While video games in their various forms are certainly nothing new, the industry as a whole has continued to grow both in size and capability. With the broadening of entertainment offerings, some development studios continue to create more and more confronting content.
A lack of resources
What resources are there for ascertaining what you might encounter in games you, or teenagers or children, are interested in playing before simply diving in?
I certainly played my fair share of games in my childhood, in hindsight most were fine, but occasionally I did end up playing something which may not have been entirely harmless.
Australia's ratings board is rather proactive, but a few key words only go so far to describing what is involved. I can remember playing a game even when I was 'old enough' to play it and eventually deciding that I should stop playing because the content mad me uncomfortable.
Understandably most game reviewers rarely draw light on content to be avoided. Their job is to talk about the gameâthe fun, the excitementâthey're mostly adults and talking to potential buyers (read: players) of the games, not necessarily the parents.
Furthermore, reviewers quite possibly don't share a Christian worldview, making it even more challenging to get a gauge on what might be inside that digital content.
What to do?
While it can be a daunting problem it certainly isn't little known. In secular media there is some coverage on the topic. A recent Guardian article tries to give a broad overview of things you should probably know to keep up with kids and their games.
These sites balance between providing a resource for parents to being somewhat more targeted to teenagers. Some go as far as providing a rating from 0 to 5 of how prevalent particular content they see as objectionable is in a reviewed title. Others prefer to raise any issues in the body of the article.
While a great resource many of these reviews come from American authors and it can be quite apparent at times how different our cultural values can be.
An exciting resource aimed at teenagers from is the entertainment section on Youth-works Fervr website, here they publish both reviews and commentary on contemporary entertainment, including articles like challenging readers to live out their faith even when they're playing games.
There certainly are some great initiatives rising to the challenge of keeping us informed but there is still room for more development.
Even across this cross-section of sites there are still many games with player bases in the millions which have received no mention and coverage is somewhat sparse.
The platforms are there though, so if you're a parent there are resources out there to check up on opinions about many games. If gaming is a pastime for you, why not write some reviews!
Sam Gillespie is a composer and a computer programmer based in Sydney.
Sam Gillespie's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-gillespie.html