Balancing gamer and parent

When I was a kid I used to bitch about game censorship, but to be fair I think I was about 13 by the time a game dropped an f bomb on consoles, flash forward a bit, and now I have a 6 year old son, who is ravenous about games, and robots, and zombies, and explosions. It makes for a difficult situation, one that I think each parent has to really weigh themselves. I still bitch about censorship, but am thankful for things like ratings, and wish they were a little more thorough... I'm in the UK, and the bbfc do an ok job, but  terms like 'moderate violence' covers a lot of ground. Being a fan of games as well, it's easy for me to pick up a controller and use my own good judgement to decide, or in best case, sit and actually play with him, ( even if that means I may have to see the ending to Lego Star Wars a few too many times...).  
 
One thing I have noticed is my son is really taking a liking to open world games, which is sadly a genre that tends to skew more towards the adult end of the spectrum, Just Cause 1 and 2 weren't too bad (under supervision, and avoiding certain areas) and Burnout paradise was perfect. I just wish there were more games that allowed him to explore an environment, without all the 'grit'. As I side note does anyone else have any other suggestions? 

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Posted by aafie

When I was a kid I used to bitch about game censorship, but to be fair I think I was about 13 by the time a game dropped an f bomb on consoles, flash forward a bit, and now I have a 6 year old son, who is ravenous about games, and robots, and zombies, and explosions. It makes for a difficult situation, one that I think each parent has to really weigh themselves. I still bitch about censorship, but am thankful for things like ratings, and wish they were a little more thorough... I'm in the UK, and the bbfc do an ok job, but  terms like 'moderate violence' covers a lot of ground. Being a fan of games as well, it's easy for me to pick up a controller and use my own good judgement to decide, or in best case, sit and actually play with him, ( even if that means I may have to see the ending to Lego Star Wars a few too many times...).  
 
One thing I have noticed is my son is really taking a liking to open world games, which is sadly a genre that tends to skew more towards the adult end of the spectrum, Just Cause 1 and 2 weren't too bad (under supervision, and avoiding certain areas) and Burnout paradise was perfect. I just wish there were more games that allowed him to explore an environment, without all the 'grit'. As I side note does anyone else have any other suggestions? 

Posted by Sh4ft3d

Burnout Paradise is a possibility. The recent Prince of Persia might also be worth checking out. Is there any particular platform your son plays on?

Posted by swamplord666

Yeah in terms of game censorship, I hope to see it enforced alot more than it currently is. Not so much to protect our children but to help games be taken seriously or at least on the same level as films. Also some kids are better about violent games than others. I know that none of my friends have been affected by violent videogames but this matter needs to be gaged on a case by case basis and I'm glad parents like yourself are doing just that :) 
As for your question, I'm afraid I can't provide any recommendations of non violent open world games off the top of my head... It seems open world also encompasses what you can do in that game world which sadly includes violence :S

Posted by Kowbrainz
@Sh4ft3d said:
" Burnout Paradise is a possibility. The recent Prince of Persia might also be worth checking out. Is there any particular platform your son plays on? "
No, Burnout Paradise was perfect apparently ;P
 
I'd like to throw in a mention of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts for the hell of it but I can't be completely sure. The overworld has a lot of stuff to explore but isn't quite as large as the average open world game, and some of the challenges can be quite tough for a six year old, although it's very colourful and the only lewd stuff in it is humour he wouldn't pick up on anyway.
Posted by aafie
@Sh4ft3d:  He really enjoyed Burnout Paradise, but has since... burned out on it,  Prince of Persia may be a good idea due to the whole 'can't die' thing, can't remember though, how visceral is the combat? 
Posted by Sh4ft3d

Wow. Can't believe I forgot about Banjo-Kazooie. Definitely pick that one up.

