him do something worthwhile first and imposing a time limit causes some grousing but it's worth it.

The Warcraft genre is violent, but in a cartoonish way -- the player's perspective is not from behind a weapon, as in "first-person shooter" games, but from above the field of play. For what it's worth, unrestrained violence is not a winning strategy; a player must consider his resources, make allies, and so forth. Playing Warcraft hasn't made our kid violent. --John


This was a very useful discussion for me to read. My son recently bought WOW with his own mony, not realizing that it was an online- only game. After some thought (and finding out about the monthly fee) I said it would have to wait till summer.

But I have one concern I'd like to ask those of you whose kids use it about: earlier, when my son wanted to sign up for XBox live, I did some online research and came across many adult users complaining about the level of foul and abusive chat happening during games with others on the system. That made me say no. Does this happen with Wow? Are there any system filters that would help prevent that kind of thing? Has it been a problem for anyone? Thanks! anne


Okay everybody, let's calm down a little bit. For reasons I'll explain below, thinking of computer gameplay as ''addiction'' substitutes labeling for reasoned thought. That's never a useful approach.

Before I go on, let me say that I take the issue seriously, and I don't think it is susceptible of simple, easy answers one way or the other. As those who know me or have read others of my posts will attest, I'm a rather conservative parent and not one who believes that whatever kids want or do is ok. I also want to say that I don’t intend any disrespect or sarcasm towards other views. If I’ve trodden upon anyone’s toes, please forgive me: it was inadvertent and I apologize sincerely.

I've got two sons (20 and 14) who play World of Warcraft (WOW) and other computer games. My older son was a (volunteer) beta tester for WOW. I have struggled with the issue of my childrens' involvement with these games for a number of years. For what it's worth, here's the view I've come to.

First, let's not debase the meaning of ''addictive.'' Its base meaning is ''Compulsive physiological and psychological need for a habit-forming substance: e.g., 'heroin addiction.''' No computer game remotely fits that definition.

A secondary meaning of ''addiction'' loosely refers to ''The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or or involved in something, e.g., 'an addiction for fast cars.''' At most, that subordinate meaning is appropriate in the case of individuals who have a pre-existing disposition to extremes of compulsive behavior. It is by no means appropriate as a description of computer/video gaming in general, nor of the relationship to such games of the vast majority of children and, increasingly, of adults. To label computer gaming ''addictive'' merely forestalls its thoughtful examination.

Kids are habitual and compulsive about play. That's not news, it's the state of nature. The question is, are video games different from other forms of play in ways that compel us as parents to approach them as we would approach truly addictive substances such as drugs or alcohol?

Plainly not. Video games do not kill brain cells -- in fact, the scientific evidence is that they improve and develop certain valuable brain functions. Nor do they carry the terrible physical consequences of addiction: they do not destroy livers or lungs; they do not carry the risks of HIV or hepatitis. They do not create zombies living from one hit to the next. They do not cause the impairment of judgment and physical coordination that leads to life-threatening behaviors like drunken driving. They do not depress heart and brain function to the point of death from sedation. They do not kill their users.

Because of generational differences, we parents inevitably view the gaming phenomenon from a position of limited knowledge. Would we say that our children were 'addicted' or 'compulsive' if they played chess or read books four or more hours a day? Probably not, because we are familiar with those activities and value them. Computer games are different because our generation(s) have little or no direct experience with them. In consequence, we don't know what they are like from the player’s perspective, nor do we have direct experience of their positive or negative effects. That's worth bearing in mind.

It's a struggle for parents (myself especially) to create order in their children’s' lives, especially the lives of teens. Computer games, WOW included, are one of many specific challenges we face in leading our children to a mature, balanced and healthy adulthood.

What parenting challenge does the video game phenomenon create? To me it comes down to one thing: balance. Given the choice, children will play rather than ''work.'' Yet they must work at things that we believe will be of long-term benefit -- studies, physical fitness, responsibility in family life and other areas reflecting our individual values. As parents we must find ways to bring balance to our children's lives, and to teach them the value of balance so that they become self-regulating.

