Tonight, I had the pleasure of looking after my six year old nephew. I had my laptop sitting on the ottoman, and the background was a picture of Aerith, from Final Fantasy 7. To my enjoyment he asked “who’s that?”. I started explaining to him, and he asked me all sorts of questions about the game! He was so interested I showed him some game play on the internet, and he asked me if I had the game. Of course, I do have FF7, and so I busted out the game that defined a generation!
How long do you think he lasted, before he got bored and wanted to play a different game?
You’re probably not shocked, that by the time we had the first boss battle, he was done. But why? The answer might seem obvious at first, he’s six. But, let’s try to remember the games we played at six.
If you’re my age, then six, was 1996, and that was a pretty big year! The Sony Playstation had been released about six months prior. A glorious, and shocking game (that a six year old probably shouldn’t play), was soon to come out… Resident Evil!
Even at six years old, every little bit of my constantly diverting attention was completely captivated by the horror, drama, intense plot, and shamefully, even the voice acting, this game had to offer! No matter how much it scared the Easter candy out of my size 6, corduroy pants, I grabbed my pokeballs, and played on! I found the mansion to be so mysterious, and wanted to explore every dark nook and cranny, while slowly unraveling a plot, that should be too dense for a six year old’s mind.
Now, I didn’t enjoy the fascinating discovery of FF7 until I was about 9 or 10. But, I did play games that required a lot of attention on very specific tasks. I played games that challenged me, forced me to think, and above all, FOCUS.
It really never mattered what kind of game I was playing back then. Even if it was as simple as playing Sonic on my Genesis, I had to commit to the game. Why? Because most games I played, I didn’t even own! Remember video stores? It’s were we all use to go when our parents deemed us worthy enough to rent a game for a weekend, or even just a night.
If there’s anything that has changed more in the game industry then the way games are played, it’s our accessibility to them. My nephew has games on his iPodTouch, on his parent’s tablets, and games downloaded on PSN. As soon as he finds a game too difficult or get’s slightly uninterested, he just loads up a new one with a couple swipes and a tap!
The massive library of free to play games, is taking away the child’s ability to appreciate what makes games good. He misses out on the feelings of overcoming challenges, that seem impossible, and the experience of being lost in a game, like one gets lost in a good book.
It bothers me, because although I did do many other things besides play video games as a child, games did play a very important role in my character development. I learned that through persistence, I can achieve anything. I learned what “the zone” was, playing GodenEye, and Mortal Kombat. I learned many things about subjects that where never brought up in school, or talked about at home. Again, the most important key in this point, is that it taught me how to FOCUS.
I fear exposing our kids to this new era of accessible gaming could effect how they learn to focus on tasks as adults. At six years old, I think my nephew should probably have restrictions on the amount of games he plays, and of course the amount of time he spends playing these games. Of course I’m not going to judge his parents, or preach my opinions on how they should raise their kid. Instead I’m going to spend lot’s of time trying to plan out how I will expose my own son, to gaming.
I think everybody, no matter what age should play games. Whether it’s a card game, board game (Chess!), a sport, or a video game, ALL games are good for people when used responsibly. Games teach us so many skills that are crucial to becoming successful independent people, that no one should go without them. But I’m going to make sure I’m careful about how my son plays games.
I hope, that being an avid gamer myself, I’ll have the skills needed to guide him into the wonderful world of games, and have him playing them the way they should be played… With insurmountable enthusiasm, and imagination!!!