Posted by NMurdoc
@Sh4ft3d: Dude that game gets pretty tough in places though. However, if all goes well you might have a future engineer in the making...
Edited by swamplord666
Edited by Sh4ft3d

Since you're fighting enemies spawned by the dark god Ahriman, not blood or anything like that. Just healthbars and a disappearing animation. Here's a vid link to some gameplay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jw5NnQoYi5A

The only time you fight humans is toward the beginning/tutorial part. As far as I can remember, there's no blood or gory kills.

Posted by aafie
@swamplord666: Its true, I've yet to see one without violence, its a shame they cant make a Crackdown / Mirror's edge experience based purely on exploration My son used to play just the traversal part of Infamous, (and currently does in Just Cause 2) and hands the controller across if anyone 'bothers him'. That being said I had a bit of a dilemma in JC2 when the police attacked him and he stopped to ask if that meant he was a bad guy... I started trying to explain corruption, and lastly decided to state there was a misunderstanding.
Posted by aafie
@NMurdoc the whole building thing was a bit over his head, and he didn't 'like' my creations, its a shame but Banjo lead to a lot of arguments, he does like the older ones a little, but tires of all the collecting.
Posted by swamplord666
@aafie said:
" @swamplord666: Its true, I've yet to see one without violence, its a shame they cant make a Crackdown / Mirror's edge experience based purely on exploration My son used to play just the traversal part of Infamous, (and currently does in Just Cause 2) and hands the controller across if anyone 'bothers him'. That being said I had a bit of a dilemma in JC2 when the police attacked him and he stopped to ask if that meant he was a bad guy... I started trying to explain corruption, and lastly decided to state there was a misunderstanding. "
That is a very well mannered boy you have. And i do see your problem with the violence if you have to explain why he's not the bad guy :/ 
Posted by aafie
@swamplord666: Yeah he is pretty good, and insightful, if something doesn't seem right he will ask questions. BTW thanks for reminding me of the list... looking at it, Crazy Taxi should be a winner, and though it was little over his head when it came out, I bet he'd love Spore now.
Posted by aafie
@Sh4ft3d: Regarding Prince of Persia, he liked the look of the trailer, so I'll have to give it a whirl. I never considered it since the old ones got so dark...
Edited by FireBurger

I haven't played one in a while, but I remember the Pokemon games being pretty open-world and plenty kid friendly (if he has a DS). The sense of exploration is a bit different than in a 3D game world, but worth a thought. 
 
Also, what about something like The Sims? It's not open-world the traditional sense, but it certainly is open to creating your own story within the world. There is the whole "woo-hooing" bit, but it's under covers and is something you could probably tip-toe around.
 
EDIT: What platforms do you have, anyway?

Posted by raiz265

You could give the newest Spiderman game a try... I haven't played it myself, so I don't know any details, but I've heard that the free-roaming stuff is pretty nice in that game.

Posted by aafie

 @FireBurger: Pokemon is definitely something that is likely to start in the house, he really wanted to get into it last time and now I think is literacy is finally up to snuff, he really tries to challenge himself, but that can often lead to frustration. He insisted on playing my Picross 3d the other day and about 2 puzzles in was a rather unhappy bunny indeed
...

Posted by RoujinX

I have a little cousin who's around 7ish. I was at their house one day and he pulled me into the basement and booted up his gamecube. He handed me the controller and told me couldn't get past the first level.  
 
He was playing Animal Crossing.
Posted by raiz265
@RoujinX said:
" I have a little cousin who's around 7ish. I was at their house one day and he pulled me into the basement and booted up his gamecube. He handed me the controller and told me couldn't get past the first level.   He was playing Animal Crossing. "
He's going to be one of those reallife guys....
Posted by mracoon

If he liked LEGO Star Wars then LEGO Indiana Jones might be a good game for him.

Moderator
Posted by aafie
@RoujinX: ...wow, bless him! :)  @raiz265: Which one web of shadows? @FireBurger: All of the above and a lot of retro, BTW apparently pokemon is not going to happen, as 'All you do is walk around and pick moves and the pokemon don't even move, and stuff.' Now correct me if I'm wrong , but did my son just dis pokemon's lack of battle animation?
Posted by aafie
@mracoon: liked both starwars, didnt like indy, liked batman though.
Posted by Meltac

You could try out Fable 2, but I don't know if that's too violent?

