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NYT's "Games To Avoid" an Ironic, Perfect Gamer Wish List 189

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-or-less dept.
MojoKid writes "From October to December, the advertising departments of a thousand companies exhort children to beg, cajole, and guilt-trip their parents for all manner of inappropriate digital entertainment. As supposedly informed gatekeepers, we sadly earthbound Santas are reduced to scouring the back pages of gaming review sites and magazines, trying to evaluate whether the tot at home is ready for Big Bird's Egg Hunt or Bayonetta. Luckily, The New York Times is here to help. In a recent article provokingly titled 'Ten Games to Cross off Your Child's Gift List,' the NYT names its list of big bads — the video games so foul, so gruesome, so perverse that we'd recommend you buy them immediately — for yourself. Alternatively, if you need gift ideas for the surly, pale teenager in your home whose body contains more plastic then your average d20, this is the newspaper clipping to stuff in your pocket. In other words, if you need a list like this to understand what games to not stuff little Johnny's stocking with this holiday season, you've got larger issues you should concern yourself with. We'd suggest picking up an auto-shotty and taking a few rounds against the horde — it's a wonderful stress relief and you're probably going to need it."
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NYT's "Games To Avoid" an Ironic, Perfect Gamer Wish List

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  • list (Score:5, Informative)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Friday December 11, 2009 @07:49AM (#30400094) Journal

    And the list:

    Assassin’s Creed II
    Borderlands
    Brutal Legend
    Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
    Dead Space: Extraction
    Dragon Age: Origins
    Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony
    Demon’s Souls
    Left 4 Dead 2
    Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars

    Looks like a list of all the fun games of this year.

    But oh, the fun just starts. Check out the alternatives list:

    Alternative: Mirror's Edge
    Alternative: Infamous
    Alternative: Ghostbusters: The Video Game
    Alternative: Battlefield: Bad Company
    Alternative: Deadly Creatures
    Alternative: Braid
    Alternative: Batman: Arkham Asylum
    Alternative: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
    Alternative: Overlord II
    Alternative: C.O.P.: The Recruit

    Many of the games on the alternatives list have exactly the same kind of violence. Hell, in Overlord you're taking control of a evil god like character that controls his minions to destroy and kill enemies, the good people.

    I bet many of us played games that had gore as teens. They should had have sex too - it's even a natural thing, while violence is not (or shouldn't be). The problem isn't the gore and it wont turn a teenager in to a mindless massacer - if it is, then he has other problems that the parents should be taking care of.

    • by rumith (983060)
      I suggest we ban all games with guns and nudity... What do you mean by "nothing left to play except Tetris"?
      • If you ban all sex and violence from newspapers or TV, we end up with VERY thin papers and a lot of test pattern TV.

        Why's games different, I ask?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Tetris is a comunist look at destroying the building blocks of modern society. This is why the straight piece which clears all those lines is RED.

        Don't let the simple graphics fool you.

        It could also be a FPS in which you play a block trying to kill other blocks and keep respawning as new blocks every few minutes :R - the tongue in cheek smilie
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Tetris is a comunist look at destroying the building blocks of modern society. This is why the straight piece which clears all those lines is RED.

          It's far more sinister than that. Not only it's red, but it's also straight, long, and it falls on the poor, innocent bricks from the sky. Clearly, it's a Soviet ICBM, and vaporized blocks represent annihilated American cities!

      • I dunno, that dangling L shape has given me some pretty salacious ideas from time to time. Just to be safe, I'd ban Tetris too.

    • Re:list (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Grr (15821) on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:15AM (#30400216)

      Many of the games on the alternatives list have exactly the same kind of violence.

      If by 'the same kind of violence' you mean 'a different kind of violence'.
      The NY times article refers to the ESRB rating. I'm pretty sure the article with the alternatives went by those. In your example the alternative, Overlord II, is rated Teen while its counterpart, Left 4 Dead 2, is rated Mature.
      There are standards [esrb.org] for these ratings. Now you may disagree with the standards, but dismemberment, animated blood and gore fall in the M category. Morality choices, like playing on the side of evil in Overlord, are not totally excluded from the standard, but usually have less impact.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        animated blood and gore fall in the M category

        M for "Mmmmm..."

