We covered this briefly on Gama last week, but GamePro just put out a new press release, keying off the just-released Video Game Report Card to urge parents to read GameProFamily.com.
As explained by MediaPost: "The centerpiece of the site is a multi-author blog featuring a "simulated family unit," with "mother" and "father" characters to offer perspectives on whether particular games are appropriate for children. The site also features a child character to advocate on behalf of the game."
Now, at the root of this (a family-related info site about games) there's certainly some good ideas - after all, GamerDad has been doing a great job on this subject for a while now. But there's a number of weird/odd things about the site, but conceptually and in execution, that the IDG folks really need to have a think about.
For one, although the 'Dad' rating is provided by longtime IDG-er and father Wes Nihei, and the 'Mom' rating by newly recruited mother Ellen Mulholland, but there's actually a 'Kids Pitch', which is apparently fictional and consists of the kid trying to persuade you (the reader?) to let him play the game, no matter what its rating is.
So for example, for Scarface, the best-selling and decidely M-rated game, the parents are clear (and actually kinda judgmental about even allowing violence in M-rated games, I think): "If don't want your child learning vicariously how to build a drug empire and experiencing violence as power, don't buy this game."
But the 'Kids Pitch' is as follows: "This game is based on that cool movie I saw on TV where you are this Latin guy who takes over a city. There are a lot of different activities to do, and you can drive cars and pilot boats, too. The game takes place in the 80's, and it's really fun to see the style and hear the sound of the times from 20 years ago. Scarface is like the gangster movie it's based on, but I think it looks really fun to try to rise to the top like Tony Montana." Guys - this is creepy! And what is a kid of indeterminate age doing watching Scarface on TV?
On that very subject, how old is the kid in question? Gama co-editor Brandon Boyer says: "Not a day over 10, judging by the header image". But, you know - I would have very different advice based on whether a child was 7, 11, or 15, for example - and the guide just seems to be 'for children'.
As an example, the comments for Tony Hawk's Project 8 explain that, even though there are "a few over-the-top moments like human bowling and the crude joke here and there", it's green light rated as 'Safe For Kids' by GamePro, despite being T rated for: "Strong Language , Suggestive Themes , Mild Violence", with an ESRB rating suggesting it's "content suitable for persons ages 13 and older".
So, i call shenanigans. I know GameProFamily can't just duplicate ESRB advice, but I don't see what useful information it's providing in the slightest - in fact, it seems to be downright insulting about games that _aren't rated for kids_ at the top end, and overly forgiving of T-style games (or not, depending on whether the fictional kid is 7 or 15!) in the middle. More thought on this process, please.