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Help, my child is addicted to freemium shovelware

Deactivision

Member
Dec 20, 2012
423
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So GAF, here's my situation. A few months ago, my son, who's 9 years old, used his own savings to purchase an iPod touch. He was at the time playing Clash of Clans and a few other mobile games on his mom's tablet, and wanted a device of his own on which to play things. Since then, the number of Clash of Clans clones and Farmville-esque games on his device has exploded, as his friends have urged him to join their various clans/squads/whatnot... Now he's got Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, Total Conquest, Hay Day, Roller Coaster Tycoon... the list goes on.

As a responsible old school GamerDad, I've always had what I consider a healthy distrust of mobile games. Ever since he started expressing an interest in gaming, I've tried to steer him towards what I consider to be higher quality and age-appropriate games -- mostly via the Wii, Wii U and 3DS, and many indie games on PC and XBox 360. For the most part, I've been successful, we've had a lot of fun with co-op Nintendo games especially, though for the past couple of years he's been hooked almost exclusively on Minecraft, like most other kids of his generation. I had no real problem with that; even if it's not really to my tastes, it's a great game that encourages a lot of thinking and creativity, and playing it has led to a genuine interest in modding and programming, and a dream of becoming a game designer himself one day.

Lately though, in his allotted screen time, it's been nothing but maintenance of his f2p mobile games, upgrading this, attacking that... Even Minecraft has fallen more or less off the radar. Last night it came to a bit of a head, when he was particularly whiny when it was time to disconnect for the night. I told him I thought the number of f2p games had become excessive and that he should stop playing a couple of them so that he has more time for other things. He resisted, and I tried my best to articulate what I feel distinguishes these games from other types of games that we both enjoy.

I had a somewhat challenging time making my case, but my main complaints were about the overall sameness of the games, the countdown/timer/pay to win mentality that keeps a player coming back at regular intervals to maximize actions, and the lack of real testing of skill or creativity in the gameplay. I told him one or two of these games would be fine, but more than that is an unacceptable amount of time dedicated to what is essentially a casual time wasting activity. His argument is essentially that games are games, fun is fun, and that if I'm going to allow him an hour of gaming time each day he should be free to use it how he wants (short of playing games that I don't approve of for more obvious reasons like graphic violence or other age-inappropriate themes). I admitted I need to learn more about these games before passing a final judgment on their value -- I'm considering trying my hand at one of them, but I'm pretty hooked on Metroid Prime at the moment. :p

But enough rambling, I'm not exactly looking for parenting advice -- I'm mostly curious to hear GAF's thoughts about these types of games. Is there any real distinction to be made between the value of spending time playing these kinds of games and other, more elaborately constructed ones? Does the freemium and semi-social nature of mobile games make them inherently more addictive, especially perhaps for kids? Is there something to be said for encouraging diversity in gaming habits, and can too much of a certain samey experience be a bad thing? I do wonder if I'd have a similar problem if he was addicted to playing Mega Man games and other classic platformers, for example... Is there a difference? Or am I just being an old fuddy duddy who can't get with the times, ranting about kids these days and their newfangled iWhatzits?
 

LightningXCE

Member
Oct 15, 2014
1,152
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0
Honestly, there is a lot of critical thinking going on in those games, so I day let him play.

That, and enable parental controls for IAPs for the love of god.
 

Archurro

Member
Apr 12, 2009
762
0
0
As you don't give him a credit card/let him buy tons of bullshit, I don't see any problem. Let him do what he wants.
 

Impeccable

Member
Feb 18, 2010
11,615
0
0
Your kid is enjoying balancing his timers and playing with his friends. Aside from the bed time thing you just have to accept he loves free to play games and let him do his thing.

Flip it on it's side and pick one to play with him.
 

old manatee

Banned
May 6, 2009
15,384
1
0
I have OCD and I have to be really careful with what games I play these days, because so many are designed to lock you into a weird compulsion loop.

but oh man do I enjoy being locked into a weird compulsion loop.
 

iMax

Member
Dec 5, 2012
13,409
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645
www.neogaf.com
 

DNAbro

Member
Nov 18, 2013
15,118
1
0
They are purposely addictive but as long as you limit how much time he plays it would be fine.
 

Codex5050

Member
Dec 1, 2014
131
2
330
I feel your pain OP. I've often wondered how I was going to get my own future son into traditional gaming as opposed to mobile. It sounds like you've done all you could, at this point all you can do is wait and see if he comes around on his own
 

borghe

Loves the Greater Toronto Area
Jun 18, 2004
23,394
3
1,575
www.borgh.us
Flip it on it's side and pick one to play with him.

