Some time ago, my dear sweet mother expressed interest in purchasing a video game console for herself citing that she wanted it to help her keep her mind sharp.
Needless to say, spending nearly 30 years trying to convince her that gaming is actually good for the mind and psyche have finally paid off.
But then I realized that she’s in the same boat as many other people her age; an older person looking to enter a sub-culture that they’ve been rejecting (by choice or out of fear) for years and unsure of where to go. This issue can only grow when the ever family-friendly Nintendo drops the Nintendo Switch this March.
So, I feel its time for me to lay out some basics for the generations catching up to us and help them to understand how to look for games and how to best enjoy them. Just remember the following:
PC’s are for variety; Consoles are for specialization
There has been a LONG TIME argument over gamers as to whether PC’s or consoles are the superior gaming platform. But both sides miss the obvious point of having the two. You can argue technical specs and throw numbers around as much as you want, but it means nothing. The two sides exist and continue to exist for the sake of convenience.
PC’s sport the potential for larger libraries of games and beefier technicals than consoles, but consoles succeed by catering to those who know precisely what they want and cutting out the fluff to save themselves and the consumer cash in the process. This is partially a result of console manufacturers having very specific images of themselves they like to maintain. For example, Nintendo tends to put out a more family-friendly vibe to draw in older potential gamers while mining the nostalgia long time fans that are old enough to share them with their families. Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft focus heavily on the 18-24 demographic for security’s sake and their line-up of more realistic, action-centric games reflect this.
Basically, you have to ask yourself how specific your tastes are and how deep your wallet goes before you settle on a platform… provided you don’t go multi-platform like most dedicated gamers.
The ESRB is next to useless
Back in the 90’s when games started tackling more adult material, people not up to speed with the culture freaked out and demanded regulation. Thus, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board – ESRB for short – came about to serve the same purpose for games that the MPAA does for Movies.
But those little labels are not a good description of quality or content. Take for instance the Super Smash Bros. series. Those games are light-hearted, colorful, and feature no blood, gore, or suggestive situations. They’re on par with the cartoons your 10-year-old kids watch. BUT, they still get a Teen rating because the characters are VAGUELY human and they OCCASIONALLY use weapons that VAGUELY resemble real ones.
Yes, the ESRB folks are even stuffier than the FCC.
If you want an accurate look at a game’s content, your best bet is to find a playable demo or, failing that, find a playthrough on YouTube (many games only get popular after a popular channel shows it off these days).
All games are ‘educational’
One of the concerns parents buying games for their kids (and for themselves by extension, I’m sure) is the educational content of the game. To wit, I’m here to allay those fears and tell you that ALL games teach something at some level.
Take the popular Pokemon series. On the surface what seems like simple virtual dogfight is actually a deeply complex arithmetic strategy game where the best players use basic addition, multiplication, division, and probability to form a winning strategy. And that’s to say nothing of the genetics lesson in breeding the perfect stats or the occasional Cultural Anthropology class you’ll get if you decide to research the inspirations behind the designs and lore of the various creatures and locales.
Remember; games are an interactive medium that requires your input. That means you’re forced to use your mind every time you play them.