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Gaming 101 for Parents March 21, 2007

Posted by joshg in General.
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Last year I mentioned the book What Every Parent Needs To Know About Video Games by Richard Abanes. The sneak peek preview that the book’s website gave was enough to make me ready to recommend it. I recently picked up a copy and reading the whole book only makes my recommendation stronger.

Abanes is unashamedly writing this book from the perspective of an avid gamer, casually sharing some of his favorite gaming experiences. But while it’s easy to get caught up in what one loves about gaming and forget the negative, Abanes pulls no punches when it comes to describing the kind of games that parents should watch out for. The book does a well balanced job of covering the highs and lows of what a game can be.

In fact, “well balanced” describes so many aspects of this book that I’m liable to start sounding like a broken record. Abanes’ description of the ESRB rating system is thorough and he holds it up to other media rating systems such as movie ratings as one of the better systems out there. However, he also cautions parents that while the ESRB system is better than its peers in other media it’s still fallible and in his opinion has rated some games a bit on the low side. Abanes’ analysis of the issue of game legislation is dead on as well. He focuses attention on the poor wording of the proposed bills which undermines their usefulness, while acknowledging that clear-headed legislation which recognizes the value of the ESRB rating system could actually be helpful.

What I love about this book the most is that it’s clearly written by someone from my side of the gamer/non-gamer cultural divide. This isn’t someone who is scared by these newfangled videe-oh games trying to dig up research to uncover their dark secrets. This is a book by someone who knows the world of video gaming firsthand, has seen both the good and the bad and is letting parents know the whole picture. The book drives home the points which the thoughtful members of the gaming community have been pushing for years – that ratings are useful tools that parents need to take seriously, and that games can be everything from an inspiring thoughtful experience to lighthearted fun to gruesome and tasteless (like most any other form of expression).

In short, Richard Abanes has saved me from the nagging urge to write this book myself. Thank you!