I want to become more informed about the online gaming experience of my child so that I can discuss the risks while sharing the benefits of something they enjoy.
Computer games are games which are played by one or more players via a digital device.
Games can be played on several platforms such as consoles (Xbox, Playstation), on mobile devices (iPad, mobile phone) or on a desktop computer.
Online games are computer games that require an internet connection to play some or all the game’s content.
MOST POPULAR GAMES
There are tens of thousands of games, with new games coming out all the time - all with new features, new ways to play and new ways to compete with others online.
The Steam online gaming platform alone released over 10,000 games in 2020 so its pretty hard to keep up. And that's part of the fun: waiting for the latest game to come out.
Here are some of the most popular games with the numbers of people who play them.
PUBG 1 billion
Crossfire 1 billion
Minecraft 600 million
Candy Crush 500 million
Among Us 500 million
Fortnite 350 million
WHAT KINDS OF GAMES ARE THERE?
There are several types of games and you'll probably be familiar with them.
Single player games
You play through quests or levels against computer generated challenges (e.g. the Witcher series).
You play with and against other players (e.g. Fortnite and Call of Duty). You can often buy in-game purchases such as weapons, armour or skins.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG)
Here you play with a large number of players in a shared environment, and often role-playing (e.g. World of Warcraft which is a RPG, or role-playing game).
Lots of games have been designed to be played on mobile devices. There are puzzle solving, building, role-playing or action games which can be single or multiplayer (e.g. Candy Crush, Fortnite, Clash of Clans).
Different types of games. From Maryville University.
Computer games are assigned classifications, usually by the country in which you live - just like movies or TV - based on levels of violence (especially realistic violence), sexual content, nudity, drug use or mature themes.
Most games are now bought online from platforms like Steam or Xbox Online. Children usually have to be 13 years old. Individual games might ask for a date of birth to confirm the player is above the legal age for the game. Many platforms have parental controls to restrict game purchases for younger players.
WHAT'S GREAT ABOUT THEM?
Many games (especially RPGs) offer a rich storytelling experience in a similar fashion to fantasy novels. The world and lore of many RPG games are detailed and extensive.
Gamers who play with others develop collaboration and communication skills. Games often include challenging levels or features that require a team to work together to complete.
Gamers develop problem solving skills and must learn to plan ahead and think critically.
Competitive games require players to develop fast reflexes and decision making. Quick thinking can make the difference between victory and defeat.
WHAT ARE SOME DOWNSIDES?
Players of multiplayer games can encounter abusive and bullying behaviour, especially when playing games with random players and especially with the use of headsets for voice communication.
Some games can include realistic violence and sexual content and are not suitable for younger players.
Incidence of gaming addiction is becoming an increasing concern. This is where players are unable to control their gaming behaviour. In 2021, Chinese authorities imposed limits on online gaming for minors to three hours a week — from 8 PM to 9 PM on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Befriending or grooming of younger players can happen in shared gaming experiences.
WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK?
Does this game require a subscription?
Is this game single or multiplayer?
If the game is multiplayer, is my child playing with friends or strangers?
What rating does this game have?
Is this game appropriate for my child?
Does this game encourage or offer additional purchases?
Will this game be linked to my credit card or an online payment account like PayPal?
Can my child make purchases without my permission?
How can I manage payments for this game?
Is the game purchased through a secure platform (Apple Store, Google Play or Steam)?
MORE ABOUT GAMING
There are a lot of resources to look at about gaming for parents.
You might want to take a look at this Netflix documentary called HIGH SCORE (MA15+) that's all about the first video games - and about how the gaming industry developed into what it is today.
Jonas Odell, a Swedish filmmaker, conducted interviews with gaming addicts. Three of these appear in his short documentary I Was a Winner. The interviewees are embodied in animated re-creations of their gaming avatars. Video from The Atlantic on YouTube.