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

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