GregHorrorShow’s Guide To Gaming – Part 4: The Parent Edition

Guide Vol 4 Parents Main

So your kids are getting bigger, becoming small people with personalities and tastes of their own 🙂 All of a sudden they are asking about games… all their friends are playing games… can we get a console… can I play on the iPad… and so on and so forth. There is a hell of a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding out there with regards to games so we are going to discuss some of the stigmas around games and bust a few myths while we are at it.

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PEGI RATINGS

Guide Vol 4 Parents Ratings

So first things first, the most basic of all the information I have to share but also the most commonly misinterpreted. Most games aren’t made for children. That’s the best thing to get your head around. The average age of gamers is now 31. Unless it’s a game aimed at children, presume this was intended for adults to play. PEGI (Pan European Game Information) are the game equivalent of the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) for films. The age rating on the box of a game is the same as it would be for Film or TV. It is NOT a guide to the ability of your child like a puzzle or board game. These ratings are content based, not skill based. I once overheard a lady in a shop who had made this mistake and was considering buying her 10 year old son a copy of an 18+ rated game because ‘he is really good at games.’ Thankfully the shop assistant explained. So always check these ratings before allowing your child to play a game. Of course there is nothing to stop you allowing your child to play a higher rated game if you feel they are mature enough to handle it, that’s your call – my 4 year old daughter often played Skylanders with her bigger sister which was rated as 7+ and we had no issues. However, it should be a decision you make rather than just getting whatever game they ask for.

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PLAY TIME

Guide Vol 4 Parents Time

Gaming is no different to any other medium; a child should not be sitting down and playing their console all day. To be honest, adults shouldn’t be doing that but they are old enough to look after themselves! I wouldn’t recommend a child sits and watches TV all day, or just sits in a room reading a book all day. I’d also strongly advise against having a console in their bedroom so you can keep an eye on what they are playing but again that’s a personal parental decision. Most things in moderation are ok and gaming is no different. Make sure you explain to them what time you’re allowing (45 mins or an hour etc.) and then stick to it. You should allow a little leeway; say 5 minutes to get to a suitable stopping point. Most games now auto-save very regularly so don’t let them fob you off with tales of having to get to a save point. If they insist try googling the game to see if doesn’t have auto-save, just in case.

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IPAD / TABLET GAMING

Guide Vol 4 Parents IPad

My area of expertise is console gaming and I don’t have a lot of experience with iPad/Tablet games so my main advice is to be super vigilant. On consoles you would need to have a credit card linked to your PlayStation or XBox to buy anything. On phones it’s a lot easier for kids to accidentally rack up costs (often without realising it). Sadly the mobile gaming space is full of titles made with the aim of getting you to pay money. Beware of Free To Play titles, they are specifically designed to prey on people susceptible to gambling/addiction by making the game ramp up in difficulty or locking things behind a timer – “Wait two days to play again or just pay 79p to jump straight back in.” These games can be very dangerous to the wrong personalities (adults included) and can often be as bad as fruit machines. Best thing to do would be to check around online and see which games are rated highly for kids. Having said that even that can’t protect you from the stream of ads running alongside the game… a well-known kids app called Talking Tom (with a cute speaking cat you interact with) hit the headlines for running hard-core porn video ads in the game while children were playing. This thing is mainly avoidable on consoles as most products don’t have random ads running in the background.

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CONSOLES

So you’ve been beaten into submission and now you’re looking to get a console! But which one? Well fortunately you only really have three choices and two of them are very similar.

Nintendo Wii-U

Guide Vol 4 Parents Wii U

Nintendo are often kid’s first game experiences as they are very family friendly. Games like Mario Kart, Donkey Kong and Legend Of Zelda have great heritage and with new titles like Splatoon, they are still delivering solid kids content. The only issue you may have here is that a lot of other companies have stopped making games for it so it is mainly just those Nintendo games you’ll be playing.

XBox / Playstation

Guide Vol 4 Parents XB-PS

For younger kids you might be able to get away with giving them the older consoles (XBox 360 and PlayStation 3) which both have a wealth of back catalogue games and, while not quite up to the standard of the latest titles, will be great for playing lots of awesome games. However as they get older and need to keep up with the Jones’s, you’ll be looking more at the XBox One or PlayStation 4. These two are fairly similar and it will probably come down to what your kids friends are playing on. I’ve always preferred PlayStation, which also has the benefit of being market leader and getting the best versions of most games. Also there’s LittleBigPlanet, but more on that later!

