Let’s face it. It's inevitable that you'll find yourself wandering down the video game aisle this holiday season in search of the perfect gift. Whether you’re purchasing a game for your son or daughter, niece or nephew, you want to be sure you're making the right, age-appropriate choices.
To help quell any shopper anxiety you may have, here are some tried-and-true guidelines to ensure you're making the most informed choices for your friends and family this holiday season.
While the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Wii U have all been out for some time, many parents are considering upgrading their old consoles to these next-gen options this holiday season. If you have little ones under the age of 12, the Wii U from Nintendo may be the best option.
Not only do they have several titles suitable for the whole family (why not try one of the Family Game Night titles?), but they also have many games suitable for children under the age of 10. Some hot releases this season for the under 10s include, "Paper Mario Color Splash" (Nintendo) and "Runbow" (Nighthawk Interactive).
For the older kids (13 and up), the Playstation 4 from Sony and Xbox One from Microsoft are both popular choices. Your children will usually have their own preferences as to which console they prefer, so try and drop some hints before the shopping rush to get an idea of what they are hoping they will find under the tree this year.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing games for your children this holiday season is the age ratings. The ESRB age-rating system was developed to help parents make informed decisions about the media they are choosing to purchase for their families. If you are unsure if a particular game is appropriate for your child, it’s best to follow the ESRB suggestions.
For example, no matter how badly your 10-year-old may want "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare" (Activision) this holiday season, this game is rated M for Mature. No matter how mature your 10-year-old may be, the content within this game is best suited for players 17 and older.
Be sure to also look at the ESRB content descriptors as they will give you a detailed account of the content of the game, as well as insight into why it received a particular age rating. Previous Call of Duty titles have been assigned descriptor badges for "blood and gore" and "intense violence." If you don't want your child to be exposed to, or interacting with, this kind of content, then be sure to avoid games with these labels.
Age ratings and content warnings aside, if you’re looking for some inspiration as to what to purchase this year, there are already several lists outlining the “Best Games of 2016” (for some examples, see this article on Gamesradar+ and this scored list on Metacritic).
Video games can be a great activity for the whole family, and nothing is more fun than playing together. In fact, research has shown that playing video games together with your children can strengthen family bonds and increase communication.
Not a fan of video games? That’s okay! Sitting in the same room with your children when they play can be a fun, family experience for everyone. It may even spark some unexpected conversations. Together, you can make video games a topic of conversation rather than the center of anxiety or arguments.