Spending time playing games with children is important.
Spending time playing games with children is important. Kraig Scarbinsky

Video games not just child's play

COMPUTER games or video games, as they are still commonly known, seem to grow in popularity every year with the young and old seemingly consumed by electronic fantasy.

While a number of studies point to the negative impact violence in these games can have, especially on teenagers, there is a belief that they can also be of great educational and entertainment value if suitably monitored.

Parents who have no experience of gaming can find the process and language quite intimidating, but it is important that you find your way so you can make the correct decisions about the age-appropriateness of games for your children.

Think about your kids' interests, talk with other parents and try to make choices that include fitness tasks and educational aspects like problem solving for older kids and number and word recognition for the younger ones.

Pay attention to the rating, but be aware that even a game offered to everyone can have some violent scenes.

Also remember that in Australia there is no rating for adult games, meaning that MA15+ is the top rating for games and the content may not be appropriate for teenagers.

There is no better way of learning about a game than actually playing it. You may have some fun and spend some quality time with your child in the process.

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For younger kids try ItzaZoo; an exciting learn-to-read game that incorporates drawings and runs on a Windows platform, or I Spy Castle which is a Nintendo DS game that allows you to explore a castle by doing puzzles.

Nickelodeon Fit (Nintendo Wii) is a great active-gaming collection to get your preschooler moving, while Hasbro Family Game Night is a nice activity to do together.

Dora's Cooking Club (Nintendo DS and DSi) is a fun maths game baked into a cooking sim, and for school kids try Maths Blaster Online; an exciting adventure-based way to learn.

If your little girl is into fairytales and princesses then you can't go past Disney Enchanted Princess Journey for Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 2 and Windows.

There is also Barbie Fashion Show, which offers a fun way to play with fashion design.

Children of both sexes would like New Super Mario Bros for Wii, which is an excellent remake of the classic, or Cars for Leapster.

Teens may get a kick out of games that include superheros like Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, which plays on most platforms, and The Incredible Hulk Ultimate Destruction.

There is also value to be had in the PlayStation Vita series like FIFA Soccer and Hot Shots Golf.

Young teens who fancy more action could try Wipeout 2048, which is a sci-fi racer series, or Uncharted: Golden Abyss - an exciting action series that has some violence.

There are dance games for the groovers like Just Dance 3 or DanceDanceRevolution. Games for older teenagers are harder to police especially when they are playing online and are communicating with anonymous combatants.

They can download new characters, weapons and levels and suddenly games you thought were appropriate are not. But you could try Braid (Xbox), which is a single-player game that involves puzzle solving and the manipulation of time to rescue an abducted princess.

For more ideas go to www.commonsensemedia.org.


Gaming speak

  • Pwning: Dominating an opponent.
  • Noob: An inexperienced, unskilled or new player.
  • Button Mashing: Frantically pushing buttons in the hopes of pulling off a combo.
  • Combo: An action in game triggered by pressing a series of buttons in a timed sequence.
  • Mod: A mod or modification is a type of downloadable add-on content.

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