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TOYS TO LIFE

Guide Vol 4 Parents Toys

There is a new kid on the block in terms of games for youngsters – Toys To Life. This genre encompasses heavyweights like Skylanders, Disney Infinity and the newly announced Lego Dimensions. These games are played like others with a gamepad but the difference is that they come with a little portal. You pop the toys on top of the portal and then they appear in game for you to control. It’s pretty awesome actually, I would’ve loved this for my He-Man or Ghostbusters back in the day! My (gentle) warning on these games is not the content – they are definitely kid friendly – but more the fact of knowing what you are investing in. These games are full price (usually with a toy or two) and then further toy figures are around £10 each. Some (optional) areas of the game can only be accessed by specific characters and as you can imagine the cost can escalate quickly, especially if your kids have more than one of these titles!

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SUITABLE GAMES

Guide Vol 4 Parents Tearaway

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of games out there that your kids could play. Make sure you research titles before allowing them to play. Here are a few titles that I’d recommend.

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Under 5’s

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  • Joe Danger
  • Super Rub A Dub
  • Katamari
  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Octodad (this is actually really difficult but the kids love the comedy element)

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These games should always be simple and not too complicated so the child doesn’t get too frustrated – I’d strongly recommend Joe Danger (video above) and Katamari from this list as they can be played on a basic level with just one or two buttons. And both are great fun!

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5-12 Years

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  • Skylanders
  • Disney Infinity
  • Minecraft (more on that below)
  • FIFA Soccer
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Various Lego Titles (Batman/Avengers etc.)
  • DriveClub
  • Child Of Light
  • Tearaway

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There are some wonderful games in this list – LittleBigPlanet is shown above but Tearaway is also amazing and for something a little deeper Child Of Light is unbelievably good. These are games that both children and adults can enjoy (together if you’d like!)

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The ‘Teens’ .

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  • Destiny
  • Uncharted
  • Need For Speed
  • Mass Effect
  • Journey

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So included here are a bunch of game series that are higher rated age-wise and deal with violence but with a more sci-fi slant that isn’t going for realism. Another series in this vein is Uncharted, which is more like Indiana Jones than anything else. Also worth noting that Mass Effect contains (non-explicit) sexual content as you can romance a member of your crew, just in case that influences your decision.

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BIG NAMES

Guide Vol 4 Parents Minecraft

And now we come to the big names, the ones the kids will be begging to play.

PLEASE NOTE SOME OF THE VIDEOS BELOW CONTAIN EXTREMELY VIOLENT GRAPHIC CONTENT – I AM EMBEDDING THEM BELOW TO HIGHLIGHT POTENTIAL GAME CONTENT BUT CLICK AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION. .

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Minecraft

Minecraft is great for most children, it encourages building and exploration. Some of the enemies might be too much for very young children but I’d say this one is generally ok for most age groups.

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Call Of Duty

Call Of Duty is a huge franchise in which you play as a soldier killing other people. There are two elements to the game, single player and online. The online multiplayer is where they will likely be playing, in modes where killing the other players is the name of the game (literally, it’s called Deathmatch!). This tends to not be too graphic, although bear in mind you will be shooting and stabbing people. The other issue is online chat, although I’ll go more into that below. The other side of the game is the campaign in which you would play through the story. Known for its shocking violence these can sometimes be tough to watch as an adult – for example an interrogation scene in which you put glass into a man’s mouth and then crush it by punching him in the face. It’s probably most infamous for its ‘No Russian’ that sees you take part in a terrorist attack at an airport, shooting civilians. Footage below so you can see for yourself…

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Assassin’s Creed

The Assassin’s Creed games all take place in different eras of history (1400’s Italy, 1700’s Paris and 1800’s London for example). This means they can give a feel for those places at that time and you can visit recreated landmarks and go inside (Notre Dame was particularly impressive!). However, as the name suggests you will be tasked with killing targets as part of an overall Templar/Assassin storyline. Usually using blades, although guns do feature, this is probably the least graphic of the biggest games but still I wouldn’t really recommend for kids younger than 15, depending on the child of course.

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Mortal Kombat

And now I’m afraid I’m going to be really hypocritical. Let me explain. The original Mortal Kombat came out in 1993, when I was just 13. And we played it for hours at friend’s houses. While not quite as graphically impressive as games nowadays it still allowed you to perform brutal finishing moves on opponents and was, no doubt, not suitable for a 13 year old. Having said that it didn’t seem to do me any harm but I digress… The latest installment of Mortal Kombat is the tenth in the series and the games have leaned even more into the gross-out over the top finishing moves than ever before. As an adult I can differentiate between this type of ‘video-nasty’ horror/violence and real life, knowing that these moves are displayed tongue in cheek. However parents should be aware that although this verges on satire, they are still extremely, graphically, violent. Again, here’s a video showing a few of the moves in the latest game.

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Grand Theft Auto

Ah Grand Theft Auto – the bane of game headlines around the world! First let’s bust a few myths.

‘This game makes you sleep with a prostitute and then kill her to get your money back’

While this is possible in the game it is never requested as part of a mission nor are you asked to do so. The logistics of that statement are correct but this is player agency, you aren’t asked to do this.

