Answering the Question: “Can I Play This Game?”

Guest Writer: Miranda Papierowicz

If you are a parent and have a video game collection there is no doubt you have heard “Can I play this game?” numerous times. When you are in the middle of trying to do something for another child or cook it can be annoying. My stepchildren, now ages 15, 13 and 11, asked me this question more times than I could count when they first visited for the summer three years ago. By the end of summer break I was sick of hearing that question and vowed to come up with a way to prevent ever hearing it again. I did just that.

I went to my local Walgreens and bought a package of foil star stickers, the package that includes red, blue, green, gold and silver. I then matched the color star to a key that I created.

  • Red: No one can play until their dad says otherwise
  • Blue: The oldest could play the younger two could not watch
  • Gold: The older two could play and youngest could not watch
  • Silver: The older two could play and youngest can watch
  • Green: Everybody can play

Now that they are older and two have had “the talk” the star colors are going to be changed to:

  • Red: No one can play till their dad says otherwise
  • Blue: Older two can play youngest can’t watch
  • Gold: Older two can play youngest can watch
  • Silver: All three of mine can play but my friend’s kids (who I watch often) can’t play
  • Green: Everyone can play

After creating the key I looked at ESRB ratings, why the games got the ratings they did, did some research on independent sites like www.commonsensemedia.org, spoke with friends about what they have seen in particular games (especially open world sandbox games), and spoke with their father. After all the research we also took into account how easily the child gets frustrated and how easily they scare. Once all this was done we stuck the star sticker of the proper color to the spine of the game box. We also hung the key next to where the games are kept so the kids could reference it if need be.

I was skeptical this would work. Especially since my youngest has autism and this was not routine at either mom or dad’s house and he asks permission for EVERYTHING no matter how many times you have told him he doesn’t need to ask to do something. It did work though. When the kids came for the next visit we explained the star sticker system to them and next game time (we limit screen time) I did not hear “Can I play this?” once. The system is so easy that my god daughter who is five, but was three or four when we started it, knows what games she can play. When she visits she will ask if she can play a video game, I say yes and she says “OK and I am only allowed to play the green stars” and picks her game. It is a simple system that only requires color recognition. One of my friends implemented it with her movie collection as well and her son is only three years old.

If you are tired of hearing “Can I play this?” and want to keep from losing your mind every time your kid decides they want to play a different game I recommend trying this out. In three years since starting it I have not heard that question once.

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