We've talked before about different ways to sniff out if an MMO is a good choice for your kids. What we haven't covered yet are the indicators that a game may not be a good fit for your family. In light of the long hours of freedom stretching before our kids when school's out (and the fact that parental oversight is more likely to be lenient, if not downright indulgent, during the holidays), we decided some yellow-light signals might be in order.
Being a gaming parent sometimes makes it tougher, not simpler, to choose the right games for kids. Constant exposure to gaming news and game names can give us a false sense of familiarity. We build assumptions about games based on what we know about the companies that produce them. What we think we know actually makes it harder to spot what we're not clued into at all.
Nobody wants to make a career out of "researching" games for the kids to play. We don't blame you -- that's why our list of ways to screen games is so long, so that you can pick and choose the methods that work best for you.
But there's another way to skin this cat. Let's come at these games from the other side: the assumptions and misconceptions that can lull you into thinking a game may be a more suitable fit for you family than it really is. Don't fall for these traps and "false friends."
It's free-to-play, so it's "light" enough for kids. Case in point: Requiem: Memento Mori, ESRB rating: M (blood and gore, intense violence, partial nudity, suggestive themes). Don't make this mistake.
The ESRB rating is pending; it can't be too bad if they didn't put a warning on it to begin with, right? Chronicles of Spellborn's ESRB rating is RP (Rating Pending), aiming for a Teen (age 12+) rating ... But if it ended up higher than that, how would that change your decision?
All the other kids are playing it. Sure, there are lot of elementary school kids in DDO and WoW -- but both games are designed for and aimed at teens and adults.
The player community will reflect the game's design and content. MapleStory looks like the ultimate kid-friendly game -- until you get a load of some of the player chat. Chat channels can be problematic in any MMO, but the amount of rough language and "attitude" in the chat channels of some kids' games can come as a shock.
It's from a company you know makes great kid-friendly titles. Sure, Hello Kitty Online from Aeria Games is a sweet place for little ones to wander, but the PvP focus of Twelve Sky 2 will prove considerably more rough-and-tumble.
Apparently kid-friendly titles may be more complex than they seem. Mabinogi looks like a great choice for a kid, and it offers a great beginner's guide, but the game play may be too complex for young players.
Ultimately, the best way to see if a game is a good fit (and fun!) for your kids is to try it out along with them. In fact, we dare say that trying out a whole slew of free-to-play MMOs sounds like the perfect holiday project for a gaming family.
Happy holidays from MMO Family!
MMO Family offers advice on MMO gaming of the family, by the family and for the family. Connect with writer Lisa Poisso on Twitter at @emused, and e-mail your questions and observations about gaming and parenting to lisa (at) massively (dot) com.