Games to NOT buy for the holidays.
This issue I'm doing things a bit differently. My job with this column is to present video games that are considered kid friendly. These games are not violent, usually educational, and work primarily to build motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Unfortunately, these games are not the popular ones. Kids today are bombarded with information about violent titles from friends, TV and websites. Parents often are uninformed about the violent titles by which their kids are surrounded. By continuing to write articles reviewing only kid-friendly games, I am only doing half of my job. So in this issue, I will be talking about four of the hottest titles of the holiday season and why you should leave them on the store shelves.
More importantly, consider the reviews below as ammunition when your kid insists you let them play.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
The sequel to one of the most popular video games in history releases with the same bang as the original. Team play and an online level up system are two of the biggest features of this title.
The problem lies in the graphic violence, blood splatters and crude language. The game focuses on real-time military combat switching main characters between different true-to-life military forces. On some missions you may play as the hero, while on others you may play as a terrorist. There even is a level where you go on an apparent killing spree on innocents. The game offers you a choice to skip the level due to its graphic nature, but just the fact that it's in the game should be proof that this title needs to stay at the store.
Left 4 Dead 2
Ah, the classic tale of zombie invasion. Halloween movies are full of zombie killing moments. Heck, even the late Michael Jackson did a dance number with the walking undead. The problem with this title is the graphic nature on screen.
First, the game is eerily realistic. Second, the addition of hand-to-hand weapons since the original title is even more gruesome. Now you can run up to a zombie and cut them in half with a chainsaw or blow a zombie's head off with a shotgun, leaving a trail of blood on the ground behind their still standing body. In online play, players can take a turn as the zombies, fighting human-looking players in an attempt to rip them to pieces. Although I do agree that everyone should be ready for the zombie apocalypse (I am joking of course), visual learning through playing this title is not the way to do it.
In my opinion, this is the best game of the season, but it is definitely not for kids. The game is ultra vulgar, uber violent and has way too many sexual references for any child. The whole premise of the game is killing to advance. Not only for story purposes, but also to make your character better. Offering a reward for violence is a wrong step in teaching kids about appropriate responses to conflict.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a pacifist; I don't even let my son play slap. Two staple quotes during reinforcement discussions with my son are: "We fight with our words" and "The greatest weapon God gave us was our brain." Also, the game features realistic bullet damage and decapitations -- not for the feint of heart.
Assassin's Creed 2
As with the other titles, the game is gory and full of graphic violence, but the most disturbing part is the close-up the camera takes when performing an assassination kill -- showing the blade exiting your target with a splatter of blood. Players are rewarded for stealthily killing opponents and completing missions which cause havoc and political uproar because of their choices. Another shocking part is the ability to hire prostitutes which you can send over to guards to distract them so you can sneak past. Yes, the game is visually stunning, but is it sending the right message? I think not.
Hopefully my reviews can help during the shopping season and will keep these violent titles out of the hands of our innocent children. And remember, if you go to purchase a game and you want to know more about the ratings, or if a game is child-appropriate, ask the employees of the store.
For anything extra you would like to know about ESRB ratings and how to shield your children from violent video games, check out www.esrb.org, and look for the helpful section about setting parental controls on your kids' game systems.