Despite my admittedly conservative views, I don't pretend I live in a bubble or think I have my head stuck in the sand. I cannot filter everything my kids see or hear. I cannot keep them by my side 24/7, nor would I think that even healthy! But obviously as a parent, I concern myself with what they watch and listen to. Prime time television is just not family oriented with shows like Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, Two and a Half Men, and the nauseating litany of cop, lawyer, and doctor dramas which all try to "push the envelope" and one-up each other with steamy or gritty content. In video gaming, we pass on the completely overt and pointlessly violent titles. In music we avoid the Top 40 Pop radio stations because half the songs are about drinking, partying, sex, and objectifying women.
To bring it back on-topic, I have lately started thinking in terms of appropriate themes in gaming as I read more and more about the hobby. Several months before I started this blog, there was an excellent podcast at Dice Hate Me that addressed some of these issues. That discussion focused more on how the inclusion of mature artwork (nudity, sensual imagery, or drugs) should impact a game's recommended age rating.
Artwork can certainly be a concern, especially when some more questionable imagery is included in an otherwise kid-appropriate game. As an example on the Dice Hate Me podcast, the original age recommendation for the game Olympos is 10+ which is fine regarding mechanics, rules complexity, and theme. However, the artwork is not appropriate for a 10 year old. American distributors are recommending 13+ and perhaps some high school boys might handle it maturely; but even in that I'm not really confident. Nevertheless, what is most disappointing is that the game doesn't even need such artwork. It would play just as well with imagery appropriate to all ages. I say this realizing that there is probably a European-American viewpoint disconnect somewhere in all this.
Then there are some games generally, all-around appropriate for children, but yet include only one piece of questionable content, again usually unnecessary and unimportant to game play. We own and enjoy Dust, but the rulebook stays in the box as much as possible. I don't make a big deal about it, but there is no need drawing attention to an illustration that merely exists to prominently display some woman's "features." At least to my 8-year old boys. Many other titles venture into this same area, usually with a risque illustration, such as 7 Wonders, Sylla, Castle, and many more. These are fairly easily dealt with for the most part.
|Tanto Cuore/Courtesy of Raiko Puust (binraix on BGG)|
Regarding war games, I see no issue with children playing. They are not gratuitous and can actually be educational if historically themed. Even if existing in a fantasy or alternate world, it will usually be abstracted enough to be suitable. However, I'm not saying violence is never an issue. On one side, if the theme is over-the-top and lighthearted, it can be Python-esque. You can read my review on why I believe Lifeboat is suitable for children despite the fact that you're trying to make your opponents into fish food. There are other games in the same vein.
|Nightfall card/Alderac Entertainment Group|
I understand not all will agree with these views. As I mentioned, there is a dynamic of European vs. American cultural norms on top of just personal opinion regarding the issue. Realizing that, I don't feel as if I'm and ostrich with my head in the sand. Assuredly, my Christian faith forms much of my sentiments on raising children. So I will continue to filter the board games we purchase and play. Call me old-fashioned, but the less they are desensitized by such content now, the better served they will be as adolescents and young adults and beyond.