PC builder Chillblast’s communications director, Louise Blain gives us a 101 of today’s gaming market.
It’s never been easier to game. Phones, tablets, handheld consoles, home consoles and PCs are ever in reach and with game sales equalling and often overtaking cinema releases – recent PS3 game, The Last Of Us, made more money than Man Of Steel on their shared opening weekend – they certainly aren’t going anywhere. But that sheer volume of content available poses a problem when you ask yourself what your children should be playing. The gaming world isn’t just childs’ play. A recent report showed that the average age of gamers is a cool thirty years old so what should you be looking for in terms of suitable content? And what exactly is the difference between an FPS and an RPG? Here we’re going to take a look at the multitude of offerings available, give a few helpful hints as to the kinds of games available and the right places to look for more information on the subject.
Gaming genre cheat sheet (or how to sound ridiculously knowledgeable)
- FPS or Shooter – First Person Shooter. Think Call Of Duty. You hold the gun, you shoot the bad guys.
- RPG – Role-playing Game. Taking on a fictional role within a story and being able to personalise the experience and make it unique to you.
- RTS – Real time strategy. For example, placing soldiers in a battlefield.
- MMO – Massively multiplayer online game. World of Warcraft is a perfect example with lots of players all playing at once. It’s classed as an MMORPG.
- Sandbox – A free world to explore and be creative (like Minecraft)
- Racer – Start your engines…
- Platformer – Often side scrolling and mostly dependent on jumps. Think Sonic and Mario.
- Sim – Not just meaning ‘The Sims’, a sim is a simulation of a real activity, be that building a farm, designing a house or flying a plane.
Is it Age Appropriate?
The above are just a few general terms but when it comes to content, the best way of assessing what’s best for your child is taking a look at the PEGI rating. This is the rating system now used by games (previously handled by the British Board of Film Classification) and as well as using more traditional age ratings, a series of symbols also displays the kind of content that can be found inside. If you’ve ended up in GAME and you’re perusing the shelves, the PEGI system can be found on the back of all the boxes. It’s also clearly displayed on online marketplaces such as Steam:
It can be daunting at first but while the choice of games is massive, the ratings system makes it easy to spot titles that have the content you want.
It’s hard to define exactly what kind of games your child should be playing at different ages (or in the case of the LEGO games, ALL ages) but the internet is always there to help. Wired’s Geek Dad gamer runs a Family Gamer section oh his website www.gamepeople.co.uk. There he constantly explores the new content available, be it new Skylanders sets or reviewing the newest games across all consoles. It’s an ever-changing world and games sites clamour for the scoop on the most up to the minute games. You can happily ignore all that – but occasionally visiting the PEGI site or Gamepeople means that you wont have to rely on a ‘Can I have this request’ that you might not know the answer to straight away.
LittleStuff has covered Minecraft previously but when it comes to a game with a hugely broad appeal and such creative opportunities, nothing can beat the Swedish creation in terms of scope or scale. With the ability to be played across multiple platforms, it’s equally exciting across PCs, iPads, iPhones and Xbox 360, especially with multiplayer across devices for friends to build or fight together.
Younger children appreciate the giant digital Lego set that Minecraft delivers in its safe ‘Creative’ mode while older children will be questing onto servers with their friends to take on a multitude of ‘Survival’ challenges. Know that Minecraft does have various modes including on and offline setting so that a space can be yours alone or something that other people can visit. Finding out what settings are implemented can ease any worry you may have of inappropriate content being accessed. Largely, the Minecraft world is a safe place to play and unsociable behaviour can be reported and controlled.
The best way to find out what a game entails is to watch. Most people want to share what they’re playing and if you settle down to see what’s going on, you might be surprised how instantly addicted you are. Whether it’s getting involved with Cut the Rope on iPad or iPhone or picking up a controller and helping to collect LEGO studs during LEGO Lord of the Rings, it’s an experience that can be shared by all ages.
Watch Out for YouTube
PC gaming has a strong share aspect and sees people of all ages recording their gaming and uploading it to YouTube for others to watch. This is a huge market and gaming YouTube channels are watched by millions daily. Content on YouTube is of course not certified by an official body and can contain variable content so if your child is watching LPs (or ‘Lets Plays’) find out what the content is like first. Again, largely this is a world where people come to have fun but if you are ever worried about content, just have a listen to the language being used and see what’s going on.
Young Children Gaming Suggestions
When it comes to choosing games especially for children, the happy lack of violence means that puzzle games such as World of Goo, Peggle and Plants Vs Zombies can be enjoyed on a handheld or with a mouse. The simulation worlds of Rollercoaster Tycoon and Sim City can be enjoyed with the whole family and racing games like Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing Transformed can be loaded up for all ages.
The gaming world is one big massive sandbox of opportunities to stimulate minds and with the possibility for all kinds of family fun. It might be daunting but there are plenty of places to find help and ratings content is always on hand if you are in any doubt.