Who's Got Game Now? A Parent Video Game Guide

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Updated on Oct 12, 2012

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.
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