This is My Kid on Games

Thursday, June 27, 2013
Recently I sat down with my eldest daughter to talk to her about video games. We play a lot of games in our house, and I was curious how she thought about the games she played, and how they affected her. At seven and a half, she's just getting the hang of console games, and has shown a great aptitude for PC adventure games.

My daughters playing The Maw. The youngest suggests going left. 

Her responses were mostly brief, but I found them very interesting. Here's what she had to say.

How are you?
Doing good.

Doing good or doing well?
Doing good.

What is a video game?
It’s like a game where you can actually see what you’re doing.

Do you not look at the board games you play?
Well… yes. It’s like, you have a controller instead of a game piece.

What was the first video game you played?
Ummm, I think that was Botanicula, because The Maw I started playing after Botanicula.
(It was actually Flower)

What was Botanicula about?
These little creature thingies that had to destroy the giant spider. Don’t you think that’s what it was about?

That’s up to you, sweetie.
I think that’s what it was about.

What other games have you played?
Well , I’ve played The Maw, Poker Night 2 (she was supervised and most of the humor was over her head.). I don’t think there was anything else..

You haven’t played any others?
Wait. Let me think *long pause punctuated with umms* Oh! I played Flower. I played a lot of levels. I got to the part where things actually can hurt you. That’s level 5.

Do you like video games?
Yeah, I like them a lot.

What do you like about video games?
I like that you can use a controller, and you can see more detail.

What do you mean by detail?
 Like when you move, you actually see the things moving back.

So, you like games that make you feel more a part of that world?

There are grown-ups out there that think that games are bad for kids. What do you think of that?
I don’t think that they are bad for kids.  Like, if they can’t go outside a lot, they can still have adventure, like in their house.

Do you think video games are bad for your imagination?
No. I think they kind of give you more imagination.

Can you talk more about that?
If you play the games and you haven’t seen some of those things before you can put those with a lot of other things and imagine a whole new world.

Do you pretend play a lot of things you see in video games?

Are there things that you see in video games that you don’t pretend play?
Sometimes. Like scary parts; I do NOT do that.

What about when things get beaten up?
No. I don’t really do that.

Why not?
I don’t really want to.  I don’t want to hurt anything or break something. That would be not nice.

Are there any games in our house you can’t play or watch?
Like when you play The Last of Us, I can’t watch that. *looks at our game shelf* Well, I can’t play The Last of Us either.. I can’t play Assassin’s Creed games, Battlefield games, Arkham City, the Bioshock games…*lists a bunch of other games for three minutes*

What do those games have that your games don’t?
They have a lot of fighting. Punching, slapping, breaking things. I don’t think that would be good for me.

So, you can’t play violent games. Do you want to play those games?
No, not really. I don’t think they would be good for me to play. Because some games aren’t good for kids to play.

Do other kids you know play those games?
Uummmmm. I think maybe one boy.

Is he a bad kid? Or a mean kid?
No. He’s way older than me. He rides my bus.

So, do you think he’s old enough to play those games?

How old is he?
I think he’s probably in seventh grade.

What kind of games do you like to play?
I like to try new things. Like there are these mean flowers on the Maw. I thought if maybe I could go around them but I couldn’t. But it was fun to try.

Are video games the only way kids play these days?
No way. We play outside, play pretend, dress up, board games, play with toys. They usually play those ways.

Do you think video games are an all the time play or a sometimes play?
Sometimes play.

How do your parents keep you from playing violent games?
They just tell me… um, I don’t know.

Okay. If you wanted to play Bioshock, what would you do?
I’d ask you first.

And what do you think I would say?
I think you’d say no because it’s not a game for me.

Would you be sad about that?
No. It’s a game I really don’t want to play.

So, if you want to play a game, you ask your parents first?

Why do you ask them first? Don’t they just let you play whatever you want?
No. they don’t let me play whatever I want.

What games do a lot of your friends play?
Some of my friends play Skylanders. Some play the Adventure Time game.

What keeps parents from buying violent games for kids?
Well, parents would usually think that it’s not good for them to play those and they just wouldn't buy them.

How do parents know what games they shouldn't buy for kids?
Ummm. Uhh. Maybe it’s because some of the names actually sound violent.

Yeah. Some of them really do. Do you know what a rating is?

A rating is something that tells you what is in something. For games, a rating would tell you what sort of things happen in the game. How violent it is, if there are bad words. Stuff like that. 
Oh. Cool.

Does that sound like a good or bad thing to you?
It sounds like a good thing because then you can tell what is in a game like even if you don’t know what it is.

Do you think that’s enough to keep kids from playing violent games before they are old enough?
Maybe. Maybe not.

What else do you think should happen?
Parents looking at their kids to see what they are doing and telling them what they can’t play. Maybe punishing them with grounding if they play a game that’s bad.

Do you think there should be laws making it harder for people to buy games?
No, I don’t think so.

Why not?
Games should just be the way they are.

Would it be bad if it was harder to buy games?
I think more people would steal games.

Interesting. Is there anything you’d like to say to the people who think games are bad for kids?
No. I’d not want to start arguing with them.

Is there anything you’d like to say to the people that make games?
I don’t know, I feel nervous about that.

Anything at all?
If I was not nervous, I would say that I really like games and that I am glad they make games. And say thank you.

Awesome. Thanks so much for sitting down to talk to me about games.
You’re welcome. How many pages did we make?

Umm.. five.
Wow, we got really far.

This conversation was a joy to have with my eldest daughter. I’m delighted to hear her ideas and opinions on games. I did my best not to steer her in any particular direction or prompt her for certain answers. She really enjoys the games she plays, and is an active and inquisitive kid. I’m happy that she is more able to play games with me now that she is growing more comfortable with the controls and the limitations of the game worlds she plays in.

Being part of a household that regularly plays, talks about and writes about games, she is exposed to a lot more detail about games than many other kids out there. Nonetheless, I think her views offer an interesting perspective on the medium and the way our kids interact with it.