Why Must Games "Made For Kids" Be So Inane? - Oni no Tenshi Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Why Must Games "Made For Kids" Be So Inane?

Yes.  It does get worse from here.

If you're around my age, you probably grew up with "the greats" in video games.  Mario, Link, Donkey Kong, Banjo-Kazooie-all of these characters are core parts of growing up.  From the first time I heard the intro music to World 1:1 in Super Mario World, I was hooked.  Sure, the graphics were pixely and the game often had a wicked and unyielding curve, but that was part of the fun, especially when playing with friends.

But I find as I get older, especially as an adult, there seems to be a very huge amount of distance that has grown into a yawning abyss that puts "adult games" on one side, and "kid games" on the other.


Now, I know that in the 90's, games like Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, Area 51, Duke Nukem, and Dead or Alive all ramped up the sex, gore, violence and naughty language that caused suburban moms to cringe and many a concerned afternoon special about the "dangers of video games" on impressionable youth.

Get back to me when you've used some guy's spine to beat him to death on a regular basis just because a video game showed you that it was possible.

But at the same time, most of these games were largely being played in arcades (another relic that is largely disappearing in our modern age of wireless online gameplay).  Most of those "gross out moments" were really so you could turn to your friend and go "OHHHHHHHHH, DID YOU FREAKING SEE THAT?!"  Bouncing boobies in Dead or Alive and other sexy changes when you ramped up the "age setting" to 99 was just another thing that circulated around middle school with the rest of the "scandalous" rumors of the time.

But back to my main point.  Games used to be just considered "Games."  They weren't "casual" games (or, as the hardcore gamers call it-"stupid wimpy games YOUR MOM plays").  They weren't "kiddie" games (or, as the hardcore gamers call it- "goo-goo-ga-ga games").

So now we have games that are designated "for adults".  And we have games that are designated "for little kids" but there are very few games that bridge that gap in between, or generally respects the fact that most kids enjoy games that aren't totally moronic and dumbed down.  For example, most games that are marketed towards little children are either licensed titles from children's movies (that are well known for being terrible), or are as simplistic as the "Barney's Hide and Seek game" which, if you wait long enough, the game PLAYS FOR YOU.


Add to this the number of "Leap Frog" games that cater towards children by pegging them as "educational" but often make sure that children feel like they're being both talked down to as well as basically try and make things as "un-gamey" as possible in the name of proving to the parents who are buying said games that their products are worth buying.

There is also the problem of trying to cater games to children who aren't really ready to start gaming.  When the game basically plays itself, it's really not worth it.  When the game assumes that children are dumb, it dumbs us all down.  You see, as a parent myself, I know how smart children are.  My daughter is just about 2 years old (this Tuesday!) but she already knows how to hold an XBOX controller and she knows the buttons to press to push start for the next Spongebob show on Netflix.  And in only a space of another year, I'm sure she'll be learning a lot more.

I know that the educational system in the US is not really the best-it assumes that every student is an idiot, and largely, children grow up with a horribly dumbed-down curriculum even in the best of times.  But the truth of the matter is that in the past, games by and large didn't try and hold the gamer's hand.  It expected us to be smart, clever, and intuitive-or we got a game over.  While I think that there is definitely a place for games for adults with content that is not appropriate for children, I do not see any reason why we should have games that are "for children" that we make mindless, dull and simple as possible in order to keep their supposedly fragile  and simple egos intact.

Gaming should be challenging, regardless of the age of the person playing.  And just because a game is "appropriate for all ages" does not mean that it must also be so boring and stupid that not even the children who it was designed for will actually waste time playing it!

So, what are your thoughts about "dumbing down" games that are marketed as "ok for kids"?  What are we teaching the younger generations if we only give them options that either talk down to them or are too "adult" for them to be allowed to play?

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