But Dad, I’ve seen decapitation before!

I’ve debated playing Age of Conan previously in this blog, citing concerns about violence and nudity, plus the conflict with the Warhammer release date. Since WAR is pushed to fall, I’ve had to confront the issues of violence and nudity and how they relate to the relationship my daughter I have concerning video games.

I started playing Everquest in March 1999, and my daughter was born 10 months later. From the time she was old enough to sit up on my lap, she’s watched me play mmorpgs, and she wanted to join in long before she had a clue what keys she was supposed to press.

Could someone CC that add?

She was almost four when World of Warcraft was released. She spent a lot of time watching me play, and eventually created her own characters. She has her own unique way of experiencing virtual game worlds, which pretty much involves making money to go shopping and traveling, and WoW was perfect for that. She played with me for a couple of years, and I rarely worried about the content. When there was something violent going on, it was a great opportunity to talk about human history, how people had to hunt for food, why people fight in wars, etc. It was the 4 or 5 or 6 year-old version of those conversations, of course, but it was a good opportunity to get her thinking about the world around her.

She and I both grew out of WoW, and she’s moved to mostly playing DS games and educational PC titles. I knew that if I started playing Conan, though, she’d want to make her own characters and run around the world just like she did in WoW. I don’t think that’s going to be allowed (that’s one of the first things I’ll be checking out in AoC), and I knew I had to talk to her about it before I bought the game and installed it and she got her hopes up.

We were hanging out and talking about games the other night (she was excited to hear the Eve music I added to my Gax Online profile, since we listened to that each night for a year as I was mining and she was drifting off to sleep), and it was a great opportunity to bring up Conan. I explained to her that I might be playing a new game, but it might not be a game she could play with me. She asked why, and when I explained about the over-the-top violence, she was remarkably understanding. She’s pretty good about accepting boundaries, especially if there’s a good reason behind the boundary.

She wanted to know more about what made the violence in AoC different than WoW, though, which I thought was a pretty perceptive question for an 8 year-old. So, I told her about the amount of blood that flew out of characters each time they hit each other. She wanted to know how much, and I told her about watching the videos that Keen posted from the PvP beta weekend, and how it looked like a wave crashing on the beach each time you got hit. She started giggling, and I started giggling, because it’s just so implausibly over the top. I mean, who has that much blood inside their body, and why would it all explode out of the one place that’s getting hit? And if you get hit like that 20 times, where’s all that blood coming from? It’s ridiculous, and we were both laughing about how unrealistic it is. She said to me “Well Dad, I know it’s all fake anyway”.

That still doesn’t mean I’m going to let her see it or play it, of course, but I was glad she reacted reasonably. Then she wanted to know if there were any more differences in the violence, so I told her that people could get…parts…chopped off, and I didn’t want her seeing that or playing with that happening anywhere around her. She said “What, like arms and legs?”, and I said “Yep, and even heads!”. She burst out laughing and said “Like Marie Antoinette! With head-popping action!”

That’s a bit of an inside joke. We were in an ice cream parlor in New York City one weekend, after visiting the Museum of Natural History, and we noticed the strangest action figures displayed on the store shelves. One of them was indeed Marie Antoinette, with real head-popping action. We had to explain to her who Marie Antoinette was, and how incredible it was that someone thought that was a good idea for an action figure.

So, yeah, like old Marie Antoinette, kinda, except more graphic and bloodier, and no, I’m not going to let her play AoC πŸ™‚

She said “Well Dad, I’ve seen decapitation before!” I answered incredulously “Where have you seen decapitation?”, because I know it’s absolutely not in a game I’ve played with her, and it’s definitely not her mother’s influence. I watch TV with her, so I couldn’t imagine what cartoon was showing or even simulating decapitations.

She said “Duh, Lord of the Rings, Dad.”

Shoot. Busted. She’s watched the trilogy with me, and she’s right. Aragorn does decapitate an Uruk-hai. Nothing like getting pwned by an eight year-old.

I’m sure this is all coming up in therapy when she’s 16.

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9 Responses

  1. Heh, she’s articulate and extremely smart. I’m sure that when she’s a teenager, she is going to be a force with which to be reckoned. I can just see her arguing her way to a longer curfew or whatever. I love her. πŸ™‚

    And yeah, I totally get what you’re saying with the gushing blood being ridiculous. That was actually one of my thoughts while watching the various pvp weekend videos: “Er … aren’t those huge arterial sprays of blood kind of too much? There’s no need to repeatedly hit the guy — he’ll drop dead himself in three seconds because of blood loss.”

    People are saying on the AoC boards that there will be filters for blood and for nudity. I don’t know how much these claimed filters will work, but I guess it’s a thought. Not entirely sure why they decided to put filters in, considering how they’re marketing it as being mature with violence and lovely breasts. One thread that came up on the official forums asked for a nudity filter to turn on in instances where people would be playing with their wives/girlfriends around, so as not to give off the wrong impression. Heh.

