Big Picture Mode
Industry issues given the widescreen treatment
Nathan Brown on Dark Souls, age ratings, and clown nightmares
Afriend texted me at the weekend, worried that he’d made a huge mistake. His six-year-old was stuck on a boss battle in a Lego game, and was putting off returning to it. In an attempt to convince the kid of the benefits of persistence, my friend started to tell him about Dark Souls, and how victory is all the sweeter when it comes after so many defeats. The message got through, but did not exactly have the desired effect. Rather than go back to his Lego, the kid said he wanted to watch his dad play Dark Souls.
Hesitantly, my friend loaded up DSIII, started a new game, and played through the tutorial, explaining what he was doing at every turn. On the run-up to the tutorial boss, however, he paused. The boss has a second phase, during which he transforms into a huge, horrifying demon-thing. To a veteran of Souls and Bloodborne, it is a sharp intake of breath, a quickening of the pulse. To a six-year-old? Fuel for weeks’ worth of nightmares, and to his parents, struggling for sleep as it is, a headache they just don’t need.
So he stopped and turned it off, much to the chagrin of his offspring. We talked about it a bit and agreed that, were it not for the boss transformation, he would have been fine. And maybe the kid would have been all right with it anyway. My first 18-rated film was a dodgy VHS copy of Robocop that was passed round the school playground, and I loved it. Some months later, figuring I was ready for anything, I watched Killer Klowns From Outer Space. It invaded my dreams relentlessly over the next few months.
But what a child thinks they are ready for is very different from what an adult feels they aren’t – and at least my friend’s enforcement of the age rating came from an educated position, given the hundreds of hours he’s put into the Souls games. I asked a few pals how they handle it. Responses varied: one plays GTA with his ten-year-old; another played through Bloodborne with a toddler on his knee; another would gladly let his teenagers play an 18-rated game, or anything, in fact, if it meant they’d shut up about Minecraft for five minutes. None admitted to paying much heed to age ratings. Considering themselves more informed about games than a ratings board, they’re happy to make their own decisions.
Few would blame them for that. Yet every year, without fail, the weekend after a new
Call Of Duty comes out I will frown at the queue at the games desk in the local supermarket, at the long line of resigned-looking parents with 12-year-olds at their sides and Black Ops in their hands. But who am I to judge? Some of them neither know nor care about what’s on the disc – it’s just a way of spending £40 to not only avoid a tantrum but also keep a kid occupied for a wet weekend. But no doubt a few of them have done their research. They know exactly what it is. Maybe they’ve even played it; perhaps they’ll play this one together. They know the game and their kid well enough to know that it’s suitable, whatever the number on the box says. I feel bad for lumping them in with everyone else in the queue and silently judging them in order that I may feel a little better about my own miserable lot (pointlessly shushing a toddler who’s screaming unintelligibly about blueberries).
My son’s two-and-a-half, so this isn’t a problem yet, but I’m increasingly careful about the things to which he’s exposed. He doesn’t watch Street Fighter tournaments with me, since he’s a bit too rough-andtumble as it is. (I don’t know where he gets it from; certainly not me – some of his attacks are wildly unsafe, and he’s not cancelling any of them into fireballs.) He’s still largely uninterested in games. He’ll spend 20 minutes doing doughnuts in Forza Horizon 2, and play with iPad jigsaw puzzles and the light-switches in Toca Life, but that’s about it.
For now, that’s plenty. One friend warned me to keep the pad away from my son’s paws for as long as possible, because once he gets hold of it, he won’t want to do anything else. That’s valuable advice for someone who’s often gazed longingly at the DualShock 4 on the coffee table and wished he could while the afternoon away shooting space aliens with a magic shotgun, wondering if this could be the day the kid finally gets it. Not yet: I’ll just have to read him The Tiger Who Came To Tea for the 15th time since lunch. I’ll handle age ratings when the time comes, and make an informed decision then. I’m certain, though, that he won’t be watching any horror films until he’s left home. Nathan Brown is Edge’s deputy editor. He’s much older now and is definitely not still scared of clowns, OK?
I frown at the long line of resigned-looking parents with 12-year-olds at their sides and Black Ops in their hands