        We all know how effective the X or M ratings are for movies. If you're 16 and at the Cineplex Engorgia, are you going to go to see the film with the big "R" or the one with the "GP-13"?

        The GP stands for "Good Picture" and the "R" stands for "Really Good Picture". If you're lucky enough to find NC-17, it means there are "No Clothes on the 17 year-old Girls".

    • Many of the games on the alternatives list have exactly the same kind of violence. Hell, in Overlord you're taking control of a evil god like character that controls his minions to destroy and kill enemies, the good people.

      Furthermore, in Overlord II you can have a foursome. I think it even gives you an achievement for it.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLYBGqwT7Tg [youtube.com]

      I don't recall a single other game that allowed you to do that.

    • "I bet many of us played games that had gore as teens."

      Agreed, I was into Aussie rules football back in the seventies.
    • I see Borderlands, being probably the mis-purchase of my year (bluntly, that game lacks on so many levels it's not even funny anymore), so I second that motion. But the rest of the games, at least the ones I know, look pretty decent, what's wrong with them?

    • by loutr (626763)
      And some of those "alternatives" don't even have anything in common with the original game : I can't see any similarities between Braid and Dragon Age, or between Dead Space and Deadly Creatures.
    • If someone has too much spare time on their hands, maybe they can find out who are the studios/publishers to those games, maybe there's a pattern to the "avoid"/"get" list? Just curious...

    • by Bakkster (1529253)

      Dragon Age: Origins
      Alternative: Braid

      Left 4 Dead 2
      Alternative: Overlord II

      Anyone else think these are the worst possible alternatives? "My son asked for a fantasy RPG and a zombie apocalypse FPS, so I got him a 2D platformer and a 3rd person strategy game. I done good!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      They should had have sex too - it's even a natural thing, while violence is not (or shouldn't be).

      Rape is sex which occurs naturally in "lower" animals. But it's also violent.

      Violence is very much natural. Even a class system is a kind of violence, and it [ostensibly] replaces the physical jockeying for position done by other pack animals — which humans very much are.

      The problem isn't the gore and it wont turn a teenager in to a mindless massacer - if it is, then he has other problems that the parents should be taking care of.

      The problem is nearly always the parents to begin with.

    • by Reapy (688651)

      If I were a child and had any of those titles replaced with the alternative I would probably start crying :)

    • by Jaeph (710098)

      Violence is natural. You may not think it civilized, or appropriate behavior (I sure don't), but it is most certainly natural.

      -Jeff

  • by El Lobo (994537) * on Friday December 11, 2009 @07:50AM (#30400106)
    Another list, product of the neomoral of today...

    Interesting, with all the graphic violence in Modern Warfare 2, it's funny that the only objectionable aspect of it is that the player can opt to go "undercover as an enemy terrorist."

    • And potentially mow down masses of civilians in an airport with a light machine gun while walking very slowly..., without.. you know, any attempt to stop the massacre from happening.
    • Modern parents need to enforce moralistic killing quotas. x number of people need to be shot dead, so it's the onus of our children to ensure it's the bad guys from other countries who take the brunt.

  • by RogueyWon (735973) * on Friday December 11, 2009 @07:51AM (#30400108) Journal

    Actually, the article is far less irritating than the summary had led me to believe. Yes, it points out 10 games that are not recommended for children and teens. But it isn't trying to get the games banned (the original commonsensemedia article actually points out that these are good games), just trying to help parents make informed decisions. This, I believe, is a good thing.

    Moreover, the "suggested replacement" games aren't all of the "Barbie Horse Adventures" ilk. While a few made me raise an eyebrow, most of them are reasonable enough replacements.

