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

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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  • 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."

  • 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?

  • 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!!
  • 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 [] 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.

  • 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.
  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnu p . net> 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?"

  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnu p . net> on Friday December 11, 2009 @08:40AM (#30400346) Homepage

    Yeah, you'd have thought everyone would be able to read the little label next to the ESRB 17+ mark, suggesting a Teen rated alternative to the game you're looking at.

    Errr, sorry what? You say there isn't such a label?

    Oh, maybe this article has some merit then.

  • A useful list (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davide marney ( 231845 ) * <davide.marney@ne ... rg minus painter> 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 ...


    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.

  • 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.

  • by jbezorg ( 1263978 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @10:30AM (#30401412)

    When living in a fantasy world, you learn nothing about the real world.

    That's why the "Troll" mod was invented.

  • by stewbacca ( 1033764 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @11:34AM (#30402246)

    While I laud your post as one of the clearest voices in this thread, I'd just raise one question. If we are to presume rape cases in the US are higher because we have suppressed sexuality in our media, then shouldn't violent crime be higher in Europe because they suppress violence in their media?

    In any case, I don't think either are caused by media, only that our respective media are mirrors of our society, not the cause of our societal ills.

  • by jgtg32a ( 1173373 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @12:07PM (#30402704)
    Have you noticed that people who are socially backwards play a lot of video games? When living in the real world you learn nothing of the fantasy worlds.
  • by DJRumpy ( 1345787 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @12:18PM (#30402840)

    Yes, but Americans have an extremely difficult time separating the two. It's a cultural change to do so, and not one they could easily adapt to.

  • by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) * on Friday December 11, 2009 @12:27PM (#30403004)

    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.

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @12:42PM (#30403262) Journal

    Not to mention you can’t have it both ways... rape is higher in the US because we suppress sexuality, and homicide is higher because we indulge in violent movies?

    Does suppressing something encourage it, or does not suppressing it encourage it? If you’re arguing for one, you have a problem with the other.

    The only logical conclusion is that suppressing or not suppressing something in the media has very little influence on whether people actually engage in those sorts of behaviours.

  • by brkello ( 642429 ) on Friday December 11, 2009 @03:58PM (#30406038)
    Actually, I haven't really noticed that. I have noticed that most people these days play video games. And if they don't they escape in to fantasy worlds through books or other outlets. Stop being so judgmental.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 11, 2009 @05:01PM (#30406834)

    The subjects are not analogous. Rape is an act of violence, not an act of sex.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.