This won’t be a long, drawn-out piece today. I’m just documenting a few random thoughts that might be worth a couple minutes.
Yesterday, while having dinner with my sister and two nieces, Autumn and Lauren, we got on the topic of video games. My sister, who teaches elementary school kids, said that’s all kids ever talk about — specifically Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, which are both rated ‘M’ for Mature (meant for people 17 and older). That’s not surprising, though it is a little discouraging for reasons I’ll touch on in a moment.
Lauren, who is seven years old, uses the family iPad to play mobile games like it’s her job. She doesn’t play consoles or handhelds, just mobile games. She did tell me, however, that there’s a boy in her class who is always talking about Mario.
Autumn, who is 13 years old and in the 8th grade, doesn’t really play games, but said most kids her age talk about Madden, Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, although there’s one kid she knows who is obsessed with Sonic.
My 10-year-old nephew, Nelson, is a big, big fan of Minecraft and the LEGO games. To my knowledge, my brother doesn’t let him play violent shooters.
So this is a small, mixed bag of anecdotes. I’m not sure it’s indicative of a whole lot, other than the things we already know; most kids are now playing a lot of mobile games, and they’re also playing games meant for adult audiences.
Personally, I think most mobile games are trash and shovelware, but I do recognize their position in the marketplace. I’m also disappointed that so many kids now not only have access to, but actively to seek to play games that are not intended for them.
Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, while well made, are soulless (in my eyes) and void of the things that made games so great when I was a kid.
The examples of my nephew with Minecraft, and the kids who are really into Mario and Sonic, are encouraging, but I think they’re probably in the minority. I just don’t think kids dream, think and fantasize about games the way my friends and I did when we were their age.
I remember in elementary school, out on the playground during recess, pretending to be Sonic the Hedgehog, while my friends were Knuckles and Tails. I doodled and drew Mario, Link, Mega Man and other game characters all the time. I would daydream about visiting all these new and different worlds. In fact, when I first caught wind of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, while in the fifth grade, my imagination went wild at the prospect of exploring Hyrule in 3D. There was magic in the very idea that I would get to go on adventures as Link in a real, life-like world.
But I don’t think most kids do that now. And it makes me sad. That’s what playing games meant to me as a kid. That’s what it should still be about.
Instead, it’s about shooting people in the face, running over prostitutes and paying to get to the next level in Candy Crush. Ugh.