    Let's take a look at the list:

    Assassin's Creed 2 replaced by Mirror's Edge: I haven't played AC2, but I would probably agree that the original AC is "not for kids". Mirror's Edge doesn't seem outlandish as a replacement; it's not some twee kiddy game and it does contain violence. It's just a bit less "in your face" with it. So no problems with this one.

    Borderlands for Infamous: Ok, this one made me go "hmm". Borderlands has highly cartoonish violence, while Infamous is actually quite dark in its theme and has highly morally ambiguous characters. Weirdly, I think the game they've recommended is actually less suitable than the game they're replacing.

    Brutal Legend for Ghostbusters: I'd have no problem with this, particularly as Ghostbusters is actually the better game provided you avoid the dismal PC version.

    Call of Duty MW2 for Battlefield Bad Company 2: Fair enough. I believe a lot of PC gamers already made this switch due to the dedicated servers issue anyway. Both are respectable but unspectacular games, once you get past the hype.

    Dead Space: Extraction for Deadly Creatures: I've not played Deadly Creatures, but I have played Extraction (which puts me in a small minority, judging by its dismal sales figures). While it's a "light gun" game, Extraction is absolutely and emphatically not for kids. It is dark, scary and gory.

    Dragon Age: Origins for Braid: This one's deeply weird. Dragon Age isn't exactly your average hack-em-up arcade game. I suspect that any under-18s asking for Dragon Age and patient enough to stick with it past the first 10 minutes are probably mature enough to deal with it. And Braid as a replacement? A platform/puzzler as a replacement for an RPG? No, I don't think so. If I were to suggest a replacement, it would probably be Last Remnant, Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon, which are at least RPGs. Or get them into the whole retro thing with a copy of Baldur's Gate 2 - the themes are still as mature, but it's harmless if it's just little sprites, right? :)

    GTA IV for Batman: Arkham Asylum: Again, the games aren't quite the same genre, so this is a tricky one. However, GTA is not for kids, end of story. The Batman game is awesome, and probably dark enough in its theme and style to satisfy most teenagers. So yes, you could do worse than this.

    Demon's Souls for Uncharted 2: Yeah, no real problems with this. To be honest, I prefer Uncharted 2 as a game anyway (though this may put me in a minority).

    Left 4 Dead 2 for Overlord 2: Another strange one. Overlord 2 is not an fps. Nor is it a particularly co-operative game. Nor is it fantastically good. Nor is it morally squeaky-clean (though the violence is cartoonish). I guess you could always try to track down the Australian version of L4D2.

    GTA: Chinatown for C.O.P.: well, at least it's one sandbox game for another. The problem is that the reviews all seem to show that C.O.P. is basically rubbish. It's probably your best option while staying within the same genre on the same platform, but you can still expect a lot of disappointment on Christmas morning with this switch.

    So yeah, at least some of the switches recommended are sensible, and this isn't a dreadful guide to parents who might not be massively savvy in these matters. On this basis, did the article summary really need to take the tone that it did?

    • Oblig. (Score:2, Funny)

      by TapeCutter (624760) *
      "Actually, the article is far less irritating than the summary had led me to believe."

      You must be new around here.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      GTA IV for Batman actually makes a lot of sense. Neither one is about story (or if GTA IV is about story, it's an epic failure) and both are about the "did you see that" factor (at least once it comes time to get some replay value.)

      On this basis, did the article summary really need to take the tone that it did?

      I'd say you must be new here, but someone else beat me to it.

    • My 13 year old has four or five L70+ WoW characters and wants Dragon Age for Christmas. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

    • Assassin's Creed 2 replaced by Mirror's Edge

      It depends on the age you're recommending to, but I just finished Mirror's Edge and I wouldn't recommend it to kids under 16. It's got gunplay and blood, you perform dangerous acrobatics in a typical urban setting, and the characters are rather foul-mouthed. Honestly, it's the acrobatics that would make me most nervous as a parent (if I were one).

