Michael Abbot’s daughter Zoe is only four, but she plays The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim—a game that contains blood, gore, and even cannibalism—with her dad. Skyrim is not a child’s game. So what is a 4-year-old doing in the northern reaches of Tamriel?
Abbot points out that young kids are looking for largely the same experiences that adults are: content discoverable through play, activities that feel rewarding, mechanics that offer fun things to do, and a sense of richness that suggests the game is always waiting for the player to return and continue the journey.
This doesn’t mean that Skyrim is appropriate for any 4-year-old, or always appropriate for a kid who is ready for it. Abbot’s daughter loves some elements of the game. For instance, collecting butterflies, reading maps, riding horses, taking “photographs” of mammoths and castles, enchanting items, and…summoning zombies.
The beauty of Zoe’s experience is that her dad is playing the game with her. He plays with purpose; he’s always thinking about what Zoe can learn from the experience, and he lets her experiment when necessary. For instance, when she wondered what would happen if they attacked a friendly guard, he told her to try it and see—they spent the night in jail, and she never attacked a guard again.
Abbot offers a few tips for making the game kid-friendly:
1. Play ahead, and use the save anywhere/anytime option to avoid quests or areas that aren’t appropriate.
2. Develop a code of conduct. Abbot and Zoe don’t hurt defenseless animals, for instance.
3. Use a gamepad instead of a traditional controller. Little kids will enjoy the ease of it.
5. Learn cartography, and let your kids set the destinations.
6. Be a mage. Magic feels less realistic than hand-to-hand weaponry. (Plus, it’s pretty.)
7. Find different ways of solving in-game problems. Zoe and her dad managed to complete one tough quest by using stealth instead of combat.
8. Take advantage of the crafting skill. Gathering materials, buying and selling, and knowing how to spend in-game money wisely is one step closer to them understanding how these things work in real life.
(Source: Brainy Gamer)