  2. Therapy?

    I doubt that. She sounds like a remarkably well adjusted kid.

  3. Dude… you better be prepared to fight off the boys. You’re raising a geek’s dream-date. πŸ™‚

    Don’t forget that you can turn off violence and nudity in the game though, so she might be able to play with you.

    Cheers! Few more days to open (closed-open) beta!

  4. I’m sorry, your love for your daughter shines through, but most parents want to shield their children from images of violent death, till high school, or junior high, at least. She’s so young! The bloody images in the Lord of the Rings, which sailed past your radar, are fixed in her mind now. The ratings system is a blessing, but only if parents are willing to use it– PG-13 means, in my mind, mature pre-teens, not 8-year-olds.

    Why did you even mention Conan to her, unless you are grooming her to play it? Just play it after she goes to bed.

    When our kids were young, we came down to THEIR level, game wise: Animal Crossing, more Donkey Kong and Mario than I can remember. We put their pleasure ahead of our own.

    Seems like you might be raising her to be the gaming/movie buddy that your wife should be… please, shelter your girl. She will find out about the violence in life, but it doesn’t have to be from you… although she will grow from discussing it with you.

  5. Gamer Mom:

    I’m rather taken aback at some of your comments. You probably didn’t mean to come across in a negative light, but I’m sitting here and wincing a little at how your comments sound a little … dare I say … snarky?

    “The bloody images in the Lord of the Rings, which sailed past your radar, are fixed in her mind now.”

    I have to say that Rick’s daughter doesn’t appear to be traumatized by this, but then again I’ve never met her and he may not be writing about how she wakes up screaming in the night, crying about Uruk-hai, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t the case.

    Plus, I’m sure that as with ALL parents, there are things that have “sailed past your radar” as well.

    “Why did you even mention Conan to her, unless you are grooming her to play it?”

    For discussion’s sake and to take the opportunity to bring up an interesting issue, I presume. I don’t see the difference in him mentioning the game than him discussing things like war or famine or how some children are orphaned. Discussing those kinds of things doesn’t mean he’s about to enlist her in the army or make some kind of “field trip” down to the local orphanage so she can see how sad things are.

    “We put their pleasure ahead of our own.”

    I dislike the way this sentence seems to imply that Rick is all about his own pleasure with regards to gaming. Neither of us knows him, but I will bet you that he takes the time to come down to his daughter’s level as well.

    “Seems like you might be raising her to be the gaming/movie buddy that your wife should be…”

    That was the point where I had to pick my jaw off the table. Just … wow. I find the statement highly presumptuous and rather hurtful, not only in its assumptions about someone else’s relationship with his wife but also in the way it accuses the person of having some kind of ulterior motive for his interactions with his child.

    I do agree with you, Gamer Mom, that children should be slowly exposed to delicate issues (be it violence or sexuality or whatever hot-button topic there is out there) in a time and in a matter for which they’re prepared. I hardly think that’s something new to Rick.

    In any case, it seems to me that he’s building a good foundation with his daughter wherein they’re able to discuss different issues and whatnot. I find his mentioning Age of Conan to her just an indication of the openness in their relationship, and didn’t see anything wrong about the fact that they had a discussion on appropriateness of games and how certain issues will affect what kind of materials to which she’s allowed access.

  6. I was going to come in here and say something but, well. There’s not much point anymore, is there?

  7. Gamer Mom, I don’t disagree with some of your points, or at least your concern. That’s why WoW was such a good middle ground, and why my daughter does spend the majority of her gaming time playing the DS (we love Animal Crossing, and she plays My Sims, Pokemon, and Lego Star Wars quite a bit too).

    It’s rare that she sees anything gory. Lord of the Rings might be the only movie she’s ever seen that contains that type of content. Well, maybe some of the Harry Potter movies, although they’re not as extreme. It’s certainly a judgement call, and it’s nothing she ever watches on her own, and there were definitely conversations before about violence, what’s real and what’s not, etc. I do put a lot of thought into what she sees, and if I thought she was unable to tell the difference between acting and reality, I’d never let her see it. For the same reason, I’d never show her a film or TV show that depicts that kind of violence set in the modern world. Heck, I don’t watch anything with that kind of violence set in today’s world.

    I’m certainly not trying to brag. If anything, I was expressing a bit of embarrassment about LoTR, although in hindsight, we did have a long conversation before the movie about what it was about, and about the violence. In a way, I’d rather her see it with me sitting next to her, instead of seeing it at someone else’s house at some point when she’s older. That certainly doesn’t mean I want her to see it all the time.