      • by aj50 (789101)

        Really?

        I wouldn't have recommended it to kids because it's pretty difficult and frustrating.

        I thought Mirror's Edge did a pretty good job at making you fail a lot and feel very dead when you did so.

        • by RogueyWon (735973) *

          I mostly enjoyed Mirror's Edge, though I acknowledge the issue you highlight. There were certain sequences where I could see what I had to do and it felt like I was doing it properly, but try as I might, Faith just WOULD NOT grab onto that ledge or pipe.

          I had fun with the game in the end, despite a few niggles. My biggest frustration was that despite the apparently open cityscape you have to play with, a lot of the levels are actually very, very linear, with only 1 path you can follow. I think the game was

    • Actually, the article is far less irritating than the summary had led me to believe. Yes, it points out 10 games that are not recommended for children and teens. But it isn't trying to get the games banned (the original commonsensemedia article actually points out that these are good games), just trying to help parents make informed decisions. This, I believe, is a good thing.

      It's also hardly ironic that a list of "games not to buy your children when they ask for them" would be populated by good games worth asking for. It's not like everyone's kids are asking for shitty games.

    • by mcvos (645701)

      Assassin's Creed 2 replaced by Mirror's Edge: I haven't played AC2, but I would probably agree that the original AC is "not for kids". Mirror's Edge doesn't seem outlandish as a replacement; it's not some twee kiddy game and it does contain violence. It's just a bit less "in your face" with it. So no problems with this one.

      I haven't played it either, but I just read something about Assassin's Creed's historical accuracy, and I'm very impressed. Especially for a mainstream game. I don't know how much the game actually focuses on the historical parts or whether the focus is more on mindless violence (do you really kill only 9 people in that game?), but if it's done right, I could even see myself encouraging my kids to play it. I love history. Maybe I should give it a try myself.

      GTA on the other hand, yeah, not for kids.

      For Drag

      • by bjorniac (836863)

        AC is pretty, that's for sure. The historical accuracy, well, not so much. I mean, yes, Templars, Crusaders, Richard, Saladin - it's got the right names and places to a degree, but the plot etc is sheer fantasy (nothing wrong with that in a game, of course, but if it's historical accuracy you want, it is somewhat lacking). I'd say it's similar to the Civilization series in this manner - there's a lot of good starting points and places that can trigger you to go and learn some more, but the Aztecs didn't bui

    • by plague3106 (71849)

      Actually, the article is far less irritating than the summary had led me to believe. Yes, it points out 10 games that are not recommended for children and teens. But it isn't trying to get the games banned (the original commonsensemedia article actually points out that these are good games), just trying to help parents make informed decisions.

      What? The article is useless. Parents already have a big fucking M rating on the box to explain to them its not for kids. This article is just trying to inflame par

  • by c0mpliant (1516433) on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:09AM (#30400190)
    Seriously, anyone who needs to read this review shouldn't have the responsibility of children. A quick look at the ESRB rating of each of the above games will tell you that little Johnny who is 8 shouldn't be playing Dragon Age, GTA or assassins Creed!!
    • by slim (1652) <john@ha[ ]up.net ['rtn' in gap]> on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:38AM (#30400330) Homepage

      The whole point of the article is "You know from the ESRB ratings that these games aren't for kids. So for each one, what's a good substitute?"

    • ESRB ratings can shove it. I'm far more qualified to know what is good/bad for my kids than a bunch of bible-thumping moralist lobbyists.

      America needs to get over it. We are conservative, uptight little bitches in the eyes of the rest of the western world, deservedly so for shit just like the ESRB, the fact that shit is a "dirty" word, and the fact that entire networks are nearly shut down for displaying a nipple.

      • by spyrochaete (707033) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:29AM (#30401394) Homepage Journal

        ESRB is a private organization which was formed so that the games industry could self-regulate. Its intent is to keep the government out of the ratings process. ESRB ratings are a suggested watermark for entry with a summary of potentially objectionable material. It's a tool to allow parents to shield their children from specific content. Nothing is forced upon anyone.