There's nothing peculiar to WOW or other computer games that alters the nature of these challenges -- they exist no matter what our children’s' interests. I can't tell anyone else where to strike the balance; that is hard enough to discover in dealing with my own children. But I can tell you that what I've suggested above asks the right questions: is my child's life balanced, is he getting enough physical activity, is he keeping up with his schoolwork? And so on. Getting into a slanging match over whether he or she is ''addicted'' to a game is just foolish.

Now to World of Warcraft itself. One should not fear its content. Or, given that judgments about content involve personal values and taste, I should say that to me this game's content is not seriously violent or at all disturbing; in fact, it is rather mild. Movies such as ''Alien,'' “The Exorcist” and any horror film are far, far more disturbing. In fact I find them unendurable. Not so this or most other video games.

Most parents, I think, can safely trust most kids to draw the appropriate distinctions between gaming fantasy and life’s reality. There are exceptions of course, and you’ll know them when you see them. My trust in kids’ usual good sense doesn’t stop me from banning an offensively violent piece of trash ( “Gran Turismo: San Andreas” springs to mind.) But I find that most children and teens are reasonably sensible about such things. If they aren’t, any fault may lie elsewhere than in the game.

Warcraft's content is comparable to The Lord of the Rings. It is not a ''violent'' game any more than a mystery or suspense novel is ''violent.'' Unlike some games that I detest and (mostly successfully) ban, the combat (and thus ‘violence’) that occurs is sensorily mild, for lack of a better term. While combat is fundamental to WOW's ''warcraft'' theme and gameplay, neither it nor violence is the essence of its content or its appeal.

World of Warcraft’s true essence is fantasy, the quest, guilds of fellow creatures, imaginative role-playing. Unexpectedly, it instills the work ethic by requiring the player to work steadily and persistently over weeks and months towards a goal. It teaches TANSTAAFL: “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” (Thanks to Robert Heinlein for that wonderful invention.)

In visual detail, richness and imagination World of Warcraft is a stunning expression of a new art form. The open-minded may find it, as I have come to do, a formidable expression of creative genius. Or they may think I’m an idiot – reasonable minds can differ. Take a look at a copy of a book called ''The Art of Warcraft'' for a pale taste of the game's visual scope.

As I grow older I find, to my dismay, that I can fall into intellectual laziness and become fixed in my views. Yet for a thinking person this is a habit of mind devoutly to be avoided. To that end I suggest this line of thought: The creation of the personal computer is comparable to the invention of the printing press. Both created the conditions necessary for the emergence of a new creative form. This observation may horrify some, but from my vantage point that horror flows from a failure of vision and historical perspective. Just as the printing press was the precondition to development of the novel as an art form, so also the personal computer has been the wellspring of a new art form, one still in its infancy but redolent of future magnificence.

The video game is one expression of an emerging creative form in which multi-sensory participation directs the story line. Video games, and perhaps a broader art of story-playing they portend, are interactive, three-dimensional, engaging of the imagination, richly graphic and cinematically creative. From a critical perspective one may believe that none of these qualities is as fully developed or well executed as it might be, but that does not alter the essential point: this is a fundamentally new art form. If I’m right in that notion, we might be wise not to stifle our children’s experience of something that will grow to be a part of their world in ways that we can only dimly imagine.

Finally (and I know I do go on), interested readers might want to look at the first chapter (''Games'') of a recent book, ''Everything Bad Is Good For You,'' by Steven Johnson. I don't endorse or reject his arguments, but they are thoughtful and thought-provoking in the same way as Malcolm Gladwell's in ''The Tipping Point.'' Johnson concludes with this observation: ''What you actually do in playing a game -- the way your mind has to work -- is radically different [from what is commonly assumed to be the case.] [Game playing is] about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order.''

Tim


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