Are you one of those people who has trouble programming the DVR to record your favorite show? You're not alone. Technology moves at light speed, so you need to do more than quickstep to keep up. The same goes for the video games your kids want to play. If you don't know what an RPG or FPS game is, it's a good idea to start learning—and fast! Here's a parent video game guide to help you hurdle the biggest obstacles in the video gaming world.
You need to know about: Genres.
No parent video game guide would be complete without a genre breakdown. A video game is typically categorized by its content, or gameplay, though the categories are by no means standardized in the video game universe. A game's genre lets you know what types of challenges are in the game itself. There are also a plethora of sub-genres (which gets really confusing!), but you can get away with just knowing a few of the main categories out there.
- Action. This genre is pretty large, and lots of different games can fall under this category. For the most part, though, the game's aim is to overcome certain obstacles or scenarios using timing and accuracy. Fighting games, first-person shooter (FPS) games, mazes and even pinball fall under this category. A great way to flex those quick reflexes, these games can also contain violence, so be sure to buy only after seeing the rating or reviewing the game's synopsis.
- Adventure. There is less emphasis on reflexes and accuracy in true adventure games, and more on the player interacting with his environment. Your child may have to solve puzzles, find a lost gemstone or talk to an alien to move forward in the game. Adventure games are perfect for first-time gamers as well as children because they are typically non-confrontational and don't require lightning-fast reaction time.
- Role-Playing. Known throughout the gamer-verse as RPGs, role-playing games originate from the old Dungeons and Dragons-type games you or your brothers might've played in the '80s. These games involve inhabiting the role of one or more characters who each come from a certain class and are given certain skills. As the character earns experience, through quests or combat, new skills and bonuses are added. World of Warcraft is perhaps the best-known example of an RPG. RPGs are usually a little heavy on the quest content, which requires reading and strategy, making them more suitable for teens and adults.
- Simulation. Games that fall under the simulation genre tend to simulate a specific world, letting players build cities, run companies and experience life in that "reality." SimCity and Rollercoaster Tycoon are famous examples of simulation games. This genre is often kid-friendly, with many of these games rated as E for everyone.
You need to know about: ESRB ratings
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) designations are designed to tell you which games are appropriate for your kids based on age group. This third-party organization looks at the content and goal of video games and mobile apps to assign specific ratings. These ratings give you the skinny on what's in a video game, so that you can make the best decisions about what your kids play. Here's the breakdown:
- For kids six and younger, stick with Early Childhood and Everyone, EC and E, rated games.
- Tweens and teens may like the Everyone 10 and up and T for Teen games, though you may want to read the game summary. There may be some violence, blood and crude humor in the T-rated offerings.
- M for Mature is something you want your kids to steer clear of, as these games tend to have a lot of violence, blood, gore, foul language and sexually suggestive themes.
You need to know about: Game platforms and consoles
Have you heard the terms "game platform" and "game console"? They're kind of the same thing, but slightly different. A game platform is a fancy term for the system a specific game is played on, e.g. a PC, mobile phone or game console. A game console is a non-PC/Mac customized gaming system that hooks up to a TV to play specific games, like the Xbox or Wii. You're probably more familiar with game consoles, but if your kids want to start playing games, you don't have to go out and buy one. If you have a PC or Mac computer, you can begin there.
You've Already Got Game
If you've got a computer (even if it's a little old), you have a gaming platform! You may need to update your operating system, check to see how much random access memory (RAM) you have available and buy a graphics card, but there are many games out there that don't need a huge investment in computer updates.
First, check to see what operating system your computer is using. Macs use OSx, while PCs use a version of Windows. You will also need to know what processor you have (like an Intel Core 2), and what, if any, graphics card you have.
Next, you'll want to know what a game requires to run. Check online before you buy it at the store; you can run a search for "computer requirements for [fill in the blank]." Another easy tool is to use a website that automatically scans your computer to see if it matches a certain game's specifications. Though not totally foolproof, websites like www.systemrequirementslab.com and www.yougamers.com let you select a video game and click a button to find out if your hardware is compatible.
Gaming consoles prevent your kids from tying up the computer, and make multi-player family fun night possible. These connect to your TV, and may even let you play music, movies or stream Netflix videos. Some even have fitness, sports or dancing games that encourage you and your family to get your groove on! Here is a breakdown of three popular consoles and their features:
<table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tbody><tr><td valign="top">
Online gaming capability, multi-player functions, video streaming, parental controls, available in 250GB or 4GB consoles
Available with Kinect for controller-free gaming, limited edition consoles
Yes: Xbox Live
MSRP: $199.99 to $299.99
Motion-control gaming, multi-player functions, parental controls, Netflix streaming, TV/video streaming
Wii Fit/Wii Fit Plus, Wii U available November 2012
Yes: Wii Internet Channel
Blu-ray player, built-in WiFi, file storage capability, Netflix, TV/video streaming
Latest model: Playstation 3
Yes, built-in Wi-Fi