Sunday 27 July 2008

Of Indie Games and Children

A few weeks back I was babysitting a family of four kids all under the age of 11 for the whole day, 9-5. It was fun, as they're all great kids and all I've gotta do to keep them entertained for a while is put on a Star Wars DVD and let em go nuts with the movie. By go nuts I mean be incredibly absorbed for multiple hours.

Anyway, as the day dragged on and they got progressively less interested in the movie (I think we were up to episode 6 by then) I decided to show them a couple of cool things on the PC. They showed me a few fun mini clip games that they enjoyed, and it got me thinking about sharing a few of the Indie games I was rather into at the time with the kids. I downloaded the cult classic Death Worm (which I've mentioned before in my 10 indie games to be playing while not working on your thesis post) and prepped the kiddies on how to gobble up lions and elephants and people like a good Death Worm should.

They got stuck into it like professional gamers. They loved it, and I quickly downloaded the two player version of the game, which delighted them even more, as there are 4 of them and in their family there's always someone wanting to do whatever another one is. Two players means one less person to be left out. Coincidentally, they were actually better at the game than me I'm mildly ashamed to say. It seems to me that kids are getting better and better at games, and at younger and younger ages too. I've got no chance these days.

Anyway, their parents get home about an hour or so later and I suddenly realised that... well... maybe Death Worm was a little bit of a mature game to be letting a bunch of (remember max age) 11 year olds play. Worries aside, their parents are super-cool and were totally fine with them playing it (I wish my parents were that understanding!) and that was that. Did I mention how awesome I think their parents are yet - both generally and specifically about games? Oh I did. Oh well, can't really stress it enough.

But it got me thinking... there are Indie games out there, for instance Randy Balma: Municipal Abortionist, which while not explicitly depicting abortion, at least hints at the act and is quite a mature kind of experience. Oh, and by the way, it's not at all rated by any classification system, because it's free to download. As far as I know, no idie game that is free to download comes with any kind of classification, offical or not!

I know, I know, Caveat Emptor and all that goes without saying on Teh Intertubes, but it's a bit of an interesting situation we're in whereby politicians are shouting left right and centre "WON'T SOMEBODY THINK OF TEH CHILDREN!!!" whenever any game aimed at a mature audience comes out (For a recent local Australian TRAVESTY of an incident, see this video in which an audience member asks a panel of politicians and journo's why Australia can't have an R18+ classification for videogames and in which Fallout 3 is described as being 'all about killing people'. Incidentally what I want to know is why the FRAK did the question asker, apparently a writer for an Aussie online gaming portal, answered 'basically, yes' to that description... GAH!). Additionally, these same politicians are choosing to ignore current information, statistics even, that says the average Australian gamer is aged 28, and that there are games being made without classification being targeted at this same age bracket (indeed like Randy Balma and Death Worm).

So anyway, the lesson to be learned this is;
Don't forget when showing friends your Indie games to think about age appropriateness, because chances are if you're like me, you've probably never even given it a second (or first!) thought before.

Or maybe you have and I'm an idiot for giving Death Worm to a bunch of tiddlewinks. Either or.

1 comment:

Fashigady said...

On the subject of that video, I couldn't watch it all, half way through Barnaby Joyce's sad attempt at a comment, I mean snuff films and rape in games? (Honestly, what is wrong with Queensland? Why do most of the frakwads in Federal politics seem to come from there?) I had to stop it and go fume for a bit - though I've read the transcript of the last part on GP (

Also, your right about keeping age in mind when dealing with the internet, I can't begin to guess how a small child would react to 4chan or Goatse.