Kids to Parents: Play Video Games With Me

i was shooting a teevee segment today about our upcoming fun crime-themed puzzle game Kahoots, which is modelled entirely in clay. i got talking to the interviewer and his camera guy about the last time a crew came through our office. It was Dr. Karl, a medical expert for the local news team, for a segment on violence in gaming. As usual, i talked up a storm, and the resulting segment contained one brief three-second sound bite from me that was taken largely out of context.

What i said to parents who were watching was “get involved in kids’ stuff”. The gist was that it’s not difficult to sit on the couch and watch what your kids are playing. i think a lot of parents worry that they won’t understand what’s going on. “Ooh! Video games? No – not for me. i mean, Daniel certainly seems to enjoy them, and i let him play them with his friends sometimes, but i’m usually out here in the dining room knitting toilet paper cozies.”

Survey Says … ?

Enter Microsoft with a survey where 60% of the youthful respondents say they wish their parents would become more involved with gaming:

http://www.joystiq.com/2009/03/06/study-kids-want-their-folks-involved-in-gaming/

This is obviously one of those surveys that Microsoft commissioned hoping it would translate into better XBox 360 game sales for the family demographic they’ve been pursuing (see Family Lame Night, XBox 360 Markets to Stay-At-Home Moms). But it punctuates a persistent peeve of mine. Count the number of times you’ve heard something like this:

i took my kids to see that new movie [Heavy Metal/Watership Down/Fritz the Cat/South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut/Final Fantasy/The Simpsons Movie], and i couldn’t believe that it contained [swearing/nudity/violence]. i mean, it’s a cartoon, right? It’s supposed to be for kids.

It reminds me of the time i went to see Taking Care of Business with Charles Grodin and James Belushi (i wasn’t actually with Charles Grodin and James Belushi … they were in the movie). A local radio DJ announced during the afternoon drive that there was nudity in the flick, so the theatre was packed with 12-year-old boys that night. One of them was sitting in front of me, and when Loryn Locklin took off her bikini top and i heard the sound of a hundred tiny erections springing up all around me like popcorn, the kid’s aunt/mother/babysitter shot him a furious look. i heard him whisper, defensively, “What?? i thought it was a comedy!

H.O.T.S.

I think our little five-year-old Billy would enjoy this. It’s a comedy!

It annoys me that people are dumb and confuse the medium with the message. Yes, you can film a claymation porno. Yes, you can print a Bible tract that drops the F-bomb. And yes, you can cram as much gratuitous gore and digital dry-humping and exploding faces into a video game as you can pack onto a DVD. No, you should not take your family to see The Watchmen just because it’s about superheroes, a subject which has traditionally been the territory of pre-pubescent boys. And would you like to know why? Because those boys grow into adulthood and start making cartoons and comic books and video games, yet they somehow haven’t left that pre-pubescent boy mentality behind.

That’s why we have a sequel to Crank, where the protagonist has to continually electrocute himself to keep from dying.

That’s why we have Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, where you have to bribe picketing factory workers with prostitutes to appease a mob boss.

And that’s why your little boys are growing up borderline mentally retarded, worshipping gun violence and idolizing criminals: because you won’t sit your stupid ass down on the couch and watch what they’re playing.

Don’t let little boys raise your little boys. Get involved in kids’ stuff.

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