        If there is any censorship going on it's from stores like Walmart that refuse to carry games based on that rating. You can still buy those products elsewhere.

        Not really sure what your objection is here.

        • My objection is to the inherent stupidity of "ratings" schemes. They should just say what's in the games (blood, sex, violence, drugs, whatever) but leave age ranges out of it.

          My main objection to ESRB is that games have varying levels of potentially offensive content, but due to the broad strokes of the ESRB ratings, there is no difference between a game like GTA IV Halo 2, and Resident Evil.

          In MY family (key word, MY) there's nothing wrong with a little mindless FPS fragging. In other families, there's no

          • I see your point but I can't agree with it. It's a recommendation, and the rating in the big bold letters is just a visual summary to enable parents to scan a wall full of unfamiliar products for the few that may be appropriate. As an avid gamer I'm willing to read a lot of content about many games, but a parent or grandparent might assume that all games are appropriate for kids, like board games, and may make an uninformed decision without guidance.

          • My objection is to the inherent stupidity of "ratings" schemes. They should just say what's in the games (blood, sex, violence, drugs, whatever) but leave age ranges out of it.

            Strange, when I look at an ESRB rating on a DS game, it's got a few lines about what got it the rating. As a parent, I can then evaluate it, and decide whether it's suitable for the kid. It's hardly perfect, but I find it useful. The age ratings are indications of maturity, and the parent should adjust for the child. (Movie rati

        • Also, I just saw that Guitar Hero is rated Teen (13 and above). My 10 year old has played every version of Guitar Hero. I think he was ok as a SIX year old playing a 13 and up game?

          I think this pretty much sums up my objection to the ESRB.

      • by slim (1652)

        If you don't have age ratings on games etc., you end up with what Australia has, where adult content is banned outright.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Seriously, anyone who needs to read this review shouldn't have the responsibility of children. A quick look at the ESRB rating

      Anybody who lets the ESRB decide what's appropriate for their child shouldn't have the responsibility of children.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      the articla is about educating parent about the ESRB by using sought after games as examples.

      Seriously, do you jsut expect people to magically know this?

      Either gain some perspective or never have children yourself.

      Idiot.

  • by xIcemanx (741672) on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:25AM (#30400262)
    First, it's not the NYT. It's a blog of the NYT. Big difference.

    Second, the NYT blog simply asks readers to discuss a list compiled by Common Sense Media of ten games not to buy your children.

    So to ascribe the list to the New York Times itself is incredibly misleading.
    • First, any blog on the NYT web site carries the implication that it is backed by the NYT itself. Second, the article is overtly biased positively towards the common Sense Media's list. Since the NYT allows this blog (unless there's the standard OP-ED disclaimer, which I didn't look for), then there is nothing wrong with attributing this list to the NYT.

  • A useful list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davide marney (231845) * <davide DOT marney AT netmedia DOT org> on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:47AM (#30400386) Journal

    You're a parent, an uncle, a grandfather. You don't play video games. You want to give something the kid will like. You hear he's "into" video games. You step into the local gamer store, and ...

    YOU HAVE NO CLUE

    The one thing you want to avoid is buying that game with "blood spurting out of victims' bodies, human carcasses littering the floor, blood-stained walls and floors, and copious screams of torture" (Dead Space: Extraction). Otherwise, your sister Jenny will have your head on a platter ... for real.

  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:50AM (#30400404) Homepage

    If you don't have it, get it now. Child-friendly, and great for adults too.

  • ...when the kids open their presents and find out they got nothing nearly close to what they wanted, maybe even the game that everyone in their class already turned up their nose at.

