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TechnoGoth

Presenting Adult ideas in kids game?

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First off I'm not talking about 18+ subject matter. I'm talking about complex issues and moral message normally target at adults but presenting them in game designed at younger audience. Basically do people feel it is appropriate or suitable for a game targeted at younger audience? For instance: In the magical forest there is mystical garden tended by a family of three gnomes. Their family was once very large and used to laugh and play throughout the woods. Until people discovered that gnomes’ beard can be used to boost a person magic power. Since then gnomes have become a lot less common and the only ones around here a three brothers that tend the mystical garden. It not explicitly said in the game but taking gnomes build will cause it to die, and because of this the player can be responsible for killing off the last of gnomes in the forest, which in turn will cause the forest to die, and slowly turn into a desert. How you feel if that was in a game designed for kids? Would it bother you if your lil brother or kids was seeing that in a game?

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true point TechnoGoth
And the thing is that to kids its just a game but if a parent were to play this game, what are they trying to tell the parent or are they doing it unknown?

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How young is young? I personally wouldn't put that in a game aimed at kids under 14. In the american public school system the holocaust and concept of genocide is covered in 8th grade when the youngest children are 13. So kids younger than that wouldn't have the background to understand what you were getting at, which effectively makes it a pg-13 issue.

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Exactly and aimed at people like me who are around that ag but even if the teens were to understand most of us teens would also need background clues of tyhis to put it together. If it said something along the lines of what Techno said pretty much straight out we'd get it.

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I think kids much younger than 13 understand the concept of endangered/extinct animals, which is pretty similar to your example. Unless there's something deeper here that's going right over my head. But in general I think that complex moral issues have long been a staple of literature and media consumed by kids (Robin Hood?).

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Looking at the issue as a whole and not just this specific instince, if you've ever watched children's anime, (although by US standards they'd be teen or older) there are constantly complex moral issues that are made for children, very you to understand. I couldn't give you any more seeing as I don't watch the younger side of anime and don't have cable.

Although, I agree that your specific example calls for a 13+ or maybe a little younger - every child is different.

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Original post by BradDaBug
I think kids much younger than 13 understand the concept of endangered/extinct animals, which is pretty similar to your example. Unless there's something deeper here that's going right over my head. But in general I think that complex moral issues have long been a staple of literature and media consumed by kids (Robin Hood?).


I thought the gnomes were intelligent, since they live in a family and take care of a garden. If they're intelligent their deaths would be more disturbing than those of animals.

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Original post by sunandshadow
Quote:
Original post by BradDaBug
I think kids much younger than 13 understand the concept of endangered/extinct animals, which is pretty similar to your example. Unless there's something deeper here that's going right over my head. But in general I think that complex moral issues have long been a staple of literature and media consumed by kids (Robin Hood?).


I thought the gnomes were intelligent, since they live in a family and take care of a garden. If they're intelligent their deaths would be more disturbing than those of animals.

Sentient?

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Interesting point sunandshadow, is there a difference between "killing" a family of friendly gardeners and "killing" a few fuzzy bunnies?

On a side note what about Dr Seuss? Some of his book where very much about presenting adult ideas to kids. Such as the bitter butter battle which is essentially a book about the escalation of arms during the cold war until both sides are at the point of mutually assured destruction. Or the pro life book he wrote.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Interesting point sunandshadow, is there a difference between "killing" a family of friendly gardeners and "killing" a few fuzzy bunnies?

On a side note what about Dr Seuss? Some of his book where very much about presenting adult ideas to kids. Such as the bitter butter battle which is essentially a book about the escalation of arms during the cold war until both sides are at the point of mutually assured destruction. Or the pro life book he wrote.


There is a difference in my mind. An animal rights activist or vegetarian might think that both are equally bad.

