Gaming with a 3 Year Old: Arcade Adventures

Arcades present an interesting opportunity in regards to many forms of development, not just gaming. Though the atmosphere is somewhat different to arcades when I grew up myself (when arcades would exist outside of just bowling alleys, sea fronts and a few sporadic Namco Arcades around the UK) The games range from simple one button affairs to complex setups with unique controls and feedback, gathering of friends, physical games and social opportunities in general.

Though I have to admit myself that the landscape has changed so much that even I find myself daunted when it comes to taking my child around and letting them explore and try what they like. I want to be clear I love arcades but they are they to cater to every age and not just people who would consider themselves gamers. This in it’s self is not a bad thing, but the layout of an arcade is not usually made to cater to age. It’s more labyrinthine to make getting out harder and make you see more potential games that you might want to invest your time in. The does for one thing make keeping your eyes safely on your children a hard fraught battle at times and also means they are far too likely to stumble into games that has content that they really shouldn’t see at certain ages, or at the very least be seen as scary to them.

That’s not to say that there aren’t dedicated areas for younger children, often ticket based machines that you can win, save and spend on prizes. But that doesn’t mean the path to those areas is any less fraught with more adult games on the way. Again I have to confess that as a child non of this ever actually bothered me, I didn’t care that violet games were everywhere and it didn’t nearly seem like game content is as well regulated as it is today. Yet as a parent I see in far more risk in scaring my children as well exposing them to the kids of games I don’t think they are ready for. I’m fairly sure that there is probably no rules or laws that are being broken in the layout of the average arcade. Even the most violent games seem to be free of blood or stylized so as to avoid too much realism that might get a game a 18 rating.. and unlike the games, gambling machines are regulated to over 18 areas only.

However violence is present in so many games, and shooting games seem to be some of the more common games you see in arcades. In this visit alone we saw House of the Dead, Terminator and what might have very well been a 250″ sized Tomb Raider game. None of these were secluded, or inside shells obscuring the game screen from view. Ironically the two games I did see that did do this were Transformers (Which my eldest took great interest in because ‘robots’ and I had to usher him away) and Luigi’s Mansion.. which I think he’d actually enjoy one day soon given it’s light hearted nature.

However perhaps I’ve spent too long on the draw backs of arcades and not the fun we did have. My littlest may be young but there was plenty for him to play and plenty for us to play as well (after all he can’t reach the pedals for Mario Kart yet!) But a healthy mix of video games and physical games made for a fun afternoon as well as more modern and retro games… which is where arcades do shine. Where else can you find a multi generational mix of games alongside physical games, bowling, food, music, pool and light shows everywhere.

The games of choice this time generally were within the realm of the ticket producing machines, however unlike when i play for my kids they never hit the point of making winning the high prizes close to impossible as they never hit the that point between the low and high prize amounts that like many prize based games the game is designed to not let you win the best prize consistently with some cheap last minute cheap obstacle (I’m looking at you Doodle Jump and Flappy Bird) But as the Little Boy barely made it past the first road in Crossy Road (Luckily that is on my TV as home for unlimited squished ducks)

But there are some bigger games that got his attention that we played together, Space invades on a 2 meter high LED board and Mario Kart, the old reliable fun! A ball throwing game that showed just how much his throwing had improved.. as that is not something he’s encouraged to do at home. All while trying to keep avoiding the Transformers game for Bumblebee! However its was a fun day out for everyone once we knew the areas of the arcades to avoid. It’s something we’ll return to again, maybe scoping out potential arcades for the future so any areas with inappropriate games can be bypassed.

This is one of those times I’d actually like to know what you think, as gamers and as parents.. do you care about the games on display on arcades, should more be done to protect kids or are the less violent games compared to their console bretherin acceptable? Maybe I’ve just overreacted, but no arcades have virtual reality and screens higher then my 6ft self showing off the most violent options in the arcade so who knows. Just be vigilant as parents, best we can hope to be.


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