‘Playing this game turned this kid into a killer.’

From all of the research I’ve read there has never been a proven link between games and real life killing. I strongly suspect playing GTA all day every day is going to do the player no favours, in the same way sitting and watching video nasties would potentially warp someone’s perception of the real world.

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The Grand Theft Auto games are violent, involve crime and come with a lot of baggage in terms of cultural experience. This means a whole lot of swearing (including the c-word) and possibly the most racial slurs/slang I’ve ever heard in a game. The most recent game also includes a torture scene in which you select which ‘instrument’ (pliers, wrench etc.) to use for most damage. Here’s the scene below, again it’s a tough watch but you should know what you’re letting your children get involved in.

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The irony of all this is that Grand Theft Auto is a superb game. It has furthered the media in so many ways. For all of the above negative points it is unrivaled in creating a lifelike vibrant city with an endless stream of things to do for the player. You can go to the cinema, play golf… even get a haircut or tattoo. The radio stations in the game allow players to discover new types of music and bands they may never have heard before. This game, all of the games in this section are great games. I’ve enjoyed playing them but as an adult. Not a child.

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ONLINE GAMING

Guide Vol 4 Parents Headset

Another thing parents should be aware of is online gaming in general. Gamers are able to communicate with game headsets so that they can talk to other players while in game. This can be a good thing, socially especially, and is a helpful feature when playing with friends. However you need to bear in mind that if your child is using a headset to talk to other gamers they could, literally, be talking to anyone. They could (and sadly probably will) hear abusive phrases thrown around casually. Racist slurs, homophobic slurs. It’s the same as being on the internet – if you let your child visit whatever sites are available and talk to people they don’t know there is a chance they could end up talking with some quite unsavoury characters. This isn’t a reason to panic but try to ensure they understand the dangers and, if possible, only use a headset to talk to people they know.

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So that’s pretty much it, I know it’s a *long* piece but I’ve been asked by enough people that it felt something like this could be helpful to fellow parents who aren’t as aware of games.

If you do have any other questions feel free to drop them in the comments or, of course, e-mail or tweet me. In the meantime feel free to share among fellow parents and anyone who might appreciate a heads up.

The main takeaway should be that games are not made exclusively for children but that they aren’t inherently bad for kids either. Be aware of what they are playing and monitor their progress.

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E3 2015 – The GregHorrorShow Round Up

E3 2015 MAIN

E3 used to be the pinnacle of the gaming calendar but it’s star has faded somewhat in recent years with events like Gamescom and The Games Awards stealing some of its thunder. 2015 is the year E3 made a comeback – lots of great announcements and two really strong conferences from Microsoft and Sony! And people have the cheek to say there are no games coming!! So let’s start with Microsoft. As you probably know if you’re reading this, I’m not an MS console owner so most of the exclusives weren’t of that much interest to me. A couple of the multiplatform games really stood out though. .

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RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER

I really enjoyed the reboot of Tomb Raider a few years ago and this looks like more of the same. My only concern is that a lot of my enjoyment last time out came from Lara being inexperienced and seeing her develop through the story. Hopefully they can make the follow up as interesting.

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CUPHEAD

I’ve been banging on about Cuphead for ages and it still looks amazing! Although currently only listed for Xbox One and PC the game studio’s twitter account recently confirmed these were the initial platforms and they’d be exploring others at a later date. I’d love this on my Vita!

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THE LAST GUARDIAN

And so it lives! The most hyped, requested game of the last few years – seen at E3 2009 and then quiet until now, The Last Guardian looks gorgeous and sees you take on the role of a kid who teams up with a giant beast. Together you’ll solve puzzles and work your way through the story. .

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HORIZON: ZERO DAWN

I love Killzone and so when I heard Guerrilla Games were working on something fresh I was excited to see what they’d come up with. Then a few bits leaked about robot dinosaurs. Excitement levels were building but nothing could’ve prepared me for the trailer they showed. Wow. What a great style and look. A strong female protagonist who is hunting robot dinosaurs among the remnants of mankind. I’m in.

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UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END

The absolute highlight of the show for me. My expectations were so high and yet Naughty Dog exceeded everything I’d hoped for. The graphics, the banter between characters, the set pieces… I could go on and on but set aside 7 minutes and watch the full clip above. Outstanding. .

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FIREWATCH

I didn’t know much about Firewatch before E3 but having watched the trailer I like the art style and adding a bit of story to an exploration game is pretty cool. I’d probably need to play it before committing fully but I’m keen to see more.

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CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS III

I’m a little burnt out on Call Of Duty, despite the fact Advanced Warfare was one of the better entries in recent years. Having said that I’ve always favoured Treyarch’s Black Ops series and the fact that this instalment has a four player co-op campaign has piqued my interest. Should be fun!