    Regarding the “raising her to be the gaming buddy” part, I can see where you might guess at that from a few posts, but gaming is just a small part of what she does in life. I do enjoy when it overlaps, but most of our time together isn’t spent gaming. There’s violin practice, reading, writing stories and drawing pictures, bike rides, Little League, board games, capping perps in GTA…OK, I made that last one up.

    I definitely encourage her to pursue her own interests. I’ll be curious to see if she continues to enjoy gaming as she reaches adolescence, or including me in the conversation if she does. I expect she’ll become her own person and grow beyond what we’ve shared so far, but I do hope that the bonds of doing things together (of which gaming is only a part) will last a lifetime.

    Mallika answers pretty well for me regarding “putting their pleasure ahead of our own” and “why did you even mention Conan”. Thanks πŸ™‚

  8. My last post (I promise!)– thanks for the reassuring reply, Rick. I apologize, but when I read about kids being exposed to violent images, it upsets me.

    Mallika:
    Snarky? I don’t know. I am confident, though, being the oldest of five kids and having raised two of my own successfully (well, almost raised, they are 20 and 16). Yes, I did entirely mean to come across as a little negative, since the ones who commented before me seemed so positive.

    In particular, Bildo’s timely recommendation to turn off the violence in AoC so that the girl can play, now that’s a good idea!! (Yes, I guess that is some snark coming out.) But of course he was joking.

    Rick’s daughter is obviously not “traumatized”, as you put it, by the Lord of the Rings. Still, the violent image is in her mind. I’m just asking, why put those images there, if they don’t have to be? Parents have great control over what their kids see, until junior high, anyway, and can shield them from some of the ugliness. Still, it sounds like Rick is not one of those parents that take their 5-year-olds to see Rambo.

    By the radar remark, I only meant that, although Rick and his daughter saw the same movie, the decapitation made an impression on her, but not on him (he had forgotten about it). It’s the different perspective of children and adults. Parents try to see things through the eyes of their children, as well as their own, a kind of double-vision.

    I guess I don’t understand him mentioning Conan to her because it sounds like she will see it as a treat denied, i.e., Daddy, my gaming guru, is going to play this game without me. *Shrug.* Maybe she will accept it with no complaining, I don’t know. Or maybe he will find a way to let her play. I’m not sure what this has to do with discussing war or famine or orphans.

    As to the gaming buddy remark, I didn’t mean what I think you think I meant– I wasn’t assuming anything about Rick’s wife, except that she’s not a gamer. I was thinking of all the gaming couples I’ve met in WoW and LotRO… it’s really wonderful if your spouse shares your hobby (I’m guessing it is– my husband is not a gamer). It’s also really, really awesome if your child does. Sometimes kids are like their parents, sometimes they’re not, so if your kid happens to share your interests, it’s the sweetest thing, and something you naturally want to encourage. And young children usually want to please their parents, especially if there is a close bond.

    I guess I just think that, no matter how reasonably an 8-year-old can speak, no matter how perceptive and “adult” her remarks might be, no matter if she understands the difference between reality and acting, still, inside she has the tender sensibility of a child. I wouldn’t be proud of my child’s understanding and tolerance of violence, even animated and over-the-top violence, any more than I would be of their tolerance of alcohol (now that’s a provocative metaphor, I know), which is another adult indulgence.

    Still, all this is beside the point, as Rick’s patient reply makes clear. He limits her exposure to violence, and takes care to discuss it with her thoroughly.

    Funny, I found this blog because I was looking around for LotRO players… I’ll go back to my hobbit hole now. Best wishes to you all πŸ˜‰

  9. Thanks for the reply again, GM. LoTRO players…I was so close! I do really enjoy what Turbine created. I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up back in Middle Earth one day, I did want to decorate my own hobbit hole at some point! Have you played long? I know a good guild if you’re looking for people 25+, with lots of parents in the mix.

    You said “I guess I don’t understand him mentioning Conan to her because it sounds like she will see it as a treat denied…”

    The reason I mentioned it is because our computers are all in a shared central room in the house. If she goes to bed and I start playing, and she gets up for any reason, she’ll ask what I’m playing. She always does (Eve, WoW, SWG, etc.) I’ve always had an answer for her, and I couldn’t imagine saying “None of your business”. She at least deserves an answer about what I’m playing and why she can’t participate. And she does seem pretty accepting at this point.

    In fact, I’m getting the feeling that if it’s not WoW, she’s not so interested. Blizzard’s design was just friendly enough for young kids to find a way to participate. She thought LoTRO was pretty, but didn’t really want to sit down and play. Conan doesn’t sound appealing to her (it shouldn’t!), and she doesn’t seem to care that I’ll be playing something she won’t enjoy. Shoot, she’s comfortable with saying she’s not a fan of things I like to do; ask her how she feels about me enjoying Nascar sometime πŸ˜‰

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