Edited by FireBurger
@Meltac: You can blow your wife's head off...
 

@aafie:

Haha, I think he did. He might still like it if he tried it (after all, millions of kids have). Here are a few more that I thought of: 

Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise (not sure how complicated these games are)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (it's sort of dark and gritty, but there is no foul language and the violence is simply comic book beat 'em up style)
Twilight Princess (puzzles might be over his head?)
Super Mario Galaxy
Endless Ocean: Blue World (though he may find this boring)
 
That's about all I can come up with.
 
EDIT: This makes me wonder why game developers don't put in some sort of "Exploration" mode into their open-world games like Crackdown or Just Cause. It could simply be an unlockable mode for beating the game that removes enemies from the world (would have to replace them with civilian NPCs so you could still do horrible things to people :)). That way, people who just want to do ridiculous stuff without the nuisance of enemies could do it, and people in your situation could have a safe environment to let their kids enjoy a game.
Posted by Sh4ft3d

I'd put a second in for Super Mario Galaxy.

Edited by themangalist

 a 6-year old son playing games like that sounds... rather... 
 
actually, i'm not a parent myself, and i played Duke Nukem 3D when i was 6. And honestly, i played DN not for the pixelized strippers nor the gun violence stuff... i actually enjoyed travelling through the levels exploring (even sometimes it gets real creepy, for example a supermarket's butcher section had limbs everywhere) So i guess that relates, why kids play games. I personally still enjoy visiting different worlds up to this day. I am sort of adventurous in real life too.  

 when kids are in that stage of  Initiative vs Guilt in Erikson's psychological development terms, i don't think it's too bad to try games that have a moral spectrum to them, or bring a rather more serious consequence if you violate the rules, with you monitoring. although i can't think of any at the top of my head, i bet there must be tweak to disable the blood in the pc version of fable I. Just make sure your son doesn't know there are decapitation moves. 
 
I would suggest bully when he gets older. Do not judge the game by its name. the game is about Bullying Bullies. and one thing that contributes to the point i was making before -- prefects and law enforcers in that game are almost unbeatable. If you do something wrong you get caught. You could argue that teaches the kids you can violate the rules, just don't violate them in front of people. So again, monitoring is key. and from what you've typed up so far, i trust you as a pretty responsible parent. (you could even learn more about his school life in the mean time, kill 2 birds with 1 stone)
 
btw, i hate peter molyneux for implementing such violence into a seemingly cartoonish styled game. I mean, it's not appealing to adult gamers like me (the bigfeet is dumb to me), nor can you really give such a game to kids. But anyways, worth a try.

Posted by aafie
@FireBurger: I agree he would like pokemon if he gave it a chance, but I think him trying to play while still learning to read left a bitter taste in his mouth. Maybe if played along and traded with him, but that's not a small investment... I'll have to think about that. 
 
 Viva piñata was too complicated,  Arkham asylum wasn't obscene, but the scarecrow bits would scare the crap out of him..., haven't considered Zelda, I would have thought no because the puzzles... but maybe Im selling him short... after all I was his age when the first one came out...:) anything Mario is an automatic win, he has essentially S ranked Galaxy, and plays New SMB and new SMB Wii, which was a great gateway drug to him playing SMB World and 3. and I've never considered Endless Ocean, as a kid I really liked Aquanaut's Holiday (much to my friends' amusement) so its worth a try. 
 
@Meltac:  Yeah that's definitely too violent, that and I really don't want to explain why his dog just dug up a bunch of condoms...
Edited by themangalist

oblivion on the pc may also work, because it's very tweakable so you could turn off the blood. if the oblivion gate sections get too scary (zombies, hanging corpses and torture stuff), it's always possible to install a mod that would skip that part of the game entirely.  it's a game i think i would enjoy if i were a kid. 
 
i would agree the gaming generation gap is there. Although i would say fallout 3, fable 2 is equally violent as duke nukem, dn was in pixels. Now with HD graphics it's hard to avoid violence. And honestly, we really are getting a lot less spyros and crash bandicoots these days. 
 