No one dies in the Butter Battle Book - the idea of death isn't even mentioned. Adults always think the book is about the cold war, but children can just as easily see the personal relevance in terms of fighting with and trying to manipulate their siblings, parents, friends, or maybe a teacher. I've read most of Dr. Seuss' book, but I can't offhand think of a pro-life one. Maybe Horton hatches an egg??? I'm firmly pro-choice though, so I would have either avoided it if it was obviously pro-life or interpreted the theme differently if it was subtle.

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True the subject of death is never mentioned or even suggested in the bitter butter battle. But what if it was implied but not explicitly stated? Such as after each time a new weapon is introduced there are less and less people shown in the background?

I think the key to presenting adult ideas in kid’s games all lies in presentation you have to get across the idea in a way that they can understand. But there are at the same time ideas that they aren’t old enough to understand. Such as death, I personally don’t feel the subject of death should be explicit in kid’s games. You can get across the notion in other ways such having people fall into an eternal sleep, but I don’t think people should die in a kid’s game.

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Hi,

Maybe I'm missing your point, but what is the point of putting these issues into childrens games?

If they are too young to understand the actual issue (such as death) surely understanding an abstraction of such an issue would be even harder?

Taking your example about less people appearing in the background. Even if the child does notice the abstract concept (more weapons = less people) the best you could hope to achieve is the child asking someone else why such a concept exists.

So your game has now completely passed on the responsibility of explaining said issue onto parents. To me this is starting something (an abstract issue) and then shrugging it off and taking no responsibility for the outcome (the child learning about the real issue). What if the parent doesn't want to explain the issue to their child yet?

I think you would need to be careful on how issues were presented and at the least inform parents that such things where presented (in an abstract form at least) in the game to allow parents to decide if they wanted to explain the real issue, if the child was to pick up on the abstract one.


- Chris

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Original post by TechnoGoth
I'm talking about complex issues and moral message normally target at adults but presenting them in game designed at younger audience.


There isn't only the question of allowing this material into games, it's determining what issues and moral messaging people want to teach their children because these ideals may be alike between people but morals are often opinionated. Drastic Example: Some people may have seen the 'Hot Coffee' mod in GTA as a core issue that (mostly) everyone will deal with in their life (lol). Look at the frenzy that happened.

Now thats a drastic example, but even a novel concept like death in a childrens game. Parents may not want their children to know what happened to their pet dog or what happend to grandpa, etc.. This effects sales either way (depending on if the parents want to teach their children or not). My two cents anyway.

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Death and loss is not an "adult" issue. Children are taught about death from a very early age. Think about fairy tales, especially those by the Grim brothers.

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Original post by jjd
Death and loss is not an "adult" issue. Children are taught about death from a very early age. Think about fairy tales, especially those by the Grim brothers.


Grim's Fairy Tales are rather grim... [grin]

I think a better example would be the death of a pet (or pets) or even wild animals (eg. yard birds) and/or the death of a grandparent or older relatives or family friends.

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How many times have you seen (or heard of) someone telling their child that their pet 'ran away' or something. They don't just go 'Hey Jimmy, Fluffy was hit by a car in the road and was snapped in two.' Young kids get fairy tales like Humpty Dumpty where he breaks himself and people try to put him back together but fail at it. It has that undertone but it still is something older people to this day don't see. There's actually a difference between 'very young kid game', 'everyone game', and 'mature game'. Usually the everyone and matures get the themes (both in radically different methods) when the young kid game is usually structured toward learning because the myth of 'rotting brains' really would happen if 3 yr olds got addicted to GTA lol.

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I dunno. I feel like the idea of protecting children from death and such are relatively new cultural concepts. Think of Bambi (mom or dad dies in first 5 minutes), the Snow White dragon battle was terrifying, Grim's fairy tales were standard issue when i was <10 years old as were Greek Myths which get into all kinds of kinky sex topics. Even look at pixar movies and other modern disney films which throw obscure adult humor in there to keep the parents interested.

None of this stuff is bad for kids. It's normal life stuff. I think having it in the game can make it interesting. Kids can definitely handle and understand just about everything you throw at them. Having it in your game might be cool because like in the pixar films it makes the game more appealing to parents and other adults.

-me

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I'm sure some parents wouldn't mind buying a game like that for their children. The ones that would mind simply wouldn't buy it. By the time a kid is old enough to pick out their own games (I'm thinking 12+ is about when they want the cool games their friends play) something like this may be too cutsey for them and they wouldn't play it. So it'd end up being the parents making the decision. So I'd say it's completly apropriate to make a game for kids 6-12 that teaches a hard lesson.

That being said, it's still a flawed idea. Every now and then in the design forum there are discussions about perma-death, save points, and finding ways to get adult players to accept failing at missions and loosing characters they've put a bunch of time into all in the name of creating a better gaming experience. Every one of these discussions makes it sound like a near impossible task. So if you can't get a mature gamer to accept stuff like that how can you expect a kid to?

Though there is the possibility that it works the other way. If you can get kids to accept loss and failure in a game then maybe you'll produce teens and adults that will too. Then in 10-15 years games will reach a new level of maturity and complexity.

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Just dropping by to say that I think you don't give kids enough credit. By 10 years old (probably earlier, but I barely remember anything before that) I understood death quite well (I didn't even learn the hard way, either). It's not a very difficult concept =P

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Original post by kseh
That being said, it's still a flawed idea. Every now and then in the design forum there are discussions about perma-death, save points, and finding ways to get adult players to accept failing at missions and loosing characters they've put a bunch of time into all in the name of creating a better gaming experience. Every one of these discussions makes it sound like a near impossible task. So if you can't get a mature gamer to accept stuff like that how can you expect a kid to?


How is it a flawed idea? I'm not clear what you mean by accepting failure in this example. As it an example of choice and consequence and not failure. The player is given a choice they can kill off a family of gnomes to becomes more powerful or simply leave them be. The consequence of killing the gnomes is that the forest will die and eventually destroy the way of life of the neighbouring village. But there is no failure or success in this scenario. Its a simple matter of choice and being forced to live with the consequences of that choice.

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Original post by GBPaxton
Just dropping by to say that I think you don't give kids enough credit. By 10 years old (probably earlier, but I barely remember anything before that) I understood death quite well (I didn't even learn the hard way, either). It's not a very difficult concept =P


Thank you! I totally agree with you. I don't know if kids these days are complete panzies but as a kid I was exposed to all these "mature" themes and they never affected me negatively.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Death is shown and told to Catholic(can't talk for other denominations) children at a very early age, is everyone forgetting this?

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I gotta agree with that whole "Kids aren't pansies" thing.
I can recall knowing about death, sex, and corruption in higher places for as long as I can remember. I don't know HOW I knew about some things, I just did.

I'm not saying that makes it ok to start allowing childrens games to have mutilated corpses, I'm just saying I think a child is surprisingly well tuned enough to handle it.

Though, it might actually make them cry, or feel sad, knowing their actions inadvertantly destroyed a forest and killed innocent creatures, even if they are only bits of data on their hard drives. As far as the kids are concerned, though, these gnomes could be as real as they are.

The gnomes could just start getting sick, and the forest start wilting away giving the player a new objective: Find a way to heal the gnomes and the forest.
This would bring in another adult concept - Accepting you made a mistake and working to correct it, something I feel many people simply don't understand, adult or otherwise.

However, I'm sure you're not the first to question what's acceptable for children. You could check out the ESRB Website to see how they would handle it. I believe they show their ratings thing under "ESRB Ratings>Ratings Guide"

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I am a 14 year old myself, and trust me. Us kids can pick up on things better then you would expect. We may not make the connection between the gnomes being taken, and the trees dying and the forest turning into a desert, but if you present this happening throught the game, then a kid would understand what you mean.

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