There’s a lot of coverage and interest with The Terminator vs. Video Games trudging through the Supreme Courts right now. I’m sure blognation will cover it much better than I but I’ll share a story about games and parenting as a gamer and a parent of a 5 year old. While I do not claim to be the world’s best parent (my son would disagree with that statement – as I am sure every parent’s kid feels their parents are ‘the bestest’) I do try to answer his questions honestly. When he started asking for a brother or sister, and the inevitable questions began about how do babies get in bellies, I did explain about eggs, and how the mommy needs a daddy to help make the egg a baby, etc. Of course I did it in a non graphic way of trying to explain to a child how things work without really letting the cat out of the bag.
So, at breakfast yesterday when we were having eggs and toast for breakfast, he exclaimed:
“Daddy! Mommy is eating eggs! So now you go kiss her belly and then the egg will crack and a baby will grow! Can I watch?”
Next time I am using diagrams. Erm. Maybe not.
I have been a late adopter for games as of late and just picked up L4D2 as a huge fan of the first title. My 5 year old has his own laptop and plays his own uber MMO (Club Penguin) and after physical play time, or just winding down, we’ll sit on the couch and take an hour playing our games together. He caught me playing L4D2 and became completely enthralled in the game. I’ll share some fun/interesting observations after the break – just don’t call Child Services on me.
When he first started glancing over my shoulder I put it on pause, and told him it was inappropriate for him. He then asked why, and I told him it would give him nightmares. He countered with ‘well, why is it if it is bad for me that it is ok for you?’ and I countered with the age thing, and that some things are made for daddies and some are made for kids. When he countered with ‘Dad, I know games are just make believe and can I just see it for five minutes?’ I was stumped.
I thought about it. There is blood. Gore. Guns. I made a quick decision to let him see 5 minutes of the game, with the preface that ‘if you get scared tell me right away’ and ‘you can only see 5 minutes if we get to pause it and talk about after’. He agreed, and snuggled in closer to me to watch the game.
Throughout the 5 minutes my concentration was split between ‘what the hell am I doing to my 5 year old’ and ‘Nick needs a medpack’. 5 minutes were up, paused the game again, and looked at him. He had a big smile on his face. Time to talk about it.
A kid after Wolfshead’s heart, his questions were all story based. “Are they friends? How did they meet? Why are the zombies trying to get them? Where are the police? Why aren’t there any animals? Where are they going? Where are all the kids? Why are there some big and special zombies? What are their names?”
No, they aren’t friends. They just met and need each other to survive.
They met in the hotel.
The zombies were people, who all got really sick – we don’t know why they got sick. These people didn’t get sick and are trying to to get somewhere safe.
The police are helping other people who got sick – but they are in safe areas
The animals are all hiding (weak answer, I know. But he loves animals!)
They are trying to get to the safe area where the other people who aren’t sick are
The kids all got away!
To keep gameplay interesting – erm.. because the longer they stay sick they can change into extra strong zombies.
Ellis, Nick, Rochelle, and Coach.
We talked for 15 minutes about make believe, and how it wasn’t real, and how a real sickness like that couldn’t happen and that it is a game where you try to help each other escape the monsters. He remained very much interested in the game, laughed at the fake blood and scary zombies (he’s a big fan of Hallowe’en) and seemed completely fine with it all. I’m not sure if it’s because of the time we spent discussing it, or if kids these day are just exposed to soft violence (see any superhero movie) but at this point I figured his mental state wasn’t completely ruined.
And he wanted to play some more. So, I let him watch me finish off the single player campaign for that level. He asked questions the whole time, and even provided commentary on my play style. ‘Dad, you need to stay closer to your friends in the game. If the giant tongue gets one you need to save them, so go help them!!” (Yes, that is standard operating procedure in the game. Thanks for pointing out my non-eliteness, kid.)
Funny enough, his friend came over who is both a girl and black. He talked to her about how cool of a game he played with his dad, and that they should play. His name is Ellis (he went and put on a brown shirt and a ball cap), grabbed his Nerf guns, and gave her one. He explained to her that she is Rochelle, and that they are survivors of a sickness and they needed to escape the zombies. They ran around the back yard for 2 hours hunting imaginary zombies and getting to the ‘safe house’ (he has a little fort in the back yard).
I sat on the deck watching, laughing to myself. He ran up to me and asked “Dad, what is that giant zombie that is hard to beat called?” (as he tucked his two nerf handguns into his belt). Tank, I responded. “TAAAANK! RUN!!!” and off they went, survivors of both the zombie apocolypse and the exposure of a video game detailing as such.