Family friendly does not mean low quality

With Christmas knocking on our doorsteps next week, let’s take a small break and remember that not all games out there are for children.

Last year I wrote a post how to pick a proper game for younger people as a present. To sum it up, it’s the parents duty in the end to keep up what their children are playing and whether or not they allow such content to be consumed. The recent Grand Theft Auto V withdrawals are pretty much the stupidest thing I’ve seen in few weeks, as they were not products with content for children to be consumed. The +18 marking is there for a reason.

I have seen too many times a mother buying her kid +18 rated game. Few times I have been asked whether or not a game X would be a great gift for their child, I’ve glanced at the cover and simply asked whether or not the child was already at the age of 18. With experience I can say that parents barely can distinguish a game from another, but goddamn if they’re not like hawks when it comes to movies, television shows or similar. And with toys. God forbid a four year older child to have a toy that has a recommendation label for 5+.

This is why any I have hard time understanding anyone who wishes to pull a properly labelled game from the store under the pretence of this game hurting our children or affecting their growth negatively. I was once part of a conversation few years back where parents were complaining how games were too violent and bloody, full of sexual imaginary and so on. One of the mothers said I wish my boy wouldn’t play those games. Even better if they didn’t make such games at all, to which I simply snapped back with a question why the hell was she letting her son play the game? Her reply was something like I can’t dictate what my son does, which surprised me to no end. A parent needs to know where to set limits to their children, especially with material that they deem harmful.

We have movies, books and music that we almost instinctively can say if it is something a child or an adolescent should have access to. No parent would let their ten year old watch the first two Alien movies without first knowing whether or not their child could handle it. I was four when I saw Aliens, and I did see nightmares and there were certain scenes that still strike extremely powerful with me. I’m sure no parent would read one of those Harlequin novels filled with sex to their children either, less so giving them access to straight pornography. I admit, I saw porn way too early at the age of four and there are things that certainly have spun off from that little experience, but some have said that’s not necessarily a negative point. I’ve never been into music, but that’s mostly because both of my brothers were very keen into music during my youth, and one of the still play in a band. There were few times I remember my old man grabbing a C-cassette out from the player because the language in the song was very foul and the message in the song wasn’t the nicest one.

However, in my youth most of the adult games, so to speak, existed on the PCs. Certainly Atari had its handful of porn and adult oriented games, but the vast majority of the products on the system were family friendly games anyone could pick up and play. The same continued with the NES to a large extent, and even the SNES was very family friendly while having the few odd games here and there that aimed for more adult and gruesome images, like Mortal Kombat. SEGA marketed towards the more adult market, and while I can’t draw direct comparison in between the success of the console and its games to how family oriented they have been, it should be noted that the most successful consoles in the gaming history have always been about god quality games, which then have been for all in the family. Super Mario Bros. is a prime example of a game that anyone in the family could pick up and play. Consoles that aimed for a smaller market than the family tend to do worse. Then again, with PlayStation entering the fray family orientation was pushed in the back until Nintendo began to expand the market again with the NDS and the Wii.

With a wild guess, let’s assume that the image of consoles as a family friendly box is because the most culturally iconic of consoles and characters were just that. In modern era this doesn’t really apply anymore, but the general consensus has not caught up that yet. At least not with the older generations. I have no doubts that the generation that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s is far better equipped to tackle the challenges of then-modern forms of media and reject all the new ones that may be spawned within the next few decades.

Then again, people could just read the damn labels and we’d get rid of all these bullshit events about games corrupting the youth they were never meant for.

Let’s put this in mecha terms; you would allow your kid to watch and read Mazinger Z for sure, but the Mazinkaiser OVA would require this kid to grow up a little. You wouldn’t let this kid read (USA) Mazinger until a bit later on due to its contents. Similarly, GaoGaiGar is clearly something a five year old and up can enjoy pretty damn well, but Betterman requires a teen or older to fully even comprehend the story. GaoGaiGar Final on the other falls somewhere between, but the upped fanservice gives out the main target audience. Then again, Shinkon Gattai Godannar is not for kids for any reason.

To pull Mega Man back into the fray, let’s revise the origins on Mega Man. The game series was inspired by the childhood TV and comics the developers watched and read in their younger days. These titles included the shows like Casshern, which had a main character who hunted down evil robots with his robotic dog Friender. Mega Man itself can be mirrored to Testuwan Atom as a boy robot with a golden heart. X series continues with this sort of thing, but with the 90’s it has more mature storyline consisting of racial war, genocide, brainwash and other similar matters. Mega Man Legends on the other hand is very much a saturday morning cartoon through and through, and I would love to play the game with a clock on the upper corner, which is how Battle Mania Daiginjou actually starts. Same with Mega Man Battle Network, which is probably one of the reasons the series was so divisive but nevertheless successful. The Zero series on the hand is the first proper series aimed at the older, more core audience without a doubt with its post-apocalyptic storyline, former hero as the villain and blood spatters everywhere. The ZX series toned this down, but with the Ryusei no Rockman, it didn’t stand up against the its older brethren. I would almost argue that the moment Mega Man series decided to go full blown dark with Zero series, it had lost touch what made it great in the first place. Mega Man 9 and 10 were nostalgia catering stuff, and as with Super Mario that never works twice.

I would argue that we are in need of games that anyone could enjoy without forced agendas looming in the background, the likes of games that people enjoyed on the Atari and on the NES. It’s not about nostalgia, but about further success and expanding the market, two things that have always been successful in the electronic gaming industry.

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