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The Devil's Advocate: Kids Games Don’t Suck

Column By William Murphy on November 29, 2011

Disclaimer: The Devil's Advocate is a place where the MMO-Loving world can go to hear the unpopular opinion. Please note that this article does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of MMORPG.com, columnist Drew Wood, or any of the game companies that may be discussed.  The Devil's Advocate is an opportunity for the oft-shunned and little discussed “Other Side of the Story” to be heard, promoting open discussion on a heavily contested subject.

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The Consensus: Kids’ Games Suck

On the contrary…

There’s a fairly prominent assumption by the MMO Elite that all games geared towards children are somehow less than games, or at best pale imitations of real MMOs. But I find this hard to get on board with. Really, MMOs with a slant towards family-friendly existence may just not be what you want to play, but that doesn’t make them somehow lesser.  In fact, I’d venture to say that some of the industry’s best made games are those which are made with parents and children in mind.  Let me explain.

I went and saw The Muppets this weekend. This is a movie that has a G rating, and yet managed to make me laugh throughout and (I’m not afraid to say it) tear up more than once. The story of Kermit and friends getting back together to save their past and solidify their future (and friendship) is one that speaks to just about anyone, young or old. Sure the characters are puppets and the slapstick is aimed at kids, but the pop culture references are aimed squarely at people my age.  The life-affirming messages are good for any age.  And the music was crafted by one half of Flight of the Conchords.  Heck there’s even a Barbershop Quartet version of Smells Like Teen Spirit, Beaker included.

It’s a kids’ movie, but it’s for kids of all ages.

 The same could be said for games like Wizard 101 or Free Realms.  They may not be “hardcore” examples of MMO gameplay, but they’re extremely polished titles with a great deal of content for many different kinds of players.  What about them is inherently “bad”? It seems to me that kids’ games are just like any other game: either they’re made well or they’re made poorly. So don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of titles out there that could be called barely passable as software, much less games. But that could be said of pretty much 50% or more of existing MMOs (whether they’re for kids or not).

Wizard 101, as evidenced by our recent re-review, has some of the best content available and most innovative systems in the MMO industry… yet it’s arguably a game intended purely for tweens and pre-teens.  That doesn’t stop the guys and gals who created Shadowbane from making sure W101 has more than enough appeal to any gamer out there with an open mind. A good game is a good game, and that is exactly Wizard 101.  And while our own Lori May may not have found it to her liking; there are plenty of fans who adore SOE’s Free Realms. And why shouldn’t they? Despite an odd pricing structure, it has some of the most diverse content available. There’s more to both these games than killing and questing until your eyes bleed, and I’d venture to say that these two “kiddie games” are more of an actual game than most of the MMOs we revere.

Now, I’m not saying that if you don’t enjoy a family-friendly MMO, you’re somehow wrong. I’m merely stating that covering them all with a blanket statement like “they suck” is doing them a disservice.  The more accurate description would be, “I don’t like them.” Because there are plenty of things that I don’t like in this world, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. It just means they’re not for me. The same can be said of kid-centric MMO games. They’re good titles. They have a great deal of value for the folks who “get” them. But that doesn’t make them for everyone.

Oh, but if you don’t like The Muppets, you are wrong.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.

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The Devil's Advocate
The Devil's Advocate is an opportunity for the oft-shunned and little discussed “Other Side of the Story” to be heard, promoting open discussion on a heavily contested subject.
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