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DREAMS

Dreams was very weird – I’m still not sure how much of it is a game but when a studio with the pedigree of Media Molecule (LittleBigPlanet / Tearaway) is behind something, I’m always willing to give it a shot. Have a look at the above to see what I mean, it’s difficult to describe but looks beautiful.

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NO MAN’S SKY

No Man’s Sky continues to impress and this was a nice glimpse at what you’ll be able to do in the game. Looking forward to discovering some planets and alien species! Still no release date but I’d expect it to be coming in early 2016 – surely we can’t have another E3 with No Man’s Sky there!

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HELLBLADE

I really enjoyed Heavenly Sword and Enslaved so Ninja Theory’s new game was already on my radar. Based around mental illness, it’s being made in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust – I really hope they manage to handle the subject sensitively while delivering a great gaming experience.

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MIRROR’S EDGE CATALYST

We’ve been waiting a while for this one! Mirror’s Edge came in at number 39 on my Top 100 PS3 games and the follow up looks to be a refinement of the formula that worked so well previously. The game is actually set before the original game so we’ll get to see more of Faith’s origin story.

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FALLOUT 4

Wow. Just wow. This one pushed Uncharted 4 all the way as my biggest/best showing at this year’s E3. I cannot wait to lose myself in this world. The graphics are a step up and hopefully there will be less technical issues than the last few titles. And they even threw in a free mobile game to tide us over! (IOS only for now, coming to Android in the next few months)

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DISHONORED 2

Dishonored 2 was another title that looked great and continued this E3’s theme of empowered female characters with the news that Emily Kaldwin from the original will now be playable with her own set of powers/abilities. Great news and a really cool series, I’m glad this is getting another game.

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METAL GEAR SOLID V: THE PHANTOM PAIN

The Metal Gear games have always been special to me. A mix of completely insane story and superb gameplay, the latest instalment looks to be more of the same as creator Hideo Kojima signs off on his last ever Metal Gear Solid title. It’s sure to be some ride, with a huge game world and plenty of memorable characters and I’m looking forward to getting my tactical espionage on later this year.

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UNRAVEL

Unravel looks like a super cute, cool title that sees you take on the role of a yarn feline. You’ll be going on adventures throughout the game world, which seems to be based around puzzle platforming. This is another one I’m hoping might come to Vita further down the line.

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MASS EFFECT: ANDROMEDA

I am a big fan of the Mass Effect series, which signed off Commander Shepherd’s trilogy a few years ago. Back with a new protagonist and a new set of worlds to explore, I can’t wait to jump back into the Mass Effect universe. Although it’s all new characters I do hope a few old faces show up 🙂

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RAINBOW SIX SIEGE

I’m really excited about Rainbow Six Siege. This is tactical first person shooter at its purest. 4v4, small environments and tense objectives. Each team is based around the best special forces teams from across the globe. This could be awesome – my only concern is how many levels the game ships with. If it’s only 4 or 5 this might not be worth the full price investment.

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STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT

What can you say about Star Wars? The idea of a Star Wars game made by the people behind Battlefield pushes the right buttons for me. It looks and sounds amazing. While there isn’t a single player component, I imagine most gamers will be picking this one up!

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JUST CAUSE 3

Another game I enjoyed the previous instalment of and word on the (E3) street is that this is one of the best games being shown at the event, which is a little surprising but satisfying nonetheless. Rico Rodriguez is back, this time going home to the motherland to liberate the masses from another dictator.

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GHOST RECON: WILD LANDS

I really enjoyed the last Ghost Recon game. It wasn’t spectacular but what it did right felt good and so this surprise announcement was positive news for me. Hopefully it’ll have lots of variety in mission structure so the game has some longevity.

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HITMAN

A full on reboot of the Hitman games was unexpected but a good move in my opinion. After the previous title, Absolution, was the most accessible yet it makes sense to revisit the earlier adventures of Agent 47. The idea of targets appearing for a short time and then disappearing altogether is fascinating, if a little daunting!

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THE DIVISION

The Division has been floating around for a good few years now and while the main topic of conversation in the last few days has been the visual ‘downgrade’ (has there been one?) it still looks good to me and I’m excited to check it out when it finally gets released.

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DEUS EX: MANKIND DIVIDED

Deus Ex: Human Revolution was a pleasant surprise a few years ago so a new title following on the story of Adam Jenson is very welcome. And boy, does it look good! Hopefully the game will retain the freedom of the previous title and we’ll be able to approach missions however we like.

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So there you go – what a year. It’s been a while since I had such a great bunch of games to choose from. It was really hard to narrow it down at all – titles like Batman: Arkham Knight, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Persona 5 and Need For Speed all looked great and of course the returning FIFA will be excellent I’m sure. So what did you guys rate? What was your favourite trailer and what are you most excited for?

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