I've debated letting my daughter try WoW (she has regularly shown mild interest). I can't do it though. The thought of her getting sucked into an MMO...... no way. ugh. I see my brother struggle to manage his kids' time with video games and always figured I was lucky that gaming has never been her passion. Figure "is it really in my best interest to change that?"
 

stufte

Member
Jan 9, 2011
8,217
7
755
Let your child develop their own interests in gaming. He's not you and there's nothing wrong with his gaming of choice, even if you don't like it.
 

NekoFever

Member
Feb 21, 2007
13,309
1
1,385
UK
Honestly, as long as he's not spending money on IAPs, I don't think those games are worse for him to play than anything else.

You talk about them being repetitive as if the games we grew up playing weren't.
 

Muzicfreq

Banned
Dec 16, 2014
4,007
0
0
Theres other ways to get them into playing actual games. Maybe support some indie games, even things in humble bundles. There's lots of cheap alternatives.

But overall. Let them play what they want to play.
 

Cbajd5

Member
May 31, 2011
3,634
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0
28
Puzzle & Dragons -> Puzzle & Dragons Z/Super Mario Bros Edition -> Super Smash Bros -> Pretty much most games with enough derivations thanks to crossovers and such

Or I don't know.
 

rajanp22

Member
Jan 7, 2014
177
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0
This elitism is so effing annoying. It's been said already in this thread numerous times but just to drive the point home... let the kid play what he wants
 

jholmes

Member
Jan 15, 2014
5,418
1
330
It sounds to me like you're doing a good job of parenting and just need to let him tire of the fad on his own. Only way a boy'll learn.
 

Ketch

Member
Mar 4, 2010
11,209
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0
Some mobile f2p games are pretty decent, actual games. Others are just slot machines in disguise, feeding on psychological addiction that makes you think you're having fun.

I think you need to play them for yourself before you decide which are which.

I have OCD and I have to be really careful with what games I play these days, because so many are designed to lock you into a weird compulsion loop.

but oh man do I enjoy being locked into a weird compulsion loop.

Basically this. Make sure it's not this, because it could be an actual condition.
 

CTLance

Member
Jul 21, 2007
11,839
0
0
Bavaria, Germany
Damn, my condolences. ;)

Let the kid play whatever it wants, but keep a grasp on how much time and money he wastes. F2P games are more or less designed to be as addictive and time-consuming as possible. That's something to keep an eye on.

Other than that, wait until he inevitably burns out on these kinds of games, keep offering alternatives and don't lose hope.
 

mp1990

Banned
May 18, 2014
2,632
0
0
Brazil
Present him Persona. He will stop loving F2P games and will start loving virtual japanese people that are much better than anyone on real life !
Seriously though,it's just a phase,i had it too when i stopped playing on consoles and most of my time i just played shitty games on my Iphone. Probably,if you already showed him some great games,he will return to them when he grown up.
 

mrklaw

MrArseFace
Jun 10, 2004
59,891
2
0
Windsor, UK
My daughter went through a phase when she was 9 last year - full of anything about zoos or Dragons. All online F2P stuff. I never buy her any gems or anything.

She started wanting more and more of them, so I simply told her to pick which game she wanted to delete to make space for the new one - and that made her stop and think whether she actually wanted the new one or not.

As for time, they have their available gaming time. If they choose to dilute that with lots of games and a little time on each, I don't care - it is their call. If they start pushing the boundaries of their alloted time, I can cut the internet to their ipads and as most of their games require a network connection they won't be able to play.
 

stuminus3

Member
Nov 29, 2006
13,598
8
1,345
Ontario
Or am I just being an old fuddy duddy who can't get with the times, ranting about kids these days and their newfangled iWhatzits?
Yes, you are being exactly this.

My only real frustration with this stuff is that some of it is CLEARLY designed to take advantage of parents who can't say no to their kids. I can deal with my own kids, but it's really sickening to see such blatant abuse in a game.
 

Atolm

Member
Jun 4, 2010
4,153
0
575
Galicia, Spain
I wouldn't let a kid play most of the fremium shovelware. Many of those games are exploitative, Skinner-boxes based games, not that different to slot machines. I can't think those are good for a kid. Not even for many adults.
 

Muzicfreq

Banned
Dec 16, 2014
4,007
0
0
Get a cheap laptop and get the c&c bundle from EA. Thats what really kickstarted my gaming addiction.
RTS games are essentially what the f2p games are but not limited and loaded with pay to win mumbo jumbo.
 

low-G

Member
May 6, 2010
6,260
1
0
Games are trivial, but you can't take stuff away, it's already too late.

There's no reason to enable a kid to play manipulative games. Just like you shouldn't let a kid play Hatred, you shouldn't let your kid play complete shovelware.

But I'm going to be sure to pick and choose what games my daughter downloads and plays just as my parents controlled what games I could play until I got enough money to pay for em.

Locking whatever app store downloads and downloading them myself, manually...
 

