A plea for common sense

By Hans Wuerflein

Dear Common Sense Media,

Please, if you are going to do a list of games not to get for your kids and offer replacement suggestions, have it make sense.

-The internet

As the above fake letter suggests, Common Sense Media has released a list of “10 Cool Games That Are Uncool for Kids” and alternative options for each.  A noble gesture.  The holidays are a hectic time and many parents don’t have time to shop around for what games would be age appropriate for their kids.

Never mind the fact that there’s a big logo on the front of every box of every game sold in America with an age recommendation on it, but I digress.

And really, many of the games on the list I agree with not giving to younger kids.  It really is a good idea.

I just wish some of their recommended replacements made more sense.  Follow the jump to see what are, apparently, the ten “coolest” games inappropriate for kids this year, and their wierd, sometimes random, replacements.

First off, to further explain the premise of the list, they replace each M-rated game (ages 17+) with a T-rated game (ages 14+) for the same system.  Again, nice idea.  The problems start with the recommendations themselves.

Here’s the list, quoted from the original article, with their links to their reviews of the games:

Assassin’s Creed II Authentically recreated Renaissance cities, near photo-realistic action, and historical accuracy make this a great game for mature players. But playing as an assassin who relies on an arsenal of weapons makes the violence excessive.
Alternative: Mirror’s Edge

Ok, this one isn’t bad, but they really aren’t the same genre.  One is third person exploration similar to the Grand Theft Auto games the replacement is a first person fighter/shooter.  I guess both of them feature free-running and Parkour mechanics, but the similarities really end there.

Borderlands This first-person shooter earned critical acclaim for its innovative use of weaponry, comic-book-like world, and online play. But the game (which has a cover that shows a character shooting himself in the head) has strong language, human enemies used as target practice, mature humor, and lots of blood and gore.
Alternative: Infamous

This one is almost the exact opposite, swapping an open exploration game for a first person shooter, but is a little more troubling to me.  You can do some pretty messed up stuff in inFamous (also, the internally capitalized F is the correct spelling).  For example:

Brutal Legend Cartoon-like in its graphics and delivery, this fantasy action game nonetheless features plenty of violence, including the ability to hack and slash demonic armies with your double-sided axe.
Alternative: Ghostbusters: The Video Game

This one works as far as how the games were promoted, and the fact that there really aren’t to many other third person action/RTS games like Brutal Legend, but it’s still kind of a weird match up.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 An immersive first-person perspective ups the realism of this shooter, which contains a controversial (but optional) level where you go undercover as an enemy terrorist.
Alternative: Battlefield: Bad Company

I completely understand and condone not recommending Modern Warfare 2 for kids, but is Bad Company really that much better?

Dead Space: Extraction This atmospheric, horror-filled tale offers players a unique cooperative play option, but its use of violence — like blood spurting out of victims’ bodies, human carcasses littering the floor, blood-stained walls and floors, and copious screams of torture — put it over the top.
Alternative: Deadly Creatures

Again, I agree with keeping the Wii spin-off of Dead Space out of kids hands, but if you remember my write-up of it from a while back, there are also quality issues.  I don’t think anyone should get it.

Also, although all the kills are against other insects and small animals in Deadly Creatures, some of them are kind of graphic and gratuitous.

Dragon Age: Origins This is a masterly crafted but combat-heavy game featuring decapitations and swords plunged deeply into monsters’ chests.
Alternative: Braid

Ok, this one is probably the strangest to me.  Dragon age does plenty to earn its M rating, but why Braid?  I love the game, and want it to get exposure, but the two games couldn’t be further from each other.  Dragon Age is a Triple-A, big budget 3D RPG.  Braid is an independently developed, low-budget 2D puzzle platformer only available for download.  Great game, just an odd choice.

Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony Frequent and ruthless violence, gratuitous sex, lawlessness, drinking, drugs — this isn’t a game for kids. But the fully interactive open world offers an immersive diversion for hardcore gamers.
Alternative: Batman: Arkham Asylum

There is no way kids should be playing the newest expansion to GTA4, but Arkham Asylum is one of the most graphically violent games I’ve ever seen.  It doesn’t have much in the way of blood and guts, but these are some of the most violent beatings I’ve seen in a game.  A lot of your moves in this game really do look like Batman is trying to maim of seriously injure these guys.

Demon’s Souls It’s not just the copious amounts of blood and the smaller enemies who fall like rag dolls at your feet — this game also has a depressing vibe. Because you constantly die, it can break the spirit of even the most seasoned gamer, but hardcore players relish this kind of challenge.
Alternative: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

A couple of things about this choice.  First, since when is this game cool?  It’s an obscure, super hard RPG published by Atlus.  Also, even if you did want to pick it up you probably couldn’t because most stores sold out weeks ago.  Again, not due to popularity, but due to Atlus never publishing more copies of a game than they think they can sell.  Second, I love that one of the strikes against it is that it can “break the spirit of even the most seasoned gamer.”

Anyway, this is another one like Brutal Legend I guess, in that it’s hard to find a true one-to-one replacement.  Also, it’s full of shooting, so it is an odd choice.  It’s also one of the best games the PS3 has received so far, so really I’d recommend it before Demon’s Souls anyway.  In fact, I already did.

Left 4 Dead 2 Teamwork is an essential component of this super-gory shooter, but violence — players are meant to gawk at and appreciate the extreme levels of gore — plays a much greater role.
Alternative: Overlord II

With the possible exception of the original Dead Space, I think this might be the goriest game I’ve ever seen.  It is attempting to be a playable zombie movie after all.  But substituting a darker version of Pikmin for a team based FPS is yet another odd choice.  Also, I know it’s tongue in cheek, but you do essentially play the villain in Overlord.  Interesting given the point of the list.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Don’t let the cartoon-like look and DS platform fool you. While this game’s fully realized world and challenging missions are fun for adults, players can use the services of prostitutes, run over pedestrians, and kill police officers.
Alternative: C.O.P.: The Recruit

Ok, first thing’s first.  I had never even heard of C.O.P. until this story, so I guess it fit’s their qualification of not being “cool.”  Also, apparently it isn’t that different gameplay wise, but it removes the hookers and blood.

It’s an interesting list overall, but I just can’t understand why they chose the replacements they did.


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