The Village Rules . . .

In an attempt to be friendly and helpful (stop laughing), I thought I would assist Hillary Clinton in her quest to make The World Safe from Video Games by sharing my rules for selecting games for six-year-olds who have better reflexes and hand-eye coordination than I do.

As she says, it takes a village, although she apparently means a village made up of arrogant, corrupt, bloated politicians who believe we are so stupid that we will not notice they are attempting to make video games a campaign issue so they will not have to talk about anything we might actually have an interest in, like the deficit, women's reproductive issues, Karl Rove, and the fact that George Bush is in office because a fairly high percentage of Democrats are embarrassed to be seen in public with the Democratic Party these days.


First, you have to be able to tell the good guys and bad guys apart. Halo, The Lord of the Rings, Stranger's Wrath, and Psychonauts are good examples of the good/bad visibility matrix. Enter the Matrix, Grand Theft Auto and Doom 3 are good examples of games that require a certain degree of sophistication and understanding of grey areas to understand and process.

Star Wars games are an exception -- you get cooler stuff if you play the Republic and Empire, so you have a great deal of explaining to do while playing Republic Commando and Battlefront. However, thanks to the $50,000 in licensed products you have kicking around the house, your Small Child is aware of who the good guys and bad guys are. They just think it's more fun to be a bad guy . . .

Second, blood. Blood that looks like blood is bad. All the bad guys in Halo bleed in purple and green. Everybody in GTA and Doom 3 bleeds red, including some of the walls. This is why Doom 3 and Turok: Evolution are kept in a large horsehair raku pottery jar on top of the kitchen cabinets rather than in the entertainment center.

Explosions are fun. MechAssault 1 and 2 are Small Child favorites, particularly the parts where he gets to squish infantry ("Why would you try to fight a mech on foot? Duh!" ** squish ** squish ** )

Third, primary objective. Are you saving the world, or just jerking around? Oddworld games require you to not only save the world, but everyone in it, and you can screw up your entire game if you don't put yourself at serious risk to save everyone you come across.

Felonies in the title are usually a hint that a game may be inappropriate for Small Children. Sort of like being a vegetarian and being surprised that restaurants with dead animals in their names have limited meat-free alternatives.

Plain fun is also a strong factor. If it isn't fun, it won't matter how appropriate the game is. The kid won't play it. I don't like Kung Fu Chaos. It is one of the most played games in the house because it is fun if you are six.

Which brings us to the most important factor of all, the one that overrules everything else.

You have to be involved.

You have to be aware.

You have to participate.

Video games are an interactive medium, with an experiential density.

It is your job, as a parent, to help your child understand and process these experiences.

You want your child to tell you about how the aliens in Halo are attacking the humans because they are afraid. You want your child to extrapolate the idea that because some of the aliens helped Master Chief in Halo 2, not all of them are evil, and that Master Chief should travel to their home planet in Halo 3 and lead a revolution against the Prophets.

You want to know what the Small Child is talking about, because "Huh?" is not the proper response. Your kid will think you are a moron, and will automatically discount anything you have to say after that point.

This means that you have to know that the ESRB's "M" rating stands for "Mature," the video game equivalent of "NC-17," and not "Macaroni," as Hillary thinks we believe.

She thinks the answer is to replace industry self-regulation by people who understand the medium with mandatory regulation by self-serving, ignorant politicians who believe having a secretary post campaign notes makes them bloggers.

I have news for her -- the phrase "it takes a village" doesn't mean you receive a "Get Out of Parental Responsibilities FREE" card. It means that you surround yourself and your child with people of similar interests, beliefs and values to give your child a wide range of resources to assist them in processing the world.

Her use of the term as a measure of deferred parenting is far more disturbing than Grand Theft Auto (note the use of a felony in the title) 's violence and (hacker patch necessary) lame attempt at soft-core porn.

Note: I didn't link to any of the games, partially because I've linked to many of them before, and everyone who has ever visited this site or my previous one knows I want every single one of you to go buy Psychonauts right now, if you haven't already.

Note: Jason Della Rocca, IGDA's Executive Director, has posted an excellent set of links regarding the GTA controversy on his blog, Reality Panic.


Corvus said...

As much as I abhor essentially content free comments along the lines of, "Hear, Hear,", "Nice post,", and, "Well said," each new blog I add to my favorites invariably gets at least one of them.

So here's yours:

Hear, hear! Nice post! Well said!

Seriously, that has to be one of the best and most refreshing reactions I've read since this whole GTA nonsense began.

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