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While I'm not a parent myself, I have 3 nieces and nephews, and they're starting to show interest in video games.

Their parents do not know much about games, especially about the way they are currently heavily monetized, wich can (and have) caused trouble with young children.

A few years back, I would have looked at the rating for the game, and that would have been how I would have made a choice whether the game is suitable or not. But today this just is not a good indication anymore.

An example of such a game, where the rating is meaningless, would be Fifa, due to the heavy monetization in this game's online mode, there have been several reported case of children spending hundred, even thousands on the game without really understanding. The publisher themselves basically admitted that the game was not suitable for children by stating that children should not be allowed to play this game without heavy surveillance.

Now this is a situation I would like to avoid for my nieces and nephews, but short of playing the game, or spending a few hours in researching a game's content and possible monetization, I don't know how their parent could make sure a game is suitable or not.

So my question is this : Is there a quick way, for a parent without much knowledge in video games, to check if a game's content (including monetization) is actually suitable for children ?

  • 1
    You answered your own question, but stated not doing the thing you know you should do. "but short of playing the game, or spending a few hours in researching a game's content..." If you don't do the 2 things you should, then of course you can't accurately assess the game. Those 2 things are the answer to your question. There is no other near equal solution. – Adam Heeg Oct 9 at 12:58
  • Addendum, parenting is a non stop battle against being lazy and selfish with your time. I know because I both fail and win that battle multiple times a day. – Adam Heeg Oct 9 at 12:59
  • One warning, some games have been released without monetization, and then had this added in later, such as crash bandicoot racing, this could be an issue for buying them newly released games. – Tim Oct 9 at 14:39
  • @Tim I know, but that's a whole other can of worm. Since there is nothing a parent can do against that. – user3399 Oct 9 at 15:30
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    @user3399 if you cant do the right thing, then they dont get the game. The simplest things are the hardest to do sometimes! – Adam Heeg Oct 9 at 22:46
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The first, and best, thing they should do is sit down with their children and play the games with them for the first hour or two of gameplay. This not only will allow the parents to understand at least some of what the games are about, but also provides a great opportunity to show through action, not just talk, how to be responsible and respectful online. I familiarize myself with every game my children play for these reasons.

Second, there are a few review sites out there that can help. None of them are perfect, though. Commonsensemedia.org is good, but their review of FIFA 2020 barely mentions the IAPs. There's not a single good "quick" source of coverage, I'd say; you really will have to spend some time looking. Game reviews on a publisher's site are sometimes helpful, though, as they do often include complaints about the worst of the behaviors (such as IAPs/loot boxes).

Personally I don't rely on friends' parents. Most of them I don't know well enough to know if they are a good resource; and even the ones I do know well enough will naturally have different opinions and focus points. Many parents would have no problem with, for example, FIFA 2020, finding it far better than, say, a shooter or even a fighting game (Super Smash Brothers and the like). I feel that appropriate media is something that is important enough to spend my own time learning it.

Ultimately, the answer to your question is no: there is no shortcut. There are things you can do to help, but there is no single quick and easy way. Everyone has different opinions about what's appropriate and what's not, and you need to become sufficiently familiar with the media in order to judge for yourself.

  • I want to point out that by playing a game with your child you can get into the situation where the child adores and loves the game and the parent realises this is not something they want their child to entertain themselves with. Taking it away after the child knows how much they adore it will cause a lot of fuss and ruckus. So perhaps it is even better to do a test run on the game by yourself, before playing it with your kids. – Robin Oct 22 at 9:52
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If you are buying in a shop, most clerk will tell you if a game is suitable or will give you proper details.

Else, just take 15 minutes to check a "let's play" video on Youtube. At the begining the player will tell if it's sponsored or not, be carefull with sponsored video. Anyway, if something is fishy, just researching the name of the game on Youtube will highlight the main problems quickly.

Have fun !

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Whether a "monetized" game is ok for a child will be directly affected by the child's age, and who's money they are "playing with". In my culture (USA):

  1. Children seldom have access to large amounts of money (of their own). This suggests that they would be playing with someone else's money.
  2. Other than occasional birthday money, or money for a specific item, children have limited experience with money. They are introduced to the concept of money when they start school (~5-6yo). They are taught about money around the time that they are becoming teenagers. They don't learn about money until they start spending their own. And they don't (really) understand money until they are trying to earn an income and paying for their own bills/expenses.

As a parent who has been buying games since 1995: money isn't the only thing to consider when you are selecting electronic games for children. Ultimately, any game you purchase for a child should be "parent approved" with consideration given to the following factors:

  1. Family values
  2. Age appropriate content
  3. Level of:

    • Violence: A child will view violence in a game differently than (most) adults would. Consider what the game is teaching children about violence.
    • Skill/Ability: Some games will require more hand-eye coordination than others.
    • Interest: Different games appeal to different people (kids are people, too).
    • Intelligence: Games also require problem solving skillsets, analytical thought processes, and the ability to anticipate possible outcomes. If your child is too young for a particular game, it could become a frustrating experience for them.

Their parents do not know much about games

Better to help the parents learn about games than to assume what they would choose for their children. If you want to give the children games as gifts, allow their parents to agree/disagree with your choices.

  • Any of the point you specified will usually be covered by the ratings of the game, it's pretty rare that a game with a dark souls level of difficulty, or doom level of gore is considered as suitable for children. On the other hand, monetization is not taken into account when rating are given. Also the question is not about me buying games for my nephew/nieces, but specifically about the parents doing so – user3399 Oct 9 at 15:33
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Easiest answer?

Go back in time.

There's no in-game monetization in the games from the past, and they are just as fun as they always were, which will help to whet the appetite of your nieces and nephews. Added bonus: you've probably played them and can reminisce with them when they encounter things you found challenging in your past.

If they're stuck with today's technology (because you can't buy them an older console or they have an iPad they love or something), then https://www.commonsensemedia.org is a great source for parent-sourced reviews of all sorts of media, including video games. For example, the FIFA 20 rating is 17+ based on parents' responses.

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