Anyhow, good luck. i'm glad to see parents who grew up gaming have such passion and responsibility.

Edited by FireBurger
@themangalist: Yeah, I was thinking Oblivion because the world is so beautiful in itself, I was just thinking with all of the leveling and inventory and what-not, it might be a little complicated.
 
@aafie: Haha, good point. I forgot about the Scarecrow bits. Yeah, I think Zelda may be a good bet. You can't get much more kid-friendly, plus it has the whole open-world / exploration thing going for it. Worst comes to worst, you could help him out with the tougher puzzles. I think it's worth a shot (maybe just rent it, first).
Posted by aafie
@themangalist: I loved bully, and would be happy to play that one with him fairly soon, if I remember correctly he used to pal about on that just doing the bike and go cart, I would consider oblivion but with the sole exception of Spore and browser based stuff (which in itself is a worry) he doesnt like PC gaming, that and he tends to shy from first person. I should also add that a certain element of violence I find ok if over the top, or very unrealistic (e.g. castle crashers 
 
@FireBurger:  While discussing the options with all of you I have also been bouncing some suggestions of my son while he's sat here, He likes the idea of Zelda, so we may be on to a winner, now the question is where do I start? Ocarina may be a good one, Majora is too complicated, Maybe wind waker? or should I go straight to Twilight Princess? If I thought he wouldn't be a graphics snob I'd almost pop for link to the past.
Posted by Xolare
@mracoon said:
" If he liked LEGO Star Wars then LEGO Indiana Jones might be a good game for him. "
Or Lego Batman.
Posted by Meltac
@aafie:@FireBurger:
Yeah Fable 2 doesn't sound like that good of an idea after all :P
 
You could try 'Splosion Man, or The Maw then? I've played both with a 6-7 year old, and he loved it.
Posted by aafie
@Xolare: I dont know if they did it in the US but out her they did a Lego Batman / Pure bundle Xmas before last, and he loves both of those. 
 
@Meltac: I'll consider splosion man as he loves N+, what is The Maw like? I missed that one, Ill DL the demo
Posted by Meltac
@aafie: The Maw is a light platformer/puzzle-ish game, where you as an alien control another alien. It's very sweet, funny, and kid friendly. You could check out the Quick Look.
Posted by themangalist

 @aafie: oblivion can be played 3rd person but i agree it plays funny that way. The TOTALLY UNREALISTIC physics should be ok...
 
i would shy away from browser based stuff too. club penguin could be a good first try, but since these stuff are more chat than game, it is very very easy to fall prey to strangers, or simply get bad influence. i simply do not recommend having the weirdness of the internet seep into a child's mind well before being 16. (no joking)  
 

@FireBurger:

at these ages kids should learn to experiment (like when i first played oblivion common sense did not occur to me that  rain could put out my torches.. haha) you dont even have to level up properly to play the game. the levelling system is so lame it's almost good for a kids'/grannys' game.
 
@Meltac:
i'm kinda creeped out by splosion man even as an adult. The cartoon violence is somewhat scary. people explode into steaks, and if aafie is wondering, the final boss of that game is very very creepy too. search youtube and see if you find it acceptable.
Posted by aafie
@Meltac: looks cute, and the boy was interested, DLing demo now... Thanks! I have to say I'm really impressed with the level of feedback I've received, and the fact that its all very intelligent, Ive listened to the guys since HotSpot, and watch a lot of the video content on the site, but today is the first day I've actually made an account (admittedly because of the Quest system :) ) and I am just blown away by the response. Thanks everybody.
Posted by Meltac
@themangalist: =O 'Splosion Man is the most lovable character ever. 1) He can 'splode. 2) He constantly quotes Arnold Schwarzenegger. 3) He's funny. 4) He's not creepy at all. 5) He has the best theme song ever.
 
And then he's a bit creepy :P
Posted by aafie
@themangalist: I'll give oblivion a thought, but I dunno it just sets off my spidey sense for some reason, Its not the violence, or even the content...  its just such a dark story, I'll have to replay it and consider it 
 
@Meltac:
 The Maw is a winner, he played the demo through and we both laughed at how the Maw reacts with the environment (eating the lave lizard things and running for water was a big chuckle) already unlocked the full version. 
 
And I think the last boss of Splosion Man would probably make him laugh, its kinda disturbing, but in a Porky Pig eating bacon kinda way....
Posted by Meltac
@aafie: Cool, good to hear :D And yeah, The Maw alone makes it worth the money.
Edited by FireBurger
@aafie: I haven't played any of the Zeldas beyond Ocarina of Time when I was a kid, and more recently a good portion of Twilight Princess. I'd suggest Twilight Princess, only because I think the better graphics can enhance the sense of exploration since the world is just that much nicer to look at. One thing to remember, though, is that even the newest Zeldas have text-based dialogue, so it depends how comfortable your son is with reading at this point.
Posted by aafie
@FireBurger: for six, he's pretty proficient. and I would be there beside him for any rough bits (whether puzzles or text) Well I have Twilight, so we'll give it a go.
Edited by Meltac
@aafie said:

" @FireBurger: for six, he's pretty proficient. and I would be there beside him for any rough bits (whether puzzles or text) Well I have Twilight, so we'll give it a go. "

Then you should definitely check out Okami too. Imo it's better than Zelda.
Edited by bushpusherr

Depending on how you feel about guns and such, the Ratchet and Clank series may be a good option with plenty of content.  The entire series is practically based on guns but it's all cartoonish enough, coming from the same studio that made the original trio of Spyro games.
 
Jak and Daxter is also a really good choice to look into if he doesn't mind taking a step back to the PS2.  There is a minor element of collection but it is mostly based on Crash Bandicoot style combat and more open exploration.  The second and third iterations of the series are a little more gritty, and more open as well.  Kind of like a much more innocent and cartoonish Grand Theft Auto style game.  Also on the PS2, maybe have a look at the Sly Cooper series?
 
Little Big Planet would also be a no brainer as well, if you havn't already gotten into it.

Posted by jkz

I don't know, are the Monkey Island games his type of thing? Monkey Island SE is good fun, although it may be a bit complicated (though the hints system is pretty damn lenient).

Edited by themangalist
@aafie:  true, oblivion is almost too massive to assess entirely. There are drug references, sirens, or maybe the dark brotherhood could be a bit too "dark". 
 
i can't believe no one mentioned ratchet and clank a crack in time. i haven't played it first hand, but from almost every source i read, it's a very well made kids' game that both adult and kid gamers would have great deal of fun with. if you got a ps3, check that out too.
 
EDIT: someone beat me to it for mentioning R&C already.
Posted by aafie
@bushpusherr:  I have R&C future but he doesn't  rate it, same with Jak and Daxter, though he like the psp one a little,  Sly Cooper went over well with his mother who played through all 3,  and we love LBG, but again you have to be a little careful with that one... 
 
@jukezypoo:
 at six most of the humor would likely fly over his head, he watched me play the old sam and max and laughed at the slap stick, but he wouldn't play it directly... 
  
@themangalist:  Actually I think the issues I have with oblivion stem from playing Morrowind and Daggerfall that are darker experiences in general, I'll give it a shot if he shows interest, but he's not one for role players, its the same with pokemon, or any JRPGs he sees me play, he just kinda glazes over... lol
Posted by PillClinton

Any Ratchet and Clank game is kid-friendly.  Halo, although rated M (18+?), is pretty cartoony and lacking in red, human-like blood.  Also, the vast majority of XBL Arcade games would be just fine for kids....oh and of course God of War, GTA, and Gears of War are just great for the little guys!