Impeccable

Member
Feb 18, 2010
11,615
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0
I wouldn't let a kid play most of the fremium shovelware. Many of those games are exploitative, Skinner-boxes based games, not that different to slot machines. I can't think those are good for a kid. Not even for many adults.

I do not understand this line of thought because it can mirror "real games" too. There is actually a decent argument that these games are teaching critical time management especially if at nine he is balancing several of these games.

As long as they do not have access to or are not rewarded with the time saving gems often there is little difference between letting a kid play these or any other games. So much ignorance and lack of thought in general in the gaming community when it comes to mobile gaming. I see it again and again on NeoGAF.
 
If you want some suggestions, here are fun F2P games that I'd recommend:

- Sky Force 2014
- Only One
- Quadblast
- Quadropus Rampage
- No One Said It Was Easy
- Crossy Road
- Rocket Cars
- Dark Slash 2
- TimeCube
- Platform Panic
- One More Line
- POLYGANIC
- Hex:99
- Checkpoint Champion
- Vektor
- Beat Leap (by Werplay)
 

ElCidTmax

Member
Aug 16, 2013
408
1
395
As a parent, I think you are right to be concerned. There is a coercive nature to the design of some f2p games that children aren't equipped to handle. It's unhealthy to let them become obsessed, and you may need to intervene and set limits.
 
Aug 3, 2013
5,439
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LA
Honestly, as long as he's not spending money on IAPs, I don't think those games are worse for him to play than anything else.

You talk about them being repetitive as if the games we grew up playing weren't.

Yes, that's true. But therein lies the problem with the games; they're designed in a way that if you don't spend money on IAPs, then they will waste your time to punish you.

It doesn't sound like OP is trying to micromanage what his kid likes. Rather, he's concerned that F2P tactics are causing his kid to spend all of his time on mindless time wasters instead of something that will challenge and help develop the kid's mind.

When I was 9-10, I spent my allowed gaming time on things like Super Mario Kart, a well balanced game that improved my manual dexterity and reflexes. It helped improve my abstract reasoning and computer processing skills, two things which help me in my career to this day. I wouldn't have that same ability if, instead, I was mindlessly touching Canadough until the game makes me wait, so I fire up another F2P shovelware app and mindlessly click currency until the first game allows me to "play" again. Not saying every mobile game is like that, but OP specifically said "freemium shovelware".
 

Nightbird

Member
Oct 7, 2014
10,316
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Germany
I wouldn't let a kid play most of the fremium shovelware. Many of those games are exploitative, Skinner-boxes based games, not that different to slot machines. I can't think those are good for a kid. Not even for many adults.

This. Nothing to say against Mobile Games as a whole, but Freemium Games are still something i despise.
 

Burt

Member
Nov 8, 2012
7,765
0
470
I see where everyone else is coming from with the "let him play what he wants" mentality. but at the same time, I could see how to a parent the situation is analogous to reading or watching a trash book/tv show vs. something of quality, which is a situation in which I think that people would be much quicker to recommend a proactive push towards quality.

A lot of F2P mobile games are designed specifically for latching onto kids and extracting their parents' money from them. I don't think that it's wrong for a gamer parent to push their kids in another direction in the same way they might push a books or TV shows of greater substance. I'm generally a defender of mobile and F2P, but if I were a parent I don't think I would let my kid get sucked into some slot machine disguised as a kid's game just because I was afraid that I was getting old and out of touch with what kids like these days.
 

HammerOfThor

Member
Jun 25, 2010
7,357
7
1,010
My kid is obsessed with Dragon City. Its kind of annoying but oh well he likes getting his eggs every day.

But the bad part if dealing with the constant "Can I buy these coins for $x". C'mon son, do what I did at your age and sit in front of the screen for 8 hours grinding.
 

BigDug13

Member
Dec 20, 2006
20,183
1
0
I thought this was going to be a thread about a kid who was addicted to spending real money in these games like the South Park episode. Especially when the term "freemium" is used as this immediately makes me think money was spent.

Doesn't seem anywhere near as dangerous what's going on here.
 

Fisty

Member
Jun 26, 2014
7,431
5
340
Get him a Vita. Great classics, PS Mobile games to get him initially interested, a console quality Minecraft... hes gotta choose, but my 10 y/o's ipad collects dust since I bought him a Vita
 

mrklaw

MrArseFace
Jun 10, 2004
59,891
2
0
Windsor, UK
As a parent, I think you are right to be concerned. There is a coercive nature to the design of some f2p games that children aren't equipped to handle. It's unhealthy to let them become obsessed, and you may need to intervene and set limits.

tbh if you explain a little about how the games work, and refuse to buy any premium currency, your kids should see through the bullshit and wean themselves off to some degree. Mine got pretty bored after a while