Click on the toggles and tabs below to discover a treasure trove of information about the wonderful world of video gaming.
- “Why Games?” has a cool infographic with statistics about who plays video games these days (a huge variety of people!) and some of the surprising benefits of gaming.
- “Game Ratings” offers links to our helpful articles that go into the details about ESRB ratings. There is more to the rating system than you might think!
- “Concerns” tells you all about the latest research on pathological gaming and research on video gaming as it relates to aggression and violence, physical health, and social health.
- The tabs under “How We Game” tell you about the various types of machines you can play games on.
- The tabs under “Types of Games” explain what you might expect when you play a video game in a particular genre (video games come in genres just like books and movies).
If you’re new to video gaming, we hope these basics will help you get started. Once you check this information out, you’ll be ready to explore the rest of Pixelkin and learn more. And don’t forget to click on the Database and Dictionary buttons at the bottom of the page. Our Library has details about specific games so you can easily evaluate whether it may be appropriate for your family. The Dictionary explains lots of geeky gaming terminology. Happy gaming!
Most people are able to manage their gaming time and balance it with the time they devote to other things, like work, exercise, relationships, and sleep. But some people game too much as a way to cope with depression, anxiety, or other problems. And some people spend so much time gaming that it hurts their relationships, their work lives, or their physical or mental health. This is sometimes called pathological gaming. Some experts believe pathological gaming can qualify as an official addiction, but others don’t. All the experts agree that the issue of pathological gaming deserves further study.
Sources of more information:
- Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence
- Psychosocial Causes and Consequences of Pathological Gaming
- A World of Excesses: Online Games and Excessive Playing
- Study Attempts to Identify Risks for Problematic Video Game Usage
Do video games cause violence? Some studies have found a link between gaming and aggressive feelings, while other studies suggest that video gaming helps people deal with depression or manage their natural aggressive feelings. Most experts agree that no one has proven a causal link between gaming and violent behavior. Rates of criminal behavior have been decreasing as video game sales have increased, and a recent study even found that increased sales of violent games were correlated with a reduction in violent crime. One thing we can all agree on is that kids should not be exposed to violent games that are inappropriate for their age and level of development. To check whether games are appropriate for their kids, parents should refer to ESRB ratings and reviews, try the games before letting their kids play them, or play the games alongside their kids.
Sources of more information:
- What Science Knows About Video Games and Violence (PBS)
- Why Two-Hundred-Twenty-Eight Scholars Cautioned the APA
- Violent Video Games May Increase Aggression in Some But Not Others, Says New Research
- Shooting in the Dark
- The Effect of Video Game Competition and Violence on Aggressive Behavior: Which Characteristic Has the Greatest Influence?
- Violent Video Games, Catharsis Seeking, Bullying, and Delinquency: A Multivariate Analysis of Effects
- Children’s Motivations for Video Game Play in the Context of Normal Development
Can video games harm your health? Yes, but they can also help improve your health. Too much time sitting in front of any screen (playing video games, surfing the net, or watching video) can lead to weight gain. People have also suffered muscle pain, repetitive stress injuries, and eye strain from gaming too much or for long periods. On the other hand, games with motion sensors—sports games, exercise games, dancing games, and even fighting games, for example—can give you a good workout. Exercise gaming (or “exergaming”) seems to have particular benefits for older adults who find it difficult to leave their homes. As with most activities, balance and moderation are important, and kids need special rules. The American Academy of Pediatrics says “excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.” Many recent studies note that video games are good at motivating you to exercise and stick with it, especially if you’re gaming with family and friends.
Sources of more information:
- Media and Children (American Academy of Pediatrics)
- Video Game Playing Increases Food Intake in Teens, Study Confirms
- Video Exercise Helps Overweight, Obese Teenagers Lose Weight
Too much gaming can lead to social isolation. But gaming is an increasingly social pursuit. Many people play online games where they make and keep friends for years. In fact, people who have met in games have even ended up dating in real life and getting married. Some gamers use gaming as a way to spend time with distant family and friends. People with mobility issues can sometimes interact socially in a game environment in ways they can’t in real life. And people with learning differences or disabilities such as autism can benefit from video games that teach skills like facial recognition, planning, organizing, and self-monitoring. A recent study differentiates between gamers who suffer social isolation and gamers who don’t: the gamers who organize their lives around their games are the ones who tend to have social problems. Again, balance is key.
Sources of more information:
How We Game
We play games in a lot of different ways, but these are the most popular platforms.
Click on a tab to read more.
Consoles allow you to play games with a television and controllers. Popular consoles include PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox.
Personal computers are the most powerful platform for gaming. Players control the game with mouse and keyboard.
Handheld consoles are lightweight, portable devices with a small screen and built-in game controls. Popular handhelds include the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.
Mobile gaming is becoming extremely popular. Mobile devices (such as smartphones and tablets) are not as highly powered as consoles or PCs, making them the least powerful platform for gaming.
Arcades are where gaming started. Arcade games are (usually) coin-operated machines installed in public places. Although this platform is somewhat outdated, a lot of people still enjoy old-school games like Pacman.
Types of Games
The world of video gaming is amazingly varied and interesting. There are shooting games, role-playing games, simulations, and more. There are games you play on computers, on consoles, on special devices, and on phones. Game designers can be some of the most creative people on the planet; every day they invent new kinds of games and new twists on old favorites. Start here to learn more about how video games are categorized.
Click on a tab to read more.
- First-Person Shooter
- Role-Playing Game
- Massively Multiplayer Online
- Survival Horror / Stealth
A simulation is a game that emulates real-life conditions. There are simulations for nearly everything. Common examples include city-building simulations, flight or driving simulations, sports simulations, and war simulations. Simulations are also used in teaching—for example, some business simulations are used in universities. Minecraft, a building and resource-collecting simulation, is now often used in grade school. One of the most famous sims is, of course, The Sims, which lets players create and manage the lives of virtual people. Simulations are fun for kids of all ages—players can choose whether to play strategically, or just be creative!
Action-adventure is a nebulous genre. It combines adventure games—which focus on exploration and puzzle-solving—with action games—which involve shooting or fighting. If that sounds like any game to you, well, you’re probably right. Action-adventure games comprise anything from Legend of Zelda to God of War. The former game is great for players of all ages, while the latter is definitely only for mature players.
First-person shooters (FPS) are hugely popular. “First person” refers to the point of view. In a first-person game, the camera positions you so that you are looking through the character’s eyes. Shooting, of course, refers to the action. FPS games are popular as multiplayer games, and games like Call of Duty and Halo have strong, competitive multiplayer communities. First-person shooters are fun for older kids who have the coordination to aim, but may not be as interesting for younger players.
Role-playing games (RPGs) are story-focused and feature customizable characters. Sometimes this means players can create their own avatars from scratch, as in Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Other times it means that as the characters level up, the player chooses what their abilities should be and effectively designs the character’s fighting style, as in the Final Fantasy series. Some RPGs put the player in charge of a group of characters, called a party. The player switches back and forth between party members, making for more strategic play. The common trait of RPGs is that the player participates in a heroic journey to complete a main quest. These storylines will no doubt be more enjoyable for older kids, though younger kids may enjoy the gameplay—and they will certainly enjoy playing along with you.
Strategy games often feature a top-down perspective and put the player in charge of managing resources and units. Most modern strategy games are real-time strategy, or RTS. The “real-time” is because there are no turns—all the action happens at once. The other style, turn-based strategy, is pretty self-explanatory. You’re probably familiar with one already: Chess. In turn-based strategy, players take turns moving their units. Strategy games usually involve complex warfare. In the RTS Starcraft II, players mine resources to build up armies and destroy an enemy that is in the process of doing the same. These games adapt well for multiplayer, and Starcraft is one of the most popular e-sports in the world. Strategy games usually allow players to follow a storyline, create their own maps, or play against real people. This makes them ideal for players of any skill level.
Massively Multiplayer Online
MMOs like World of Warcraft are played online and players participate in the game alongside other players from all over the world. Players can team up together to fight NPCs (non-player characters), or go PvP (player versus player) to build up their skills. MMOs are often RPGs as well—players choose which traits to focus on, and even come up with personalities and backstories for their characters. There are lots of MMOs made specifically for kids and younger teens which are careful to offer only appropriate content. Most adult MMOs, while fun, may only be appropriate for older teens because players of all ages must interact.
A fighting game (“fighter”) is exactly what it sounds like. Usually fighters pit two characters against each other, often in hand-to-hand combat. The player takes the role of one of the characters against a computer-controlled character or against another player. Fighting games are about complex combinations of movements that the player makes using the controller. Players who participate in tournaments against other people memorize complex combinations of button movements after hours of practice. On the flip side, kids have no trouble playing these games because every button makes something happen.
Survival Horror / Stealth
In stealth and survival games the player’s goal often revolves around avoiding detection. In some cases this means the entire game consists of sneaking, with no combat. In other games, this means using stealth to sneak up on enemies and dispose of them quietly. Survival horror often incorporates stealth aspects, but disempowers the player almost entirely. There is usually little fighting, and the player focuses on escape. Horror games, of course, are meant to get your adrenaline pumping as you avoid demons, monsters, murderers, and other horrifying enemies. These games are designed to scare, and as such could be traumatizing for younger players.
In platforming games, the player guides a character over a series of obstacles. These games are often sidescrollers as well, meaning the player sees the action from the side, moving the character from left to right. The Super Mario Brothers games are probably the most famous examples of platforming games. Platformers are generally child-friendly, though they can be challenging for less-coordinated players.
You’ll find puzzles in many game genres. An adventure game, for example, might have the player open a door by pulling the levers in the correct order. Figuring out how to open the door is the puzzle. Pure puzzle games involve only puzzle-solving—the most famous example is probably Tetris. As players progress in the game, the puzzles usually become more challenging. Puzzle games are usually appropriate for all ages—though not necessarily fun for all ages, as they can be frustrating to solve.