    Yeah, it sure gonna be a peaceful, holy night. Well, ok, it wouldn't be for them either way, since L4D2 sure ain't peaceful and anything but holy, but at least the rest of the family would have some peace.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bigstrat2003 (1058574) *

      If the kids were raised halfway decently, they'll politely say "thank you", and contain their disappointment until later. Unless they're like 8 or 9, in which case they REALLY need to not be playing GTA.

      And if they're old enough to know better and start throwing fits, parents always have the option to discipline them. I know if my kids did that, they'd get their games taken away (at least for a while), and be left to think about whether it was better to have the "uncool" game or no game at all.

  • Not the NYT's List (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Colonel Korn (1258968) on Friday December 11, 2009 @09:52AM (#30400948)
    If you RTFA, you'll see that this is a list from Common Sense Media being reported by the NYT, not the NYT editorializing. In fact, the very first item on the list, Assassin's Creed 2, just got an almost ridiculously glowing review (that even sort of recommended it for high school students because it might enthuse them about Renaissance Italy) from the Times this week. The Times' "conclusion" is to ask you what you think about this list and recommend discussing it below.
  • FTA:

    ...things that have been proven to have a negative effect on children

    This tired argument again? I won a writing award when I was 17 debunking the myth that video games and violent cartoons have a "negative effect" on kids. Of course when I was 17, video games were: Zork, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong (super violent and sexist), and Asteroids.

  • the game features combat, decapitations and swords plunged into the chests of both people and dragons.

  • Are they really recommending Braid [braid-game.com] as a "kid-friendly" game? Braid? [commonsensemedia.org] I'm generally impressed with Common Sense Media's take on reviews in that they look at all aspects of a movie or game when judging its appropriateness. But with Braid, the themes of the game are going to be way over the heads of most kids. I guess if your 12-year old really wanted to play it, why not. But as High Fidelity taught us there are other dangers of exposing impressionable teens to this kind of thing:
    What came first, the mus
    • They don't need to be able to appreciate the story themes of the game to be able to enjoy the puzzle aspect, though. If you have a kid who enjoys puzzle games, I'd say it's a great gift for them.
  • FTA:

    [blockquote] if you need gift ideas for the surly, pale teenager in your home whose body contains more plastic then your average d20[/blockquote]

    What on earth is this supposed to mean? Is there some kind of gamer fad to get nose jobs or something?

    • I was wondering the exact same thing. Looks more like they were trying to force the word "d20" into an article about gamers. Probably in some pathetic attempt to imitate the style of Penny Arcade.
  • I was reading about one of the recommended games on the linked site [commonsensemedia.org] and my brain exploded when I read "six-legged creatures: a scorpion and tarantula"

    By the way, Braid is a great puzzle game.

  • If you go to the source article [commonsensemedia.org] it's quite clear they are offering alternatives for what they consider to be very good games that (according to the age rating) are unsuitable to kids.

    In kid logic, games are "cool" when they have awesome graphics and gameplay, envelope-pushing storylines, and all manners of weaponry. And they aren't wrong. The games they want typically are well constructed, thoughtful, and exciting. But they're often inappropriate for the teens who hunger for them.

    The descriptions of the ga

  • Is this not proof of my statement in posts a few days ago that the New York Times is as equally reliable a news source as the National Enquirer?
    Is it any surprise that Network news all the way to print media is playing to lowbrow "Maury Povich" interests just to get anyone to look at them in light of their imminent demise and publicly heard death rattles?

  • Grimm's Fairy Tales should be banned due to themes of excessive violence, cannabalism, and murder. Listening to or reading these stories can't possibly be good for impressionable young children! Also, The Holy Bible contains depictions of murder, adultery, rape, and incest -- again, definitely not suitable for children. (Similar arguments apply to the Quran, the Talmud, and the Bhagavad Gita.)
  • warning! omission! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by archangel9 (1499897)

    This list won't be complete until they list Infocom's "Leather Goddesses of Phobos"

    Talk about interactive, this game was scratch-n-sniff [wikipedia.org]

It seems that more and more mathematicians are using a new, high level language named "research student".

Working...