Saturday, September 4, 2010

Halo Reach is it safe for my Kids?

When Xbox first launched back in 2001 there was really only one reason to buy it, Halo.

Yes, Xbox had great graphics, a hard drive to save game levels, the promise of internet multi player gaming, ports for four controllers but what it really had over any Playstation, Nintendo or Sega (they were still around back then)  was Halo and the Master-chief.  The futuristic battle saga was really so far ahead of anything out in the market at the time, with superior graphics, game play and story line it was the "killer app" that drove initial sales and made Halo the corner stone of the Xbox platform. Every platform launch has had and needed that one game to differentiate its self from all others. For Xbox it was a remains today to be Halo.

Fast forward to present day and Halo has had it's list of sequels Halo 2 also for the original Xbox, Halo 3 for Xbox360 which really never took advantage of the power of the Xbox360 but does a great job of taking advantage of all the features of the platform. Halo 3 has had its own set of releases as well. An attempt to keep the franchise going in between the very long development cycle... which brings us to Halo Reach.

Well the wait is finally over on Sept 14th what is sure to be touted as the largest first day sales of any movie, album or video game (due mainly to the industry practice of pre-sales) in history.

Halo Reach is by far the most ambitious game in the franchise and will no doubt re-invigerate the platform for the holiday season.  Game play and graphics will set the bar for all other games to follow. As an avid gamer, I am excited.  As a dad of small children, not so much.

As I have stated before, I just can't see any positive value in allowing my 5 or 7 year old to frag aliens, or get killed in battle, especially with the near photo realism of Halo Reach.  Great for age appropriate teens and adults but not for the young ones. In fact I will guarantee nightmares for any child that even watches the game on screen. Would you let your child watch an R rated battle or gun scene in a Movie? Then why let them play or watch Halo Reach?

I am on the fence with my 11 year old. Maybe we'll let him play the occasional multi- player session against his friends but I am even concerned with the impact these graphics will have on him if played in solo mode. Maybe over time - we will have to see.

And for multi-player mode we always restrict play to friends only - the language on those headsets is much too adult for most ears! Yes they can play without the headsets and it's still a lot of fun but sound is a big part of the game, the score, the sound effects, all fantastic, all part of the experience.

Let me reiterate - Halo Reach will be jaw dropping visually, Heart pumping yell at the screen fun - but it will also be so realistic visually that it will for sure be an "after the kids are asleep" game in our house.

Dad said it's OK - to play when you're older

Friday, September 3, 2010

Which baseball bat is best?

It's funny how much kids are like adults when it comes to their sports equipment. In the same way adults have to have the latest and greatest golf club to get those extra few yards, and or straighten out that slice, kids too focus a lot on their equipment to improve their game.

I have no doubt that there is a difference amongst bats. I also have no doubt that bat speed and swing mechanics play a bigger role in the hitting of the ball than the composition of the bat.

All too often I see kids with bats much too long and much too heavy for their size and weight. Easton does a solid job with their recommendations for bat length and weight based upon the size of the player. check out their site for the fit chart. Additionally I have found a simple way to confirm bat size - have the player hold the bat our straight to the side or in front for a count of 10. If they can do this with no strain  then chances are you have a proper fit.  Once you leave the store you may have just bought the wrong bat without this handy test.

The real value in a good bat is the ability to drive bat speed, so if the bat is too heavy or too long  bat speed will suffer. Slow bat speed equals poor hitting.

There is certainly something to be said for composite bats and the extra distance they can provide when bat speed is optimal. Note that these bats need several hundred hits for the sweet-spot to be  developed so it is a really good idea if you are going to invest the big dollars in a composite bat to also invest the time to break it in... not to mention invest the time in developing optimal swing mechanics.

A few lessons from a qualified batting coach is by far the best investment you can make in your son or daughter's time at the plate. Nothing is more exciting then seeing them take command at the plate and driving the long ball.

Dad said it's OK to hit - a baseball

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Does violence in games lead to violence in kids?

Does violence in games lead to violence in kids?  This has been a debate for many years. Same as it is in movies. The Video game industry has a self regulating rating system called ESRB which gives games ratings for (E)veryone, Everyone10+, (T)eens, (M)ature.   But few retailers actually restrict the purchase of games of Teen or Mature rating. Wal-Mart being one of the few restricts sales of M rated games to those under 14.

On the console side, Nintendo has by far the fewest overall M rated games while Xbox360 has the most. Both Xbox, the originator of the concept on consoles, and Playstation3 both have parental controls which can be set to restrict the level of game play. They also extend this feature to DVD play as well.

This is all well and good but the question at hand is does playing violent games play a part in the behavioral development of children. I'm not a doctor and I don't play one on TV. But I do have kids and I can provide my own observations of how gaming impacts them.

First I should note that we do not typically allow our kids to play fighting games and no one under the age of 11 in our house is allowed to play  or even watch an M rated game. M is might never be able to play in our house.

This decision has come from observing our kids and seeing how their interaction changes immediately after playing any game that involves, hitting, shooting, or destroying. They do become more physical which each other, often times acting out or mimicking the actions of their on screen avatars. Sometimes this extends for the rest of the day or evening and can have a negative impact on their sleep.

Since we don't allow a lot of this sort of game play often, I can't say what long term effects it may have on their behavior but short term it certainly is not good. And this is the reason for the limited ability to play T and M in our house.

Next time your kids play an aggressive game take note of their behaviour immediately following and decide for yourself how to manage games in your household

Dad Said it's OK to play - but in moderation