Giving video games doesn’t make you a bad parent
IT'S easy to see the appeal of video games.
Some are like a story that actually responds when you yell at the TV, while others allow you to live your sporting or heroic dreams from the comfort of your couch.
Video games provide the same sort of escapism as movies, only they require the brain to be more active and can teach you more skills. They improve hand-eye coordination, reflexes and problem-solving skills, and open up a world of community and camaraderie like any other hobby.
So, if you're considering giving into your children's request for a game console this Christmas, then congrats. Maybe they'll let you play, too.
But if you're not a gamer yourself, it's understandable that you might have some reservations given all the scaremongering on current affairs shows, all the violence in the ads, and the prospect of extra screen time.
Allow me to allay some of your fears.
First of all, you know your kid better than anyone, and as long as you keep an open and respectful dialogue with them about your limits on how much you want them to play, and what sort of behaviour you expect from them when playing online, you should be okay.
Secondly, the classifications board in Australia is pretty strict when it comes to games, sometimes a little overly cautious, even. So, be guided by the age ratings and read up on titles so you know what to expect from them. If you don't want violence, then that is easy to avoid - there's loads of sports, racing, Minecraft and Sims games out there to be enjoyed. If you want to just stick to cartoonish violence and avoid the realistic looking stuff, then you'll be fine with Fortnite and Super Smash Bros. Work out your limits, communicate them and stick to them.
All consoles these days feature parental controls, too, so if you want to restrict certain ratings, or give hard limits on how long the console can be used for each day, you can do that. Both Xbox and Nintendo have smartphone apps you can use to monitor usage, and approve or deny purchase requests. The actual process is a little different among each of the three big consoles (Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch), so it's worth checking the official websites.
Whether it's done through an app or the console itself, each allows really detailed control so the console can restrict the amount of time they can play, instead of you having to be constantly vigilant.
Just remember, though, that it's often better to enforce limits through understanding and responsibility, rather than forced control. And you can't just save most games wherever - most require checkpoints.
Trying to pick which console can be tough, too, because the three all seem relatively similar (and they all have Fortnite). So, here's a cheat guide:
Nintendo Switch can be both a home console plugged into a TV dock, and a portable console playable on car rides and such, making it more versatile. A lot of games allow for easy real-life multiplayer, and it's designed to be more social. While it doesn't get the full range of AAA game releases, it does have lots of Mario games and other titles that are more friendly for younger kids and families who want to avoid violence.
While most games release on both PS4 and Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 has had an amazing slate of exclusive games for the last couple of years. The open world Spider-Man game, the apocalyptic thriller The Last Of Us, and the Uncharted series are all brilliant must-plays for adults and older teenagers.
With the exception of the excellent open-world driving game, Forza Horizon 4, the quality of the exclusives for the Xbox One is a little more patchy. However, they do have Game Pass, which is a gamechanger for families. For just $11 a month you get access to a rotating library of more than 100 games. Considering new-release titles tend to cost around $99, that's a huge saving for families.
Whichever console and games you decide are best for you, I hope you enjoy your
Alice Clarke is a freelance journalist, and reviews video games for the Sunday Herald Sun.