The gaming industry is a world-wide phenomenon that crosses geography, language and gender lines. It has even spurred the new billion-dollar industry of competitive video game playing, also known as e-sports.
But, even if your kids haven’t turned their love of video games into a lucrative career, they could still be spending an excessive amount of time playing in front of their screens.
It’s always important to keep track of the kind of media and technology our children are exposed to, video games included. To help familiarize ourselves with the top games young people are playing today, we spoke with Steph Orme, a researcher and professor in Boston who specializes in the study of video games.
“The biggest concern for parents with popular games like Fortnite, would be the micro-transactions within the game where you’re buying and spending money,” says Orme.
While Fortnite, an online video game with hundreds of millions of players registered, is free to download, players can buy add-ons like customizable character skins or other advanced features.
“Almost every game has [in-game purchases], and it’s how most mobile game developers make their money,” says Orme.
Parents should be mindful of whether their kids have access to these spending options when playing online or mobile games, especially younger children who haven’t developed a grasp on money ― real or virtual.
Another common feature parents should keep their eye out for are players communicating with one another in online games like Fortnite or League of Legends. On these platforms, players team up or compete against friends and strangers alike.
“If they’re playing a game and somebody comes and says something nasty, they can mute the person,” says Orme of League of Legends, in which gamers often communicate via voice chat on headsets.
Orme says her friends who are parents will have discussions with their kids about dealing with online bullying while playing internet games. “It can become a useful teaching tool in those situations,” she says.
Alongside these potentially negative aspects of gaming, Orme says video games can also be a positive and healthy hobby for young people.
“Some people assume gaming is an anti-social activity, and it could be. But a lot of these games are inherently social, and you are interacting with other people,” she says.
A longtime video game enthusiast herself, Orme says she often plays games with friends while talking to them on headsets. “It’s how I stay in touch with my friends from college who live eight states away.”
5 Popular Games You Should Know About
Rated T for Teen: Violence
Fortnite is an online video game available to play on personal computers, smartphones and game consoles such as PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
The free version of the game, and the most popular, is called Battle Royale, a multiplayer mode where 100 participants battle one another to be the last one standing.
Players can communicate through voice and text chat on the platform but there are restrictions to what you can say, according to Orme. “You are constrained by things in the game. I don’t think it’s something you need to worry about in the way you would with some other more open ended platforms,” she says.
League of Legends
Rated T for Teen: Blood, fantasy violence, mild suggestive themes, use of alcohol and tobacco
League of Legends (abbreviated LoL) is a free, online, multiplayer video game available to play on personal computers.
The game is played in two teams of five, either with friends or strangers. You can communicate with other players through messages or voice chat.
The LoL community has a reputation for being highly competitive and sometimes even “toxic” says Orme. “I play and sometimes have to step away because people can get mean.”
You can mute someone on the headsets, says Orme. You can also mute people on the message chat, but then “you’re less able to communicate with people so the game gets a little harder to play. There’s a tradeoff, but you can do it,” she says.
Red Dead Redemption
Rated M for Mature: Blood & Gore, Violence, Nudity, Sexual Content, Strong Language, Use of Drugs and Alcohol
Red Dead Redemption is a Western action-adventure game played on consoles like PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. There’s also an online version of the game, Red Dead Online, where you can make in-game purchases and interact with other players on the net.
Player interactions on Red Dead Online aren’t censored, and some players have even reported incidents of racial slurs being used on the platform.
Rated M for Mature: blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, use of drugs
Fallout is an apocalyptic action role-playing game available to play on Microsoft Windows, and consoles like Playstation 4 and Xbox One. The current versions out right now are Fallout 4 and Fallout 76.
Fallout 4 is a single-player game and there are no in-game purchases. Fallout 76, which is a prequel to the series, is the first multiplayer version of the game and is entirely played online.
Players do have the option to play solo, however. Players can also interact with one another via voice chat.
FIFA Video Games
Rated E for Everyone.
FIFA Video Games, also known as FIFA Football or FIFA Soccer, is a series of soccer video games available to play on all platforms, including mobile. The latest version of the game out right now is FIFA 20.
FIFA can be played in either single-player or multiplayer mode. This summer, a free downloadable update to the game provides the FIFA Women’s World Cup as a separate game mode.
There are in-game purchases available, but there is a competitive mode in FIFA 19 called Seasons Online, which does not have in-game currencies. There are also parental controls in the game’s settings if a player